US-BASED Omidyar Network’s donation of its voided securities to 14 managers of Rappler was an “admission” that the online news outfit violated the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in media entities, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Omidyar Network said on Wednesday it was “donating” its Philipine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) in Rappler, worth about $1.5 million, to local managers to fend off the government’s push to shut down the site, which is critical of the Duterte government.
“It is an admission against interest that they violated our Constitution because they said, now it removes the only obstacle that keeps Rappler from operating. That is an admission,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said.
The move also strengthens the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the news site had foreign owners, he said.
“No less than their [fund source]now admitted that there is a violation of the Philippine Constitution, [that they even]took steps hoping that this would rectify [the violation],” Roque said.
A statement by the Omidyar Network, released by Rappler, said: “The donation completely eliminates the sole basis of the SEC ruling against Rappler Incorporated and Rappler Holdings Corporation.”
The “admission” also vindicated the Palace’s statement that barring Rappler reporter Pia Ranada-Robles was “not an act of censorship or an infringement of press freedom,” the Palace spokesman said.
Roque said that if Omidyar Network, owned by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, really wanted to assist Rappler, the two parties must form a new corporation.
He said the donation did not “cure” anything, and Rappler remained barred from covering presidential events.
On January 15, the SEC revoked Rappler’s certificate of incorporation for allegedly violating the Philippine Constitution and statutory foreign equity restrictions in mass media.
The ruling came after President Rodrigo Duterte accused Rappler of selling a controlling stake in the company to Omidyar Network.
A month later, Ranada-Robles was barred from entering the Palace.
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Also on Thursday, the SEC said Omidyar Network’s donation of PDRs to managers of Rappler should be cleared with the Court of Appeals (CA).
“Considering that the Commission’s decision against Rappler is currently pending appeal before the CA, any action on this supervening event must be coursed through the Honorable Court through an appropriate pleading or manifestation,” the SEC said in a statement.
“To date, we are unaware of any such pleading or manifestation officially conveying this information to the CA and for what specific relief. In view of the foregoing, the Commission would like to remind all the relevant parties to abide by the sub judice rule and refrain from making unnecessary pronouncements through the media when recourse to judicial processes is readily available,” it added.
The Commission said it would study Omidyar Network’s move.
with ANGELICA BALLESTEROS