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MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said on Saturday, January 20, that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) order for Rappler to shut down is “bad for democracy” and press freedom in the country.
Drilon shared the opinion of other lawyers that the SEC should have given Rappler time to address issues over the Philippine Depositary Receipt (PDR) it issued to Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar.
“Sa akin, nakakabahala [ang desisyon ng SEC]. At the very least, kung may nakita mang paglabag ang SEC, dapat binigyan ng panahon para i-correct ‘yong sinasabing hindi tama,” Drilon told dwIZ in an interview on Saturday.
(For me, the SEC’s decision is a cause for concern. At the very least, if the SEC had seen violations, it should have given them more time to correct the violations.)
“Ang mga ganitong klaseng decision ay masama sa ating demokrasya at sa ating freedom of the press (Such kind of decision is bad for democracy and freedom of the press),” he added.
The SEC argued that an Omidyar Network PDR provision – which states Rappler Holdings Corporation need to seek approval of 2/3 of PDR holders on corporate matters – is a violation of the Constitution’s restrictions on foreign ownership and control of mass media entities.
Rappler Holdings is the parent firm of Rappler.
Several large media companies have PDRs, financial instruments that do not give the owners voting rights in the board or a say in the management or day-to-day operations of the company.
The SEC itself accepted the Omidyar-related documents submitted by Rappler in 2015. (READ: Debunking lies about Rappler)
Drilon, a former justice secretary and a Bar topnotcher, believes the SEC should have given Rappler one to 4 weeks to address concerns over its PDR.
“Ang sabi ng Rappler, PDRs lang ito at hindi stockholders. Ang sinasabi ng SEC, ito ay equivalent to control at equity. Iyan po ay hindi settled kaya dapat ay binigyan ng pagkakataon para i-correct,” he said.
(Rappler said these it was merely a PDR and do not involve stockholders. The SEC is saying it is equivalent to control and equity. That was not settled so they should have been given the chance to correct it.)
Responding to questions, Drilon said the cyber libel complaint against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and a former Rappler reporter, which the National Bureau of Investigation is looking into, only fuels the suspicion that the Duterte administration is harassing the news organization.
“Hindi maiwasan ang conclusion na mukhang iniipit ‘yung Rappler dito (You can’t help but conclude that Rappler is being harassed),” he said.
The SEC order is not yet final and executory, which means Rappler can continue operating as it contests the ruling in court.
Members of the media wearing black gathered at the Boy Scouts Circle in Tomas Morato, Quezon City to denounce the SEC’s decision against Rappler and to stand up for freedom of the press.
The gathering was dubbed as the #BlackFridayForPressFreedom.
SEC chairperson Teresita Herbosa denied the order against Rappler was politically motivated. – Rappler.com