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
CA junks Rappler plea to reverse SEC ruling
(Philstar.com) - July 27, 2018 - 9:16am

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

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: August 14, 2019 - 12:04pm

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.

August 14, 2019 - 12:04pm

The Supreme Court orders the Office of the President, Office of the Executive Secretary, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, Media Accreditation Registration Office and the Presidential Security Group to comment on petitions questioning the banning of Rappler reporters and correspondents from Malacañang and from other events where President Rodrigo Duterte will be.

The petitions were filed by Rappler staff as well as by supporters from civil society and by colleagues in the media.

April 3, 2019 - 10:29am

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa pleads "not guilty" in four tax evasion cases at the Court of Tax Appeals.

April 3, 2019 - 8:24am

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is set to be arraigned at the Court of Tax Appeals on Wednesday, April 3, on four counts of tax evasion, she says in a tweet.

Arraignment is when a person charged with a crime enters a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty". In case the person refuses to enter a plea, the court will enter a plea of "not guilty" for them.

March 29, 2019 - 11:39am

Karapatan statement on Ressa arrest

Karapatan is one with journalists and media workers in decrying the vivid violations on the people’s right to information and freedom of expression, as exemplified by the cyber-attacks against websites of alternative media organizations and the rearrest of Rappler’s Maria Ressa on politically-motivated charges. 

We welcome and support today’s filing of civil charges against entities alleged to have been used by state actors in undertaking cyber-attacks against alternative news media organizations Bulatlat, Kodao, and Pinoyweekly.

Websites of organizations such as that of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Karapatan, Ibon Foundation and Bayan have been subjected to similar attacks. These insidious acts, coupled with threats and even arrests of members of alternative press, are meant to silence journalists and human rights defenders in online spaces, which are channels of news reports that expose the realities of human rights violations. These reports openly challenge the mainstream government narrative on human rights, as well as highlight the various facets of the people’s struggles and campaigns against repressive and anti-people policies and projects. 

We condemn today’s rearrest of Maria Ressa of news site Rappler on yet another set of charges which many deem as politically motivated cases by the Duterte administration. We view the charges and acts against Rappler and its reporters as forms of reprisal on Rappler’s reportage on the government’s sham drug war. This form of judicial harassment as well as the use of draconian laws criminalizing libel in broadcast, print and online media are direct violations on press freedom.

The Duterte government's persistent attacks against those who remain critical to his government is a glaring indication of its vindictiveness and non-tolerance of the people's exercise of their civil and political rights. This judicial harassment is also in stark contrast to the leeway and shameless favors granted to government-allied plunderers and alleged drug lords, to the point that these parasites are almost guaranteed freedom amid the outstanding cases against them.

Such attacks, including the killings of journalists, are not just against particular groups or individuals, but these are systematic acts of suppression of the people’s right to information and freedom of expression. Attempts to muzzle the dissemination of information on issues of public interest, including human rights cases, deny the general public of our right to know and access these information. Harassment of journalists through online attacks and filing of politically motivated charges seeking to intimidate them or hamper their work conveys a chilling effect on the public’s exercise of freedom of expression. 

We call on all free press and human rights advocates to push back against any and all forms of infringement on basic rights and fundamental freedoms under the current administration.

March 29, 2019 - 9:51am

National Union of Journalists of the Philippines statement

Rappler has clearly become the whipping boy of the Duterte administration as it seeks to silence or intimidate the independent and critical press.

Apparently not content with the barrage of lawsuits already filed against the news outfit, its CEO Maria Ressa, and other officers and staff, one of the original cases, the still contested revocation of license by the Securities and Exchange Commission, has actually given birth to new charges of allegedly violating the anti-dummy law. This brings the number of cases filed against Rappler to 11.

With all these, it is hard to shake the suspicion that the filing of this latest case was timed to make sure Maria would be welcomed home by an arresting team as soon as she stepped off her flight from abroad.

But this intolerant and vindictive government's ham-fisted efforts to humiliate Rappler and its officers and personnel have succeeded only in humiliating itself in the eyes of the world and everyone who values freedom and democracy.

Let us all stand by Rappler and the community of independent Filipino journalists in resisting this administration's attempts to muzzle us and, in doing so, silence our people's voices and deprive them of the information they need to decide on their personal and collective futures.

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