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Wag kang garapal! Palace tells Maria Ressa: You can’t be in media if foreigners own Rappler

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You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Malacañang on Tuesday (January 16) said the closure order on online multimedia website Rappler should serve as a lesson for its Chief Executive Officer, Maria Ressa, about following the law when it comes to sourcing funds.

In an interview aired over ANC’s “Headstart,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque bucked Ressa’s claim that the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) revocation of Rappler’s articles of incorporation constitute an attack on press freedom.

“I am going to say this to Maria Ressa: You can’t have your cake and eat it too. You can’t engage in fund raising giving them control over your business and still operate as a mass media company,” he said.

Roque said Ressa should not have allowed Rappler’s foreign investors to gain control over the company through Philippine Depositary Receipts (PDRs).

“Maria Ressa wanted an investment form her foreign equity, from her foreign investors and she wanted it incorporated in the Philippines. If you want to do that, you can do it, but not through a Filipino company because that can’t be done since it’s prohibited by the Constitution,” he said.

Roque, an abogado, said she is willing to debate with Ressa on the legality of getting foreign funds for Philippine media companies.

In a 29-page decision dated January 11, SEC ruled that Rappler Inc. and its controlling shareholder Rappler Holdings Corp. were “liable for violating the constitutional and statutory foreign equity restrictions in mass media.”

SEC said Rappler made Omidyar Network, which the media outfit claimed is “the fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam,” an investor despite the foreign ownership restrictions.

Roque maintained that the SEC’s closure order on Rappler does not mean Ressa or her employees can no longer work as journalists.

“It’s not about press freedom, no one is restraining her from exercising her right to work as a journalist, it’s about upholding the Philippines’ or Philippine laws and the Constitution when you want to make money out of foreign funds,” he said.