Rappler sees Malacañang hand in license revocation

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 16) — Rappler CEO Maria Ressa had a strong response to Malacañang's statement denying its influence in the order cancelling Rappler's license to operate.

"It's not true. That's not what we have heard," Ressa told CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte had no hand in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision.

"We have nothing to do with the SEC decision... The President did not even appoint a majority of that commission," said Roque.

But Rappler believes otherwise, slamming the decision as one with "obvious... political interference."

Ressa said they received information that the SEC could have been pressured into coming up with the decision.

The order to look into Rappler's ownership came from the Office of the Solicitor General, which the SEC disclosed in its 29-page decision dated January 11. Ressa thanked the commission for its transparency — but there was something left unsaid.

"What hasn't been stated there was who has been running after the SEC on a daily basis for a decision that was adverse to Rappler," said Ressa.

When asked by anchor Pinky Webb who it was, Ressa replied, "That's off the record."

"I'm not questioning their credibility, I'm questioning their decision," she added of the members of SEC who voted for the decision.

The SEC revoked Rappler's certificate of incorporation, saying it violated constitutional limitations on ownership and control of mass media entities because of funds coming from Omidyar Network, an investment company owned by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of auction site eBay.

Related: SEC cancels Rappler's license to do business

However, Rappler has maintained that their foreign investors have no control over its operations. It added it was willing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Press clampdown criticism 'unfair'

Rappler decried the SEC decision as harassment and an attack on press freedom — a sentiment shared by other media groups.

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

But Malacañang thinks the press clampdown angle is "unfair," saying Rappler was not exempt from the law.

"We would like to deny that the state has impinged on the freedom of the press... It was unfair of Maria Ressa to say they are victims of a clamp on press freedom, because they're not," Roque said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

"If the President wanted to do that, he could have just sent armed forces to their offices and padlocked them, which has been done by other regimes," he added.

Roque said it was also "unfair" for SEC Chair Teresita Herbosa, who signed the decision.

"It is unfair to her to think she is acting merely as a lackey of the President. She will never do that," he said.

Roque added the media was "thriving" on its own and do not need foreign investors.

He further denied Duterte's remarks on the news agency influenced the SEC decision.

The President first accused Rappler of being owned by foreigners during his State of the Nation Address last year.

The media company, which has been critical of his administration, has also earned the ire of pro-administration bloggers, including Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson.

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