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CA junks Rappler plea to reverse SEC ruling

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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

COURT OF APPEALS

RAPPLER

SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: June 29, 2022 - 8:34am

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.

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."

November 29, 2021 - 12:48pm

Movement Against Disinformation — a coalition with members from he academe, legal profession, civil society groups, international non-government organizations — has issued a statement urging the courts to allow Rappler CEO Maria Ressa to travel to Oslo, Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize.

"This historic occasion, whereby a Filipino will be honored to receive the most prestigious international award, cannot be understated. Between 1901 and 2021, only 109 individuals have been conferred with this award," the group said.

"This brings great honor and recognition not only to Ms. Ressa but to the Philippines, Filipinos both present and unborn, and all journalists whom she represents through this award. Her presence in the ceremony is symbolic, urgent and necessary."

"Ms. Ressa's conviction for Cyber Libel in 2020 is still under appeal, and until the same has been decided with finality, she is presumed innocent. She was allowed in the past to leave the country 36 times on bail, and returned and made herself available when the Court required her presence," MAD also says.

June 15, 2020 - 9:21am

Manila court convicts Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and ex-researcher Reynaldo Santos of cyber libel. 

The court orders them to pay P200,000 for moral damages and P200,000 for exemplary damages.

Ressa and Santos are sentenced to imprisonment of six months and one day to up to six years. Rappler says they are posting bail. — report from Kristine Joy Patag

June 14, 2020 - 1:50pm

"As we await the decision on the cyber libel charges against Maria Ressa, Reynaldo Santos Jr. and Rappler, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines holds fast to the hope that the court will see this case for what it is, part of this vindictive government's ruthless campaign to silence or intimidate independent and critical Philippine media," the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines says in a statement.

"We have seen how the State and its agencies twisted the application of an already bad law into one more weapon in the legal arsenal it has brought to bear against Rappler, not to mention the misbegotten ban on coverage by a chief executive whose personal whims hold more weight than the public interest," it also says.

"On Monday, we, together with all those who treasure our rights and liberties, will be watching and waiting, hoping judicial independence and wisdom will set things right," NUJP also says.

October 14, 2019 - 4:35pm

Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 159 remands, or sends back, the case of violations of the Securities and Regulation Code filed against Rappler and its executives for preliminary investigation.

It says there was "undue haste in [the] transmittal of records of the case." — Philstar.com/Kristine Joy Patag

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