Senators react to SEC order to shut down Rappler

MANILA — Senators on Monday had different reactions to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order to revoke the license to operate of online news site Rappler.

Senator Grace Poe, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, said there was a need to review Rappler’s alleged violation.

However, she said that SEC should not have revoked Rappler’s license if only to curtail press freedom.

“We need to review their violation, their shortcomings. If there is something they did not do that is required for all media outfits, then we should find out what violation they made,” Poe said.

Basta lang ‘wag lamang ito paraan para mapatahimik ang sinumang grupo or organisasyon na mag hayag (As long as it is not a way to silence any groups or organizations to freedom of the press),” she added.

Poe said she would rather not conclude if the decision to revoke Rappler’s license is right or wrong but again stressed that the reason should not be to control media freedom.

Senator Richard Gordon said SEC should have “a real good reason” to shut down Rappler as it was wrong to control press freedom.

“They should not meddle with freedom of the press even if they have harsh words. It is important that there is freedom of the press,” Gordon told reporters.

Gordon, however, said that the SEC should make it a point to thoroughly investigate their allegations versus Rappler.

However, in a statement e-mailed to reporters, Gordon commended the SEC for enforcing the constitutional clause on media ownership in our country.

“It shows that no one is exempt and has special privilege in our justice system,” Gordon said.

However, Gordon also said that the SEC should be ready to present “convincing and factual evidence to back its ruling on Rappler.”

“If the media outlet is guilty of the alleged foreign ownership percentage claim, it should be done with due process and give Rappler a chance to prove the accusation as incorrect,” Gordon said.

Gordon pointed out that the SEC should also explain why they came up with the decision only now since Rappler’s registration was approved on January 1, 2012.

On the other hand, Gordon said Rappler should also explain and reveal on record the paper trail of its investors along those years.



Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said that it was “worrisome” but wanted to read the SEC order first before making a comment on the issue.

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV described the shutdown of Rappler as “a win for fake news, and a loss for dissenting voices and free speech.”

Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, described the SEC order as “a clear attack on press freedom.”

“The revocation of Rappler’s registration is pure harassment and a clear attack on press freedom. It is also Marcosian. It’s a move straight out of dictator’s playbook,” Hontiveros said.

She, meanwhile, urged the public and all media practitioners to defend press freedom and the right to speak truth to power.

Senator Francis Pangilinan expressed support for Rappler noting that the shutdown only made it more evident how important it is for people to have a way to come together.

“We stand with Rappler and all other truth-tellers. We stand for freedom — the very essence of liberalism,” Pangilinan said.

In a 29-page decision dated January 11, the SEC ruled that Rappler, Inc. and its controlling shareholder Rappler Holdings Corp. were “liable for violating the constitutional and statutory Foreign Equity Restrictions in Mass Media enforceable through rules and laws within the mandate of the Commission.”

The SEC accused Rappler of allegedly using “deception” to circumvent a provision in the Philippine Constitution, which mandates 100 percent Filipino ownership of mass media.

It also claimed that Rappler was a “mass media entity that sold control to foreigners.”