Ressa, Rappler executives charged over alleged anti-dummy law violation


Posted at Mar 27 2019 05:37 PM | Updated as of Mar 28 2019 11:22 AM

MANILA (UPDATED/CORRECTED) - Pasig City prosecutors have filed charges against several executives of news website Rappler, including its chief Maria Ressa, over an alleged violation of the anti-dummy law and the Securities Regulations Code (SRC).

Also charged were Rappler executives Manuel Ayala, Nico Jose Nolledo, Glenda Gloria, James Bitangca, Felicia Atienza, and James Velasquez. 

The Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 265 has set the arraignment for the anti-dummy case on April 10 at 8:30 a.m.

Except for Ressa, all of the respondents have posted bail for the anti-dummy case at P90,000 each. Ressa is still abroad and could not post bail yet.

Just last month, Ressa was arrested over a cyber libel case and was forced to spend a night in detention in a legal ordeal she described as an example of the government's "abuse of power and weaponization of the law."

Meanwhile, bail for the violation of the SRC case has been set at P126,000 each but the case is still being re-raffled.

Rappler and its executives were accused of violating the constitutional requirement for mass media to be 100-percent Filipino owned.

It can be recalled that the Securities and Exchange Commission in January 2018 revoked Rappler's registration because it allowed foreign-owned Omidyar Network to hold Philippine Depositary receipts (PDRs).

The Philippines, under the anti-dummy law, prohibits foreigners from intervening in the management, operation, administration, or control of any nationalized activity.

Rappler has repeatedly maintained that it is "completely Filipino-owned."

"Rappler is – on paper and in reality – a completely Fiipino-owned company," the news website had previously said.

Earlier this month, the Court of Appeals rejected Rappler's plea to reverse the SEC order that revoked its business articles of incorporation for alleged violation of ownership restrictions.

The July 26, 2018 appellate court decision held that in the context of ownership and operation of mass media, not only should 100 percent of total outstanding capital stock and shares with voting rights be owned by Filipinos, the right to receive dividends and right to vote must also be retained by Filipino shareholders (who own 100 percent of the shares with voting rights) in compliance with the Full Beneficial Ownership Test.

The court said that a clause in the PDR giving Omidyar the power to direct the voting of RHC's shares amounts to "some foreign control."

Rappler had said the right was limited to matters affecting Omidyar and that the right was not actually exercised.

But the court said the mere grant of control to a foreign entity over a mass media entity regardless of actual exercise of such foreign control is already a violation.

The court, however, reiterated its order to the SEC to evaluate the effect of Omidyar's donation of its PDRs to Rappler's staff and see if this warrants a reexamination of the SEC's revocation of Rappler's certificate of incorporation.- report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story included Jose Maria Hofileña among the Rappler executives who were charged for alleged violation of the Anti-Dummy Law and the Securities Regulations Code. Although he was in the cover page of the resolution by the Pasig City Prosecutor, charges against Hofileña were apparently dropped based on the last page of the excerpts provided to ABS-CBN News. We regret the error.