SEC: Rappler ban is Malacanang's 'independent decision'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 23) — The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has distanced itself from Malacañang's move to strip Rappler of its media accreditation, calling it an "independent decision."

"Malacañang will have its own rules for its journalists. If they feel that our ruling is enough trigger to reevaluate Rappler's credentials, that's their independent decision," SEC Chair Teresita Herbosa said in a press conference on Friday.

Herbosa reiterated that the SEC's ruling revoking Rappler's articles of incorporation is not yet final and executory. The online news outlet still has a pending petition with the Court of Appeals.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, however, used the ruling as basis for barring Rappler reporter Pia Ranada from covering the President.

The SEC chief, for her part, refused to weigh in on the issue: "I refrain from commenting on whether that's right or wrong. That's not exactly my turf, licensing journalists to cover events in Malacanang. That's totally within their discretion."

Despite continued fallout from the controversial decision, Herbosa stood firm on the SEC's findings. The corporate watchdog found that Rappler violated constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of mass media companies. Provisions in Rappler's securities effectively granted control to foreign investor Omidyar Network, even though it didn't hold any equity in the company.

Herbosa admitted the decision has not been "popular" or "well-accepted," but she said the SEC was only doing its job, implementing the law.

"There are only a few industries the Constitution specifies must be 100% Filipino-owned, and mass media is one of those. Even just 0.005% foreign ownership is already a violation," she said.

Herbosa noted, though, that Rappler can easily avoid the legal battle. There's no rule stopping Rappler from dissolving the current company and reincorporating as a new one - without its foreign investor. Rappler will even be able to keep its name despite the reincorporation.

"They can do that anytime. In fact, you can withdraw your case at any time. The courts allow you to do that, if you would just like to comply already with the decision," she said.