MANILA - News website Rappler did not give foreign investors control over its operations, its CEO Maria Ressa said Wednesday, as she maintained that regulators' decision to revoke its incorporation papers was politically motivated.
Ressa said she would fight the Securities and Exchange Commission's ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, calling it a "corporate issue and a press freedom issue."
A provision in Philippine Depositary Receipts or PDRs held by Omidyar Network in Rappler said the fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar must have "prior approval" when it comes to changes in the news outfit's by-laws or articles of incorporation.
Ressa told ANC that this did not give Omidyar control, but rather, "the power to leave if they don't like what we're doing."
"That's exactly what it is. It's ludicrous to read into it more than what is there," Ressa said. "They have no control over Rappler Inc, where the journalists are."
Ressa said Rappler took out the questioned provision in the PDR late last year and informed the SEC.
"What they did is they ignored it," Ressa said, adding Rappler was not given the same one-year leeway to remedy foreign ownership issues that was accorded to PLDT Inc.
"They didn't ask us to comment. They didn’t allow us to fix anything, and I think that’s where you see this is political in nature," she said.
"We understand what the SEC can see in it, but they never gave us a chance to respond to it," she said.
Malacanang has denied involvement in the SEC's moves against Rappler. President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday SEC members were appointees of his predecessor.
Ressa decried that it became an economic issue apart from an attack on press freedom because of "political pressure" from within the SEC.
"This is political in nature, this is a press freedom in nature for me in that manner because you don’t have to physically stop me from reporting or padlock the gate. What you can do is try to attack us from an economic angle," she said.
"Media in general globally is already under threat because of the changes in technology. We are trying to innovate, every company. We’re working ahead and we can do it, but don’t get in our way," she added.
"I don’t want to end my career by seeing a backslide away, that is part of the reason why I will fight this in every front."
In an earlier interview with ANC's Early Edition, Rappler legal counsel Atty. Francis Lim also said that Omidyar had waived its right to veto and that there was a Supreme Court ruling that veto power does not amount to ceding control.