Duterte has nothing to do with SEC ruling vs Rappler, says Palace

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa. ABS-CBN News

The protests arose when the government corporate watchdog Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) cancelled on Monday the license of Rappler Incorporated for allegedly violating the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of local media.

"[They are] existing for no other objective than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the constitution", the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a Jan 11 ruling to revoke Rappler's certificates of incorporation.

PDRs are basically financial instruments that are tied to the price of shares of the company but they do not grant ownership.

Journalists work at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, January 15, 2018.

The SEC's issue centers around the ownership of Rappler. "Do all that issued PDR have foreign ownership?" His supporters have also made the Philippines a swamp of fake news, conspiracy theories and online harassment.

The ruling against a news organisation that Mr Duterte derided on Tuesday as a "fake news" purveyor is seen by critics as part of his government's campaign to silence opposition to his deadly drug war that has claimed almost 4,000 lives.

The President himself insinuated in his July 2017 State of the Nation Address that Rappler is "fully owned by Americans", despite the fact that Rappler is owned and operated by Filipino citizens and corporations.

He said if Duterte had wanted to silence media critics, he could easily have launched a crackdown - a statement that did not sit well with free press and rights advocacy groups. National broadcaster ABS-CBN is among others to have used them.

The Inquirer itself was an he centre of controversy past year after it was sold to San Miguel owner Ramon Ang following a succession of attacks on Duterte's government.

Like other populists sitting in presidential palaces around the world, and there are lamentably many today, Mr. Duterte had, at least until recently, enjoyed solid support, in his case from an electorate that has endured too much crime and corruption. Many fear that the Philippine president is moving in a similar direction of muzzling freewheeling media as he consolidates a popular autocracy.

Maria Ressa, Rappler's CEO and executive editor, called the government's moves fishing expeditions created to harass the news organization. He was the only candidate to show up so he was given a two-hour exclusive interview with Maria Ressa, co-founder of Rappler.

What is at stake is the loss of truth telling, of press freedom and democracy itself.

Ressa co-founded Rappler in 2012 with fellow industry veterans who envisioned a news organization "that would go beyond journalism and close the loop on crowdsourcing experiments".

Ressa has said Rappler will seek legal remedies against the SEC decision and in the meantime, it's business as usual for its journalists. "I appeal to the government to realize that we are here to make the country stronger and help make the right decisions". From 1965 to 1986, during the darkest days of Philippine history, the dictator Ferdinand Marcos stifled human rights under martial rule.

In a decision issued Monday, the SEC cancelled the registration of Rappler, Inc., the mass media entity that "sold control" to foreigners, and Rappler Holdings Corporation being its alter ego, "existing for no other goal than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the Constitution".

Omidyar Network Fund LLC is one of the Philippine Depositary Receipts holders of Rappler. But the news site has insisted that the investments went through so-called depository receipts that allow companies to access worldwide funding without ceding Filipino ownership.

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