Rappler case at SEC ‘not a press freedom issue’ — CA
The controversy surrounding the order by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking the registration of online news website Rappler is not an issue of press freedom, the Court of Appeals (CA) said in its ruling.
But Rappler CEO Maria Ressa questioned why they were receiving “special treatment” on the issue, saying that the SEC shouldn’t have ordered the revocation of their registration.
“This court notes that the exercise of press freedom is not an issue in this case,” the ruling of the CA’s Special 12th Division read.
After the SEC served Rappler the revocation order in January 2018, the online news website issued a statement calling on readers to “stand with Rappler” and “defend press freedom.”
But the CA said: “Rather, the issue involves the exercise of the regulatory powers by the SEC over domestic corporations duly registered with it.”
“In this case, petitioners, in connection with their alleged violation of the foreign equity restriction under Section 11(1), Article XVI of the 1987 Constitution,” it explained.
In response, Ressa claimed the SEC violated Rappler’s right to due process when it did not apply its own rules and practices on the case of the news outlet.
“Worse, the SEC went against the mandate of the law by not giving Rappler an opportunity to amend or correct any perceived error before revoking its certificate of incorporation,” Ressa told reporters in an ambush interview at the Department of Justice on Friday.
However, the CA said that although they agree with Rappler’s argument that the rules and procedures “was not observed” by the SEC, it “does not, by itself, amount to a violation of procedural due process.”
“Due process in administrative proceedings cannot be fully equated with due process in its strict judicial sense, for in the former, a formal or trial-type hearing is not always necessary, and technical rules of procedure are not strictly applied,” the court said.
But Ressa argued: “We comply with the rule of law, we demand the rule of law, but we are getting some special treatment because we are journalists.”
The CA, in its ruling, ordered the SEC to reinvestigate Rappler’s case, noting that circumstances have changed since American firm Omidyar network has already donated all of its investments to the Rappler staff.
The SEC accused Rappler of violating the 1987 Constitution as it stressed that media ownership in the Philippines should be free from foreign control.
The CA said that “in view of the donation made by Omidyar of all the Omidyar PDR to the Rappler staff, the negative foreign control found objectionable by the SEC appears to have been permanently removed.”
“This case is hereby remanded to the Securities and Exchange Commission for this purpose,” the CA ruled.
Ressa said they would “leave it to the SEC. I continue to hope for the best.” /muf
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