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Rappler probed over possible violation of Constitution, laws

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre yesterday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the “possible violation of the Constitution and laws” of Rappler and file cases, if evidence warrants, against the online news website.

“Whether any law has been violated, it will not be limited to administrative law, Anti-Dummy law but we are going to see if there are other laws violated by anybody in connection with this decision of SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) in (the) cancellation of registration of Rappler,” he told reporters.
The Justice chief also stressed the SEC decision is not politically motivated because four of its five commissioners were appointed by the previous administration.
Aguirre said the Constitution is absolute in saying that ownership and management of mass media in the country are exclusive to Filipino citizens.
“You should not circumvent what is stated in the Constitution. In other words, you should not do even indirectly what is prohibited in the Constitution,” he pointed out. It was Solicitor General Jose Calida who called on the SEC in December 2016 to investigate Rappler, citing newspaper articles of former ambassador to Cyprus and Greece Rigoberto Tiglao, who disclosed in 2016 that two American companies, Omidyar Network, Inc. and North Base Media, “made substantial investments” in Rappler in 2015.

According to him, the decision of the SEC to revoke the incorporation papers of the online news site was about following the “rule of law.”
On Monday, the SEC canceled the registration of Rappler Inc., the mass media entity that “sold control” to foreigners, and Rappler Holdings Corp. being its alter ego, “existing for no other purpose than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the Constitution.”
The regulator ruled Rappler violated a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of Philippine media when the news outfit gave veto powers to a foreign fund which had bought a placement of Philippine depositary receipts on Rappler shares in 2015.
The law prohibits the transfer of ownership of a business in a sector reserved for Filipinos to a foreigner.
Rappler maintained that the investment did not constitute equity nor give the investors veto on editorial matters.
It also questioned the timing of the decision, noting that it was a “harassment” and that it would contest the decision before the courts.
Free press next victim?
The New York Times, in an opinion piece, meanwhile criticized the government’s decision to revoke the license Rappler.
“Exposing such brazen abuse of power is a hallowed mission of a free press, so it should come as no surprise that authoritarians like Mr. Duterte usually go after independent media. One particularly tenacious critic of the president’s vicious crackdown has been a leading online news site, Rappler, and on Monday the government announced that it was revoking its license.”
The action against Rappler is only the tip of Mr. Duterte’s assault on his media critics,” the editorial stated.
“Of course, Mr. Duterte should be condemned first and foremost for his blatant violations of human rights. But the ability of a democracy to repair the damage caused by bad leaders requires the survival of critical democratic institutions, a free press among them.”
The editorial also noted that the President’s “supporters have also made the Philippines a swamp of fake news, conspiracy theories and online harassment.”
“Mr. Duterte has refused to condemn the flood and has denied any involvement in its creation. Predictably, he also denied that the revocation of Rappler’s license was political, and he said he didn’t care whether or not Rappler continued to operate.”
The Times said the incident would be well used by other governments and non-government supporters of democracy to condemn this effort to silence independent voices.
US-based watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists also called the government’s moves a “clear and immediate danger to press freedom.”
Rappler has had a testy relationship with Duterte since he won election on an anti-crime platform in 2016.
No crackdown
Malacañang, for its part, urged reporters of Rappler to reinvent themselves as bloggers, rejecting allegations the Duterte administration was cracking down on the free press.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the suggestion a day after the government brushed off appeals from media organizations to reverse its decision to withdraw the registration of the Rappler online portal.
The ruling against Rappler that Mr. Duterte derided last Tuesday as a “fake news” purveyor is seen by critics as part of the government’s campaign to silence opposition to his drug war.
Rappler, founded in 2012, is among a handful of news organizations which had produced reports critical of Mr. Duterte’s narcotics crackdown.
“No one has been prevented from exercising free speech, no one has been banned from performing their role as journalists,” Roque stressed.
“They can still become bloggers, that is clear,” he told reporters, while adding Rappler journalists would then have to seek government accreditation as bloggers.
Rappler editors could not be reached for comment.
On Tuesday night, Mr. Duterte again lashed out at Rappler as he denied its report linking his chief aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, to a controversial P15-billion million frigate acquisition project by the Philippine Navy. PNA and AFP


  • Restyresty

    NEW YORK TIMES doesn't know what's really happening in the Philippines.

    Restyresty Thursday, 18 January 2018 02:53 Comment Link
  • inocent

    "NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.' Even the New York Times is not above Philippine laws. New York Times maybe above the law in the U.S. but not in the Philippines.

    inocent Thursday, 18 January 2018 02:15 Comment Link

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