Gordon: SEC must back its ruling vs. Rappler with evidence

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Senator Richard Gordon. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — Senator Richard Gordon said the Securities and Exchange Commission should be ready to present evidence to back its ruling on online news organization Rappler.

In a statement, Gordon commended the SEC for enforcing the Constitutional provision on media ownership.

Under Article 16 Section 11 of the 1987 Constitution, ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines and Filipino-led companies. 

"It shows that no one is exempt and has special privilege in our justice system. However, the SEC should be ready to present convincing and factual evidence to back its ruling on Rappler because the Freedom of the Press is sacrosanct in every democracy," Gordon's statement read.

The SEC on January 11 revoked Rappler's certificate of incorporation for allegedly violating constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media. The government agency claimed Rappler received $1 million from foreign investor Omidyar Network in exchange for a grant of control and financial returns. Rappler CEO Maria Ressa has denied these claims.

READ: SEC cancels Rappler's license to do business

"Stay vigilant in checking government's wrongdoings but we should adhere to the ethical standards of true journalism that we always cherish," Gordon added.

Gordon also called on Rappler to produce a paper trail of its investors since 2012.

Solicitor General Jose Calida also lauded the SEC's "sound" decision for revoking Rappler's license to do business.

"This decision demonstrates that even influential media outfits cannot skirt the restrictions set forth in the Constitution," he said.

The Solicitor General added his office is ready to defend the decision in any forum.

SEC decision 'Marcosian'

Some minority senators expressed their condemnation of the SEC ruling.

Staunch Duterte critic Senator Antonio Trillanes said the decision was a clear attempt by President Rodrigo Duterte to silence independent media outfits in the country.

"It would also send a chilling message to other media entities to force them to tow the administration's propaganda lines. It is time for the different media groups to close ranks and fight for their constitutionally enshrined freedom of the press," Trillanes said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Senator Risa Hontiveros claimed the decision is Marcosian, referring to the decisions of then President Ferdinand Marcos to close down broadcast and newspaper companies during his regime's martial law.

"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 the dictator's playbook," her statement read.

Senator Bam claimed the SEC decision was a "win for fake news," which the Senate held a hearing on last December.

On the other hand, Senator Francis Pangilinan said the Liberal Party — which he is President of — will continue to speak against the decision.

"We stand with Rappler and all other truth-tellers. We stand for freedom — the very essence of liberalism. We offer a platform where we can come together and determine what we can do to rise to the challenges to our freedoms and our constitutional democracy," Pangilinan said.