THE decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the license to operate of online news organization Rappler because it allegedly violated the Constitution on ownership is not media censorship, Malacanang said on Tuesday.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque was referring to the SEC ruling that found Rappler in violation of the provision requiring 100 percent Filipino ownership of a mass media entity.
“We would like to deny that the state has infringed on the freedom of the press, particularly on Rappler or any of its reporters. If the President wanted to do that [censorship] he could have just sent the armed forces and padlocked them as done by other regimes. The President has never done that,” Roque said.
The President has repeatedly criticized Rappler, as well as other media organizations like the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and television giant ABS-CBN for their alleged unfair coverage of him.
He claimed that Rappler was owned by the US-based Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), threatened to revoke the franchise to operate of ABS-CBN, and accused former PDI owners of tax evasion.
Roque also defended SEC Chairman Teresita Herbosa who, she said, was of unquestionable integrity.
“The amount of respect you [journalists] have for Maria Ressa is the same kind of respect accorded to Chairman Herbosa among us lawyers. We find it difficult to accept that Chairman Herbosa can be influenced into making a decision contrary to law. She is not capable of that,” Roque said.
Ressa is a veteran journalist who was former CNN Bureau Chief in Jakarta, Indonesia and headed ABS-CBN News and Current Affairs Department from 2004 to 2010 before being a co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rappler in 2012.
In a news conference after the SEC decision on Monday, Ressa said the ruling was an attack on press freedom, if not harassment from the Duterte administration. She also maintained that Rappler was 100 percent Filipino-owned as required by the Constitution.
Roque countered that it was “unfair for Maria Ressa to say that.”
“The SEC decision is not an attack on the press. Maybe she has trusted her lawyers more than she should, but no one is exempted from complying with the Constitution,” Roque said. LLANESCA T. PANTI