Many of my colleagues in local media will agree with me that the cancellation of Rappler’s registration to operate by Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is not an attack to press freedom. No, it is not an attack to press freedom. Rather, it is a call to every good and law abiding corporate person to observe the laws set by the Commission.
Rappler violated a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of Philippine media when it gave veto powers to a foreign fund which had bought a placement of Philippine depositary receipts on Rappler’s shares in 2015.
Veto refers to a constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by SEC and Rappler gave that veto powers to a foreign fund to facilitate buying shares in foreign companies because the shares do not have to leave the home country. The depositary receipt trades on a local stock exchange. The constitution prohibits foreign companies to own any Philippine media network. That violation is tantamount to selling our sovereignty to foreigners.
Let’s go back to press freedom.
The action of the Securities and Exchange Commission cannot be interpreted as harassment to Rappler as long as the Commission acted on its own volition and not due to the prodding of the Executive branch of the government.
This is my stake. As long as the action of the SEC has nothing to do with the critical news of Rappler against President Duterte then there is no clear and immediate danger to press freedom. Otherwise, there is reason to believe that the President is up and against news organizations which are critical to his presidency.
Let us remember that there is a violation committed by Rappler as ruled by SEC as a regulating body. Let us also remember that Rappler is a hard-hitting news organization whose target is always the drug war and the extra-judicial killings which their news would tell the public as being perpetuated by the Executive branch. Whichever, these two reasons collide in the midst of this cancellation of the registration. The people will tend to believe one reason from the other depending on whose side of the political fence you are leaning on.
As for me and my household, the violation committed by Rappler against the provision in the Securities and Exchange Commission is enough for me to believe that Rappler needs to be punished. I still believe up to this moment that Philippine press is still free. Until that moment when journalists are being killed or abducted or tortured or massacred that is the time to say that there is clear and immediate danger to press freedom.
Anyway, the owners of Rappler can build another news organization as strong or as infamous as they are now.