There’s an old scubadiving joke on how a knife should be used when you run into a shark underwater – just stab your buddy and swim away fast.
In the case of Rappler the joke now appears to be on the other media companies as Maria Ressa’s legal strategy relies heavily on drawing blood from ABS-CBN and GMA in order to divert the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission away from her own company.
In their motion for reconsideration filed before the Court of Appeals, Rappler’s lawyers argue that they should not be held liable because there are “similar (Philippine Depositary Receipt) agreements between network giants ABS-CBN and GMA with their foreign investors” that have never been “faulted” nor “investigated” by the SEC.
Not content with hanging a huge, neon-lit “eat me sign” on these two media companies, Rappler then goes the extra mile in distancing itself from the whole mess (and burying their victims) by stating that in the event that the constitutional prohibition on PDR’s is indeed applicable to mass media companies (like say for example, ABSCBN and GMA), then Rappler should still be exempted since they are not really a mass media company.
In their petition, Rappler points out that “both Section 11 (1) of Article XVI of the Constitution and Presidential Decree No. 1018” say that “mass media” pertains only to print and broadcast, while Rappler, they argue, is “fully internet-based.”
By goading the SEC into going after these other media corporations, while at the same time furiously trying to evade responsibility, Rappler hopes to achieve two things. They want to be able to swim away to safety, and at the same time have the moral ascendency to shout to the world that press freedom is being attacked in the Philippines.
But the reality is, no one – least of all Malacañang – is telling Rappler it cannot continue to publish what it wants to publish. The fact that Rappler continues to operate, and their Malacañang Press Cartel correspondent continues to report on President Duterte in the same rude, petulant way that she has in the past is proof positive that both press freedom and Maria Ressa’s blogsite is alive and well.
While Rappler obviously wants this to be a cause celebre for Press Freedom, most Filipinos already know better. From the many sources available online, reading the actual SEC decision, and listening to the millions of voices of ordinary citizens, it is clear that the only issue being raised by the government is that Rappler cannot use Omidyar Network money in publishing what they want to publish. In other words, pera pera lang yan.
This of course is something that Ressa will never in a million years admit to. Giving rise to the irony of the whole situation, wherein Rappler, who professes the loudest that they stand for press freedom, is doing everything it can to drag other media companies into their legal mess. Potentially opening them up to an investigation, and possible sanctions similar to what was meted to Rappler. In such an event, will Rappler then accuse the Duterte administration of trying to muzzle the media?