A Silicon Valley investment firm has transferred its investment in the Philippine news website Rappler to the site’s local managers to stave off efforts by President Rodrigo Duterte to shut it down.
The US-based Omidyar Network said Wednesday it was “donating” its Philippine depositary receipts (PDRs) in Rappler worth about $1.5 million to local managers to fend off the government’s push to close down the site.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoked Rappler’s license last month, accusing the site of violating a constitutional ban on foreign ownership of media, in a move described by press watchdogs as payback for critical coverage of Duterte’s deadly war on drugs.
“The donation completely eliminates the sole basis of the SEC ruling against Rappler Incorporated and Rappler Holdings Corporation,” a statement by the Omidyar Network, released by Rappler, said.
But a spokesman for Duterte said the transfer “does not remove the fact that Rappler breached the constitution”.
The spokesman accused the US firm of circumventing the law and said the SEC would respond to the move separately.
SEC officials could not be contacted for comment.
The government has allowed Rappler to continue operating as it awaits a court ruling on the case, but Duterte has banned the site’s reporters from covering his appearances at the presidential palace.
Rappler has been a thorn in Duterte’s side since he took office in mid-2016, criticizing his bloody war on drugs which has claimed thousands of lives and sparked a global outcry.
Duterte has also attacked other media outfits that criticise him, including The Philippine Daily Inquirer and broadcaster ABS-CBN.
Rappler’s chief executive Maria Ressa welcomed the donation, saying: “Independent media in the Philippines, including Rappler, has come under attack. We therefore welcome Omidyar Network’s decision to donate its investment to Filipino Rappler managers.”