Centerlaw calls SEC order vs Rappler ‘unconstitutional’
The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) order to revoke online news site Rappler’s license to operate was “unconstitutional,” according to the Center for International Law (Centerlaw).
In a statement on Tuesday, Centerlaw said the ruling was tantamount to “prior restraint,” or a government-imposed censorship on speech or other expression.
“For Rappler claims the SEC denied them what it had in fact allowed other similarly placed entities to do. This smacks of a lack of due process, not to mention unequal treatment, which are also unconstitutional acts,” Centerlaw said in a statement on Tuesday.
“What the SEC should have done was to give Rappler an opportunity to correct its ownership structure. Instead, the SEC got down to business right away with guns blazing,” Centerlaw said.
The SEC issued a 29-page decision on January 11 identifying Rappler as the “mass media entity that sold control to foreigners.”
“The alleged failure of Rappler to comply with constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of Philippine media entities aside, the SEC’s decision is tantamount to prior restraint, and therefore comes with the heavy presumption of unconstitutionality,” Centerlaw said.
“The same constitution that prescribes restrictions on ownership of Philippine mass media is also the very constitution that has placed free expression at the topmost rungs of constitutional freedoms,” the organization stressed.
In addition, Solicitor General Jose Calida’s request for the SEC to probe Rappler was a “collateral attack,” or “restraining a known critic of the government’s drug war, not by directly censoring it but by cancelling its corporate registration,” Centerlaw said.
“That this move to cancel its corporate registration is linked to the President’s public statements disparaging Rappler is proven by the fact that it was no less than the Office of the Solicitor General that so moved,” it said.
“Thus, at best, the SEC’s decision is a prime example of outrageous legalism blind to law’s greater purposes; at worst, it is one cloaked with unconstitutional motivations,” the organization stressed.
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