SEC affirms decision to revoke Rappler’s corporate registration

CMFR/PHILIPPINES – The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) affirmed its 2018 decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of the social news site Rappler and Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) in an order dated 28 June 2022. According to Rappler, this affirmation “effectively confirmed the shutdown” of the news organization. 

The SEC revoked the incorporation papers of Rappler and RHC on 11 January 2018, alleging that the media organization violated the Constitutional provision limiting ownership and control of mass media to Filipinos. According to SEC, the media organization received funds from the foreign entity, Omidyar Network, as reflected in its Philippine Depository Receipt (PDR) submitted to SEC in 2015. PDR is a financial document that gives its holder the right to own stocks in and receive interest and dividends from a Filipino company.

Rappler appealed the decision with the Court of Appeals (CA). The latter denied the appeal on 29 July 2019 but asked SEC to give Rappler a “reasonable period” to comply with the requirements.  

The SEC convened a special panel in 2019 to look at the case and submitted on 17 February 2021 a manifestation with the CA containing the panel’s findings. Rappler filed a motion for reconsideration with the SEC on 16 March 2021 and a counter-manifestation with the CA on 19 March 2021.

According to the SEC, the commission  received a document on June 21 from the CA noting that it has received its manifestation and Rappler’s counter manifestation in view of its “Decision dated July 26, 2019, the Resolution dated February 21, 2019, and the corresponding Entry of Judgment issued on December 4, 2019.” The SEC interpreted from the quote that the CA decision “has attained finality” and that it “merely puts in effect its earlier decision and those of the Court of Appeals.”

The SEC further said that “the latest resolution of the appellate court only bolsters the Commission’s position that Rappler and RHC violated the Constitution and that their certificates of incorporation should therefore be revoked.”

In a June 29 statement, Rappler said that they will appeal the decision “especially since the proceedings were highly irregular.” Rappler will exhaust “existing legal remedies all up to the highest court of the land.” The news organization believes that the order was “not immediately executory without a court approval” 

Rappler CEO Maria Ressa said in an online press conference that  it is still  “business as usual” for Rappler and it will continue to publish stories for now.

CMFR File Photo

Duterte and the Press

The latest SEC order came two days before President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends on June 30. 

CMFR notes that the 2018 SEC decision came a few months after Duterte threatened to investigate Rappler’s ownership. Rappler, along with ABS-CBN and The Philippine Daily Inquirer were continuously attacked by Duterte in his earlier speeches. The three were critical of government policies, especially Duterte’s “war on drugs.” Duterte also threatened to file cases against the Inquirer and to shut down ABS-CBN. The House of Representatives denied ABS-CBN’s franchise renewal application in 2020.

Aside from the revocation of corporate registration, several cases were also filed against Rappler including cyber libel and tax-evasion cases.  Duterte and other government officials also banned Rappler from covering several government events since 2018.

This latest development to shut down  Rappler also coincides with the National Telecommunications Commission’s effort to block access to alternative media news sites Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly and associating them with “terrorists and terrorist organizations.”

CMFR maintains that an attack on one journalist or one media organization is an attack on the institution and on democracy, and that the press community should stand in solidarity with each other when any of its members is attacked, threatened and silenced.