Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged her fellow Filipinos to rally behind news online outfit Rappler to show their support of a free press in the country even as she called for the restoration of democratic values in our government institutions.
De Lima made the call in her Dispatch from Crame No. 233 where she denounced what she referred as unprecedented decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke Rappler’s registration as a “direct and frontal attack” on the free press.
“We must not let the days where our government institutions only serve the whims of one man and his regime return to oppress us once more. We must fight once again to liberate this country from the curse that this abomination of a President and his pack of power-hungry jackals has brought upon this country and our government institutions,” she said.
“This is an alarm that signals State repression of the freedom of the press, unwittingly started by an otherwise apolitical government institution that has all but ignored the repercussions of its decision on constitutional liberties, instead seeing the matter as a purely technical issue on corporate control and ownership,” she added.
In a resolution dated Jan. 11, SEC has revoked the certificate of incorporation of news online outlet Rappler as it accused the media organization of violation of the Foreign Equity Restriction of the Philippine Constitution.
The corporate regulator claimed that Omidyar Network, a fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, controlled the operations of Rappler.
The online news outfit has since maintained that it remains 100-percent Filipino-owned, explaining that their foreign investors, Omidyar Network and North Base Media, do not own Rappler.
De Lima, a known human rights defender here and abroad, said the timing of the SEC decision is highly suspicious, considering that President Duterte’s relentless attacks on media outfits including Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) and ABS-CBN.
“The SEC decision, coupled with the present wave of authoritarian and anti-democratic actions of the Duterte regime, cannot but give the impression that it is but part of the trend of government assaults on institutions vital to our democracy,” she said.
“Never was a media entity stripped by government of legal protection since the Marcos dictatorship. This fact alone should alarm each and every member of the media that the formality of their organizations’ corporate existence can now be threatened by this regime through the SEC with the Damocles’ Sword of juridical delegitimization,” she added.
The former justice secretary lamented how the members of the SEC, whom she considers “professional” and “respected experts in their field,” have succumbed to disregard basic constitutional liberties.
“They failed to realize the broader anti-democratic repercussions of their decision, beyond the technical issues raised by the Duterte regime, thus allowing themselves to be used as the State instrument of attack on a media organization most critical of the regime’s authoritarian policies and actions,” she said.
Some political pundits claimed that Duterte had long revealed his obvious aversion to the press weeks before his inauguration last year.
He went far as spreading news about Rappler’s supposed foreign ownership, threatening to block the renewal of ABS-CBN television’s franchise when it expires in 2020, and attacking the families who then own the PDI by pushing to sue them for “economic sabotage” for their continued use of the Mile Long property in Makati.