The SEC on Monday issued a shutdown order on Rappler, which has been critical in its coverage of Duterte especially his ferocious war on drugs, following its supposed infringement into the constitutional prohibition on foreign ownership of media entities in the country. Soon, the DOJ investigation will focus on supposed criminal breach/es of the law, and thus portend more tragic implications for Rappler. We are just an office that receives complaints or papers for reference and we transmit them to the proper agency. The Trump administration's "America First" philosophy has often meant that the government focuses more on transactional diplomacy in service of USA interests rather than promoting values like freedom of speech and rule of law. "You think that people in government are thieves and you oligarchs, you sons of whores, you think you are clean", Duterte said in Filipino.
The President asked where media's sense of values is, and if Rappler does not feel ashamed that it is being funded by foreign money.
While most, if not all in the media industry had closed ranks and voiced support to Rappler's continued operation, the public should also be made aware and persuaded to "hold the line" for press freedom.
"What this means for you, and for us, is that the commission is ordering us to close shop, to cease telling you stories, to stop speaking truth to power", Rappler said in a statement.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque told CNN affiliate CNN Philippines Monday that the office of the president had "nothing to do with the SEC decision".
In its order, the SEC said Rappler had come up with a "deceptive scheme to circumvent" the ownership rules, an allegation that the online publication rejected and vowed to appeal.
Ana Santos, a Manila-based journalist whose work has been published on Rappler, however, said the decision shows a "2018 version" of martial law, which was declared by Ferdinand Marcos, former president, in 1972.
"The decision demonstrates that even influential media outfits can not skirt the restrictions set forth in the constitution", Calida said.
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The President first accused Rappler of being owned by foreigners during his State of the Nation Address previous year.
Last year, in an address to Congress, Duterte accused Rappler of having "American ownership".
In the ruling, the SEC declared "void" the Philippine depositary receipts (PDRs) issued by Rappler Holdings to Omidyar Network Fund LLC, a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, claiming this was a "fraudulent" transaction under the Securities Regulation Code.
Rappler, however, says that while it is receiving investments from foreign funds, including the Omidyar Network, it is still a fully Filipino owned company.
Roque said earlier on Tuesday that by selling PDR to those entities, Rappler had given foreigners "the power to negatively control the company" without them holding any of its shares. "Look at yourself first", Roque said, stressing that the president "had nothing to do with this decision". "It has faced persistent harassment by government supporters and even the president himself".
He said the holders of the PDRs were "given the same right to control the company in terms of amending the articles and the bylaws", a contention that had been denied repeatedly by Rappler.
SEC Commission Secretary Armando Pan, however, said the case started with Calida's complaint. In an interview with Bloomberg in December 2017, Rappler's founder Maria Ressa spoke at length about how the government is making use of social media like Facebook against the country's press. "The president has never done that", Roque said, adding that "no one" was exempt from the law.