President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking in his second State of the Nation Address, claimed that Rappler was owned by foreigners, a charge the news website denied.
AP/Aaron Favila, File
Duterte: I was not behind Rappler shutdown order
Audrey Morallo ( - January 16, 2018 - 7:33pm

MANILA, Philippines —  President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday denied that he had a hand in the shutdown order of the Securities and Exchange Commission on the operations of the news website Rappler, saying that the heart of the issue is not press freedom but abuse by the country's elite.

The president said he could not have influenced the SEC considering that four of its five commissioners were appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III. He also emphasized that the decision is not political.

"We never had a hand, and I never give a shit if you continue or not continue with your network," Duterte said during his speech at the inauguration of the satellite-based air traffic system of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in Pasay City.

Aside from his denial of involvement in Rappler's shutdown order, the president also continued his general attack on some news organizations, which have been critical in their coverage of his presidency, for their supposed sins.

He blasted the owners of some news outfits for throwing "garbage and shit" at government officials and employees for corruption despite being guilty of the accusations themselves.

Duterte said some oligarchs and rich families were using their media companies to wield power and influence and to shield themselves from prosecution.

"All along you are like that. You do not pay your taxes, and your taxes in billions have been reduced to millions. You think that people in government are thieves and you oligarchs, you sons of whores, you think you are clean," Duterte said in Filipino.

"Where's your sense of value," Duterte asked of the journalists listening to his speech.

'Marcosian' tactic

During his speech before the joint session of Congress last year, Duterte accused Rappler of being foreign owned, a charge that the news outfit vehemently denied.

Aside from Rappler, the newspaper Philippine Daily Inquirer and the broadcast network ABS-CBN had also earned the ire of the irascible Duterte, who claimed bias in their coverage and corruption of their owners.

Duterte, during his speech, cited the case of some oligarchs who managed to have the billions in taxes they owed the government reduced to just millions through their media outfits.

Duterte also slammed again the owners of a newspaper which had been critical of the president who he said had clung to a piece of property in Makati City beyond the years stipulated with their contract with the government.

"If something wrong was found, you say it's harassment. It's nonsense," said the president, basically echoing the denials his spokesperson issued early in the day.

The SEC on Monday issued a shutdown order on Rappler, which has been critical in its coverage of Duterte especially his ferocious war on drugs, following its supposed infringement into the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media entities in the country.

The news website denied this and said that this was the culmination of presidential attacks on it which started in 2016.

Maria Ressa, Rappler's chief, vowed to hold the line and to continue operating their website. She also promised to fight the order and expressed readiness to question it even before the Supreme Court.

Opposition senators have condemned the order and claimed that it was a "Marcosian" tactic straight from the playbook of the late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

International human rights organizations have also severely criticized the order, saying that it was an attack on the right of media organizations to free speech.

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