Rappler may face anti-dummy raps

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Online news outfit Rappler may be up for yet another case in court.

After being indicted for tax evasion and cyber libel, executives of Rappler could face anti-dummy charges.

The Pasig City prosecutor’s office has concluded its preliminary investigation into the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against Rappler last year.

The case has been submitted to the Department of Justice for resolution, according to DOJ officials.

Details of the case, however, were not made available to media so as not to preempt the decision of the investigating prosecutor on whether to dismiss or file the complaint in court.

The DOJ had ordered the NBI to investigate the possible violations by the online news outfit of Commonwealth Act 108 or the Anti-Dummy Law following the discovery of foreign ownership in Rappler.

The law prohibits foreigners from intervening in any “nationalized activity” such as the operation of a media company, which should have 100-percent Filipino control under the 1987 Constitution.

Violators could face five to 15 years in prison.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has revoked the business registration of Rappler and Rappler Holdings Corp.

The SEC ruled that Rappler violated the constitutional restrictions on ownership and control of mass media entities because it supposedly received donation from Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar.

The commission revoked Rappler’s certificate of registration because of a clause in its Philippine Depositary Receipt agreement with Omidyar Network, stating that it must be consulted before changing Rappler’s articles of incorporation or by-laws.

Recently, the Court of Appeals affirmed with finality the SEC’s findings and ordered the agency to review the donation by Omidyar of its shares to Rappler and to determine whether such move violated the Constitution.

Maria Ressa, chief executive officer of Rappler, was arrested on Feb. 13 by NBI agents based on a warrant issued for cyber libel by the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 46 over the complaint filed by businessman Wilfredo Keng.

Ressa spent the night at the NBI headquarters in Manila for failure to post bail. She was released the next day after posting P100,000 bail.

The DOJ has also indicted Rappler and its executives for alleged tax evasion amounting to P108.4 million. 




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