TIMELINE: Rappler-SEC case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa’s news organization Rappler faces possible shutdown following a years-long but ongoing battle to keep its license to operate.

On June 28, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) affirmed its earlier decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler and its parent company Rappler Holdings Corporation (RHC) over alleged violations of laws on foreign ownership and control of mass media.

The SEC said Rappler “sold control” to foreigners. The media company maintained, however, that it is owned and managed by Filipinos. It also said it is ready to appeal all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Rappler — along with media and human rights groups, and some opposition lawmakers — called the case an attack on press freedom after the news company earned the ire of President Rodrigo Duterte for its critical reportage of his administration.

The SEC and Malacañang, meanwhile, denied that the revocation of the license was politically motivated, saying the accusation of a press clampdown is unfair.

CNN Philippines lists the important events leading up to the SEC’s latest decision.


In November 2015, Rappler reported welcoming Omidyar Network, which was founded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, as its foreign investor.

Rappler said it issued Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs) to the firm, as well as another foreign investor North Base Media, as part of plans “to expand its operations in the region as well as invest in innovation.”

PDRs are a financial instrument that foreign entities can buy into for financial returns in a local company, but not in the form of dividends which are tied to ownership.

According to Rappler, the issuances were duly disclosed to the SEC.

December 2016

The Office of the Solicitor General requested the SEC to probe Rappler over the PDRs for possible contravention of the Constitution, particularly restrictions on foreign ownership and control.

February 2017

Rappler said it was summoned by the SEC through a notice to conference, where it furnished the commission a copy of its PDR.

July 2017

A special panel was formed by the SEC to review Rappler’s possible violations.

Rappler said it was “not informed about the panel’s findings, if any.”

August to October 2017

Rappler said it submitted in August 2017 its verified explanation in response to a show cause order issued by the SEC.

A month later, the special panel ordered Rappler to submit necessary documents for the probe. The news company said it filed these in October.

January 11, 2018

The SEC revoked Rappler and RHC’s certificates of incorporation, or license to operate. The decision was made public four days later.

The commission said the news company was liable for violating SEC rules by supposedly engaging in a fraudulent transaction and circumventing constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership. It alleged Rappler "intentionally created an elaborate scheme" to justify the receipt of over $1 million from Omidyar Network.

The SEC said while the PDR was not a stock that indicates ownership, it gives holders "certain rights derived from equity and reserved to Filipinos."

Rappler, however, maintained it is 100% Filipino-owned. It said PDRs do not give ownership rights and clarified the investment does not affect editorial operations.

According to the SEC, Rappler can still operate pending a final and executory decision.

January 17, 2018

Then-Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre ordered the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate Rappler and, if evidence warrants, file appropriate cases.

January 29, 2018

Rappler took the case to the Court of Appeals.

In filing its petition, Rappler said the SEC ruling is baseless since it has no findings that Omidyar actually exercised control over the company.

The news company also argued it was deprived of its right to due process when the SEC hastily issued its decision.

February 2018

Omidyar Network donated its PDRs – amounting to $1.5-million (around ₱78 million) – to 14 Filipino managers of Rappler in a move to resolve the foreign ownership issues.

This “completely eliminates the basis of the unwarranted ruling,” the foreign investment firm said. Both Rappler and Omidyar Network, however, also stressed that the donation should not be interpreted as an admission of wrongdoing.

The SEC, meanwhile, said it would be up to the CA to decide whether the donation could be enough ground for the case to be continued, dismissed, withdrawn, or rendered moot and academic.

July 2018

The CA junked Rappler's petition for review.

However, it also returned the case to the SEC for it to evaluate "the legal effect" of Omidyar Network’s donation of its PDRs to Rappler. It said the foreign investor's "negative control" earlier found objectionable may no longer be present.

The court also found merit in Rappler's attempts to comply in good faith with the rules and regulations of the SEC.

It added the SEC should have given Rappler "reasonable time" to correct or modify the objectionable portions of the articles of incorporation, noting revoking the certificate of registration should be the last resort.

August 2018

Rappler said it filed a partial motion for reconsideration with the CA, requesting that the SEC decision be set aside.

February 2019

The CA rejected the motion for partial reconsideration filed by Rappler.

It upheld its stance that Rappler violated foreign equity restrictions in mass media under the Constitution and also said it did not find grave abuse of discretion on the part of the SEC for its decision.

The appellate court stood by its earlier decision to remand the case to the SEC.

Days later, Rappler said it asked the Supreme Court for a 30-day extension to appeal the CA decision.

May to April 2019

Rappler said it received in May 2019 a notice that the Supreme Court granted its motion for extension but that it decided not to push through with the move.

Citing its chief legal counsel Francis Lim, Rappler said it formally expressed its position to the high court in April 2019 that it “would rather wait first for the CA to reach a new decision.”

February 2021

According to Rappler’s legal counsel Francis Lim, the SEC submitted its latest report to to the CA, wherein it stated that Omidyar Network's donation of PDRs to Rappler has "no effect" in overturning the body's 2018 decision to cancel the media outfit's license.

Lim bared this development in November 2021 when asked about the status of the case during a press briefing.

June 2022

On June 28, 2022, the SEC affirmed its decision to revoke the certificates of incorporation of Rappler and RHC.

Ressa said this “effectively confirmed the shutdown of Rappler."

In its decision, the commission wrote that "the purported donation of the PDRs to the staff of Rappler neither created nor transferred any right in favor of the donees which would mitigate or cure the violation already committed."

Rappler, meanwhile, is prepared to exhaust all legal remedies all the way up to the Supreme Court.

Its lawyer said they have 15 days to file a petition for review to the CA, and that the SEC cannot enforce the shutdown during the appeal period.