Rappler CEO Ressa to Marcos admin: Work with journalists, we are not your enemies

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 29) — Online news organization Rappler is facing a shutdown order from the Securities and Exchange Commission, just days before the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte ends.

RELATED: SEC affirms order to shut down Rappler 

But Rappler CEO and 2021 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Maria Ressa said Wednesday that she is hoping for the best, and that the incoming administation of President-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. will work with journalists.

"We can only hope for the best. Given the track record of the campaign, given the track record of 36 years, I think the burden of proof is actually on the incoming administration," Ressa said in a briefing, hours after confirming the issuance of the closure order.

"I continue to appeal to the incoming administration, work with journalists, we’re here to help you give a better future for the Philippines. We’re not your enemies," she added.

It has been 36 years since Marcos' father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was booted out of office. Now, the younger Marcos is set to rule the country. He is taking his oath of office on Thursday, June 30.

Ressa said it would be speculative to link the Marcos camp's involvement in the issue. But she acknowledged that the administration of the president-elect has the ability to show that it can strengthen the rule of law.

"President Marcos, where he goes, we all go. So who wants to see this? There are accountability issues that I hope he deals with," Ressa noted. "But in the end, it's a tough world right now and we're going to have to collaborate to make it better."

Ressa also called on fellow journalists to uphold their rights, "because if we give it up just a little bit, we are going to lose."

Some journalists, particularly reporters from Rappler, have repeatedly conveyed in part the difficulties in interviewing Marcos, even during the campaign period.

Two months ago, in one of Marcos' sorties in Quezon City, his entourage of security personnel and media relations officers allegedly harassed and blocked a Rappler reporter covering his campaign. Even Marcos' chief-of-staff and now executive secretary-designate Vic Rodriguez ignored questions from the news outlet in the middle of a briefing last month.

Marcos, along with then-running mate and now Vice-President elect Sara Duterte were also frequent skippers in presidential and vice presidential debates hosted by different news organizations that tackled pressing problems that are crucial for aspirants of the top posts. Marcos said before that he would rather talk to the people directly about his plans for the country.

Asked about the future of journalism in the country, Danilo Arao, associate professor at the Department of Journalism of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, said he sees the challenges under the Duterte administration to continue under the new leadership.

"The challenge for us is to make sure that tomorrow will be June 30, 2022 and not September 21, 1972 all over again," he told CNN Philippines. "We don't want a time warp to the past and we have to make sure that we will hold the line and sharpen the line and fight any moves to repress the media."

Arao also called on the public to be observant in terms of what is happening in the society amid disinformation, historical denialism, and red tagging.

Meanwhile, Rappler said that it is prepared to exhaust all the existing legal remedies all the way up to the highest court. Lawyer Francis Lim said their camp has 15 days to file a petition for review to the Court of Appeals and the SEC cannot enforce the shutdown during the appeal period.

The SEC on Wednesday confirmed the issuance of its 2018 order to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler Inc. and Rappler Holding Corporation, claiming that the Court of Appeals already upheld its finding that the news organization "sold control to foreigners."

Rappler previously allowed foreign investor Omidyar Network to hold Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs), a financial instrument that foreign entities can buy for financial returns in a local company but not in the form of dividends which are tied to ownership.

The June 28 order was signed by SEC chairperson Emilio Aquino; and Commissioners Javey Paul Francisco, Kelvin Lester Lee, Karlo Bello, and McJill Bryant Fernandez.

The news company had repeatedly said in the past that PDRs do not give foreign ownership rights. It also maintained that the news organization is owned and managed by Filipinos.