CA junks Rappler plea to reverse SEC ruling

CA junks Rappler plea to reverse SEC ruling
Employees of Rappler, an online news outfit known for its critical reporting on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, work inside their office in metropolitan Manila, Philippines on Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018.
AP / Aaron Favila, File

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 12:05 p.m.) — The Court of Appeals (CA) denied the petition of online news site Rappler to reverse the ruling of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke its business registration.

In January, the SEC revoked the license of Rappler for allegedly violating the constitutional and statutory Foreign Qeuity Restriction in Mass Media.

In its 72-page ruling issued Thursday, the apellate court noted that the issuance of Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDR), a financial instrument allowing foreigners to invest in a Filipino company without owning any part of it, is not illegal.

The court acknowledged the earlier statement of Rappler that other Filipino corporations such as ABS-CBN, GMA and Globe have issued PDRs in the past and were allowed by the SEC.

The court indicated that one of the grounds for the rejection was: "That the purpose of the corporation are patently unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, or contrary to government rules and regulations."

RELATED: Filipino journalists rally to defend press freedom

The apellate court also found that the treasurer's affidavit on the amlount of capital stock subscribed and paid was false.

"That the percentage of ownership of the capital stock to be owned by citizens of the Philippines has not been complied with as required by existing laws of the Constitution," the ruling read.

The CA also ordered the SEC to evaluate the legal effect of the alleged donation of Omidyar Network of all its PDRs to Rappler staff.

"Accordingly, this case is hereby remanded to the Securities and Exchange Commission for this purpose," the court said.

In its ruling, the apellate court noted that the reply of Rappler stating that Omidyar has donated all its PDR to the news site's staff was a new development not presented to the SEC.

Meanwhile, Rappler has not yet received a copy of the decision, according to its legal counsel Francis Lim.

"We have not yet received a copy of the decision but we will surely not take the decision sitting down and will take all legal actions necessary to have the issue finally resolved by the Supreme Court," Lim said, as reported by Rappler.

The order of the CA to the SEC to conduct further evaluation on the legal implications of the donation of PDRs to Rappler staff means that it would be "business as usual" for the online news site.

"What this means is that the SEC decision cannot be enforced or implemented until the issue is finally decided," the Rappler counsel said.

United Nations human rights experts had raised alarm over the SEC's move to revoke Rappler's license.

UN special rapporteurs said that the move "comes at a time of rising rhetoric against independent voices" in the Philippines.

“We urge the government to return to its path of protection and promotion of independent media, especially those covering issues in the public interest," UN special rapporteurs said in a joint statement in January. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 12, 2023 - 9:00am

Palace answers questions on barring of Rappler reporter Pia Ranada from entering Malacañan New Executive Building to cover. It was later clarified that Ranada is allowed to enter the New Executive Building but not Malacañan, where the president's events are held.

September 12, 2023 - 9:00am

Philippine Nobel laureate Maria Ressa was acquitted Tuesday of her final tax evasion charge, in the latest legal victory for the veteran journalist as she battles to stay out of prison.

Ressa, 59, smiled as the judge delivered the verdict in the years-long case, an AFP journalist inside the court room said. 

January 18, 2023 - 10:09am

Philippine Nobel Prize winner Maria Ressa and her online media company Rappler were on Wednesday acquitted of all four charges of tax evasion filed against her, a court says.

Ressa, who won the Nobel along with Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov in 2021, still faces three other criminal cases, including a cyber libel conviction now under appeal that could mean nearly seven years in prison.

"Today, facts win. Truth wins," a defiant Ressa told reporters outside the Manila courtroom shortly after the court ruled on government charges that she and Rappler dodged taxes in a 2015 bond sale to foreign investors.

"These charges were politically motivated," Ressa said Wednesday. "We were able to prove that Rappler is not a tax evader." — AFP

October 11, 2022 - 11:53am

The Court of Appeals has stood firm in its ruling that earlier denied the appeal of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos Jr. to overturn a Manila court’s conviction of cyber libel against them.

“Wherefore, the motion for reconsideration is denied,” the CA’s Fourth Division says in a ruling promulgated October 10.

Ressa and Santos sought for the reconsideration of the same CA court decision dated July 7, 2022 that affirmed the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46’s ruling that found them guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the crime of cyber libel.

July 8, 2022 - 2:31pm

State-run Philippine News Agency reports that the Court of Appeals has junked the appeal of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and its former researcher Reynaldo Santos to overturn the cyber libel conviction rendered by a Manila court in June 2020.

June 29, 2022 - 8:34am

Independent news site Bulatlat.com condemns the SEC ruling that upheld its 2018 decision to shutdown of news company Rappler Inc.

In a statement, it says: "It is alarming how laws are weaponized to muzzle independent media. Administrative orders and other regulatory powers of government, such as franchise in the case of ABS-CBN, should not be used to trample upon press freedom and free expression."

Bulatlat, whose website has been blocked by the NTC following NSA Esperon's request, calls on fellow journalists "to resist the attacks, and unite in defending and upholding press freedom and the public's right to know."

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