Rappler CEO: I'm ready to face arrest

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This article has been updated to include Maria Ressa's statements asking for due process.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is ready for the worst after the government's move against the news agency.

Ressa said it is possible she will be arrested since the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has sent a copy of the decision revoking their license to operate for supposedly violating the foreign ownership restrictions on mass media outfits.

She said it depends on the Department of Justice (DOJ), as the SEC in its January 11 ruling referred the matter to the DOJ for "appropriate action."

"If that's what they decide, what you can you do, right? We are asking and fighting for due process. If they decide they are going to arrest me, I will have bail. What can you do? We live in this country," Ressa told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

The possible basis for the arrest is the Anti-Dummy Law, or Commonwealth Act No. 108, which limits foreign control on local companies.

"Our lawyers are always saying, prepare for the worst. I'm prepared for the worst," said Ressa.

Rappler said it is ready to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

"I will do everything in my power not to let Rappler go down," Ressa said.

Related: SEC cancels Rappler's license to do business

The SEC said Rappler violated constitutional limitations on ownership and control of mass media entities because of funds coming from Omidyar Network.

Rappler, however, has maintained that their foreign investors have no control over the media outfit's operations. It also decried the move as harassment, and a clampdown on the free press.

Malacanang through Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Tuesday the media do not need foreign investors.

Related: Media, human rights groups slam SEC closure order vs. Rappler

Rappler wants due process

Rappler sees a political incentive to shut them down, as it has been critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration. Ressa also said the company received a tip about a person who "ran after" SEC for the decision.

Related: Rappler sees Malacañang hand in license revocation

Apart from the license revocation, the SEC voided Philippine Depository Receipts (PDR) of Rappler's foreign investor Omidyar Network. Calling it as a fraudulent transaction, the SEC said the PDRs were a way to circumvent constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership.

The PDR is a financial instrument that foreign entities can buy into. Unlike stocks or dividends, they are not tied to ownership. Rappler also maintains that Omidyar has no say in operations, management, or editorial decisions.

However, SEC argued otherwise, saying: "The [Omidyar Network] PDRs contain a provision wherein [Rappler] is required to seek approval of the [ON] PDR holders on corporate matters."

Ressa disputed this interpretation, saying the provision was a protection clause in case the nature of the business changed — for example, a shift to an advertising agency instead of news.

"We disagree with that interpretation. Even if they voted against it, they can't make us do anything. We're not under their control, nor do they want to control us," said Ressa.

She said like with other companies, Rappler should have been given the opportunity to strike out any problematic provisions. Omidyar Network even offered to remove the clause on corporate matters, but the SEC said it was "too late," Ressa said.

"We never got a chance to talk to the SEC Chairperson. After the special panel came out with its decision, we didn't see that decision. We weren't given a chance to respond to it," said Ressa.

"If it was a normal company, they would tell the company, 'Change this,' and give them a year. This is something we've seen in other records," she added.

When asked if she regretted allowing Omidyar PDRs, Ressa replied, "No, because if it wasn't PDRs, it would be something else."

Accusations of foreign ownership are not new to Rappler, as Duterte raised them during his State of the Nation Address last year. Malacañang has since denied his speech had any influence on the decision.

Rappler has also earned the ire of pro-government bloggers, including Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.

Duterte has also slammed other media companies, including national broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer and broadcast corporation ABS-CBN.

Watch the rest of The Source's interview with Ressa here.