NBI eyes possible criminal raps vs. Rappler execs

MANILA -- Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II on Wednesday ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct a probe into the possible criminal liabilities of the executives of online news website Rappler.

In his Department Order (DO) No. 17, Aguirre ordered NBI Director Dante Gierran to conduct an investigation and case build-up over the possible violation of the Constitution and other laws by the media outfit.

Aguirre already directed his legal staff to study the possible criminal liabilities of the executives of the online media entity.

Whether any law has been violated, it will not be limited to administrative law, Anti-Dummy law but we are going to see if there are other laws violated by anybody in connection with this decision of SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] in (the) cancellation of registration of Rappler, Aguirre told reporters at the groundbreaking of DOJ Administration Building in Manila on Wednesday.

The DOJ Secretary also said the SEC decision is not politically motivated because four of its five commissioners were appointed by the previous administration.

Aguirre stressed that the Constitution is absolute in saying that ownership and management of mass media in the country is exclusive to Filipino citizens.

You should not circumvent what is stated in the Constitution. In other words, you should not do even indirectly what is prohibited in the Constitution, Aguirre said.

The body conducted its investigation upon the request of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in December 2016.

Solicitor General Jose Calida said he asked the SEC to probe Rappler after reading the newspaper articles of former ambassador to Cyprus and Greece Rigoberto Tiglao, who disclosed in October 2016 that two American companies, Omidyar Network, Inc. and North Base Media, in 2015 made substantial investments in Rappler.

Calida said the decision of the SEC to revoke the incorporation papers of the online news site was about following the rule of law.

On Monday, the SEC cancelled the registration of Rappler, Inc., the mass media entity that "sold control" to foreigners, and Rappler Holdings Corporation being its alter ego, existing for no other purpose than to effect a deceptive scheme to circumvent the Constitution.

It cited foreign equity restriction in the Constitution, Presidential Decree and the Securities Regulation Code which provide that the ownership and management of mass media shall be limited to citizens of the Philippines, or to corporations or associations wholly owned and managed by such citizens.

The SEC En Banc also declared Omidyar Philippine Depository Receipts (PDR) void for being a fraudulent transaction within the ambit of Section 26.1 of the Securities Regulation Code.

In October 2015, Rappler Holdings Corp. issued 7,217,257 PDRs covering shares of Rappler Inc. designated as ON PDRs because they were sold to Omidyar Network Fund LLC, a foreign juridical entity.

Rappler Holdings publicly reported that it received an investment from Omidyar Network LLC.

It also issued PDRs covering shares of Rappler Inc. to NBM Rappler L.P., a foreign juridical entity. NBM Rappler L.P. was founded and co-owned by North Base Media Ltd., a foreign juridical entity.

Source: Philippine News Agency