Duterte: I had nothing to do with SEC's ruling on Rappler

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President Rodrigo Duterte| File photo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — Media and rights groups are crying foul over the administration's supposed attempts to silence critics, but President Rodrigo Duterte clears the air - he had nothing to do with the move of the Security Exchange Commission (SEC) to shut down online news agency Rappler.

He said the order was far from political, as he has only one appointee at the commission.

READ: SEC cancels Rappler's license to do business

The President said press freedom is not the issue, as it is the abuse of power by the elite who own media outlets and use them to wield influence.

"We never had a hand and I don't give a s*** if you continue or not continue with your network...Those people who have been attacking us below the belt...He who comes to equity must come with clean hands...if you're trying to throw garbage at us the least we can do to explain is (ask) how about you?! Are you also clean?" Duterte said.

The President made the statement during his speech at an event in Pasay City Tuesday.

Duterte has been hitting what he calls oligarchs since the early days of his administration, even singling out the owners of broadsheet Inquirer and broadcast firm ABS-CBN. The two media groups and Rappler have been critical of the administration, with the President saying he wants to look into supposed foreign interests in Rappler.

During a chance interview after the event, tensions ran high between Duterte and Rappler's Malacañang reporter, who asked him about the SEC ruling.

The President answered by challenging a Rappler article about his right hand man Bong Go supposedly intervening in the purchase of new warships.

The reporter asked, "Sir, as far as we're concerned we've already addressed the fairness of that article. Can you just answer please the question?"

Duterte went on to criticize the news agency for supposedly receiving money from foreigners, a veiled reference to the SEC decision which voided Rappler's permit to operate for supposedly violating media ownership rules with the non-voting investments of Omidyar Network of eBay auction site founder Pierre Omidyar and US-based North Base Media.

The reporter tried to explain to him that foreigners do not control Rappler, but the President wouldn't budge.

He said, "Maski sabihin hindi owner, eh [Even if they're not the owners]...you are funded by foreign money. Are you not ashamed of that?"

When asked if he considered the media his ally or enemy, the President said he considers journalists as friends. He said he never tried to influence any reporter, even those critical of him.

At the same time, he appealed to journalists to be mindful against smearing the character of government officials.

"Kasi yang mga yan may mga anak yan, may mga kaibigan. And just because we are in government, itong mga media they think we are already hungry for money, na may hindi kami dineclare...that's our business...hindi naman namin nakaw yan," Duterte said.

[Translation: These people have families, they have friends. And just because we are in government, the media thinks we are already hungry for money, that there are things we don't declare...that's our business...we didn't steal that.]