MANILA - News website Rappler on Wednesday shot back at President Rodrigo Duterte after he called it a “fake news outlet,” unfazed even as it faced the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) revocation of its incorporation papers.
“The President knows who produces fake news in the Philippines, and it certainly is not Rappler. He doesn't have to look far from where he sits in Malacañang," said Rappler.
Duterte had on Wednesday attacked Rappler for its report on his top aide Christopher “Bong” Go’s alleged intervention in the selection of the combat management systems (CMS) for the Philippines Navy’s P15.7-billion two brand new frigates.
The President denied the news item and said he would fire Go if it would be proven that the latter had indeed used his position in government to influence the outcome of the CMS purchase.
Rappler has been vocal in fighting fake news and so-called “trolls”, releasing from time to time news items and analyses on the issue.
Its critical reporting on certain issues have also earned it the ire of the Chief Executive, who is known to take on anyone who criticizes him.
Its reporters, especially Palace correspondent Pia Ranada, have also been the subject of attacks from the President’s fierce online supporters.
While Rappler did not specify who “produces fake news” within Malacañang, it has in several instances crossed swords with Palace Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson over the issue.
In a press conference on Monday amid news on the SEC order, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa also talked about Duterte’s “weaponization” of the internet, especially of social media platform Facebook, in pushing for his agenda and crushing criticism.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte’s fresh outburst against the media on Tuesday evening was just the Chief Executive exercising his freedom of speech.
“He honors the bill or rights… What you saw from the President last night is also an exercise of free speech on the part of a President who feels he has not been getting the right kind of treatment from the media,” Roque said in a news conference in La Union.
Roque said this in response to a question about a proposal in the House of Representatives to mandate the "responsible" use of free speech in amending the 1987 Constitution.
He said the Palace would not yet comment on this particular proposal until Congress finally presents a revised charter before the people, who would then vote to approve it or not.
Duterte’s fresh tirades against Rappler comes on the heels of the SEC’s revocation of the news site’s incorporation papers, a move that was slammed by human rights groups, media organizations, and press freedom advocates.
The SEC said the news site "sold control to foreigners" and violated the constitutional restriction on foreign ownership of mass media.
Philippine depositary receipts held by Rappler's foreign investor Omidyar stated that its holder “must have prior approval” on changes in Rappler’s articles of incorporation or by-laws, SEC spokesperson Armand Pan earlier said.
Pan insisted that the SEC merely fulfilled its mandate as a corporate securities regulator and did not know of any intention to curtail press freedom.
Ressa told ANC on Wednesday she would fight the SEC ruling all the way to the Supreme Court, calling it a "corporate issue and a press freedom issue."
Malacañang has denied involvement in the SEC's moves against Rappler. Duterte said Tuesday majority of SEC members were appointees of his predecessor.