Appellate court junks Rappler plea to reverse SEC ruling

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Appellate court junks Rappler plea to reverse SEC ruling
This file photo taken on Jan. 15, 2018 shows employees of online portal Rappler working at the company's editorial office in Manila. President Rodrigo Duterte's move to ban news website Rappler from covering the presidential palace is a threat to press freedom, rights and media groups said on February 21, 2018.
Ted Aljibe / AFP, File

MANILA, Philippines — The Court of Appeals stood by its earlier ruling denying online news site Rappler’s petition to reverse the Securities and Exchange Commission’s order to revoke its business registration.

The CA’s Former Special Twelfth Division junked Rappler’s motion for partial reconsideration due to lack of merit. It said that the news site failed to raise new arguments that were already ruled on in the same court’s July 26, 2018 decision.

The case stemmed from SEC’s order to cancel the certificate of incorporation of the online news site and Omidyar’s Philippine Depository Receipts.

PDRs are instruments that give foreign investors a passive economic interest in a Philippine company.

Rappler appealed the order to the CA, but the appellate court rejected the news site’s petition and sent back the case to the SEC.

Omidyar donation

The appellate court noted that Rappler, in its appeal, attached a copy of the Omidyar Network’s Deeds of Donation to argue that the SEC’s revocation order dated Jan. 11, 2018 “is now devoid of any legal basis.”

But the CA said that it had already ordered the SEC, in its July 2018 ruling, to look into the legal effect of the “alleged supervening donation” on whether it has mitigated, if not cured, the violation the commission had earlier found.

“In view of this directive, this Court will refrain from discussing the donation so as not to pre-empt the evaluation, and the subsequent finding and conclusion to be reached by the SEC,” the appeals court said.

No violation of due process

The CA also held that SEC’s action on Rappler’s case falls under its regulatory functions on violation of the foreign equity restrictions. “Hence, a trial-type proceeding is not necessarily required,” the ruling read.

The court also held that a review of the proceedings showed that the petitioners “were sufficiently notified of the charge against them and given an opportunity to explain or defend themselves.”

It also noted that the news site was accorded substantial compliance. “Therefore, this Court maintains that the assailed SEC En Banc Decision cannot be annulled on the ground that petitioners were denied due process,” the CA added.

Palace: Case not related to press freedom

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, in a press briefing on Monday noon, maintained that the case against Rappler is not an attack against press freedom.

He reiterated the Palace’s stand that it does not interfere with any case filed before our courts and to “let the law takes it course.”

Aside from the SEC case, the news site is also facing five counts of tax-related cases before the Court of Tax Appeals and Pasig courts, and a cyberlibel charge before a Manila court.

The ruling, penned by Associate Justice Rafael Antonio Santos, was dated February 21 but was made public only on Monday. The decision was concurred by Associate Justice Apolinario Bruselas Jr. and Germano Francisco Legaspi.

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