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Rappler CEO explains controversial clause on PDRs, says Omidyar offers to remove it



Addressing the Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling to revoke the license to operate, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa explained what the controversial provision in their Omidyar Network (ON) Philippine Depository Receipts was all about.

The SEC said Rappler violated the Constitution by allowing a foreign entity like Omidyar Network to have control on them, a mass media entity.

However, Rappler stood firm that these foreign PDR holders do not have control over the multimedia news site’s operations. They also decried the move to suppress press freedom.

Aside from SEC revoking Rappler’s license, the regulating body also voided its Omidyar Network PDRs, branding it as the news outfit’s trick in circumventing constitutional restriction on foreign investors owning shares in any mass media entity.

But PDRs are financial instruments that foreign investors can buy into without getting ownership in return.

Rappler earlier explained that Omidyar Network has no control over Rappler’s day-to-day operations, editorial decisions, or management.

To this, SEC pointed out what they deemed was a problematic clause in Omidyar’s PDRs.

“The [Omidyar Network] PDRs contain a provision wherein [Rappler] is required to seek approval of the [ON] PDR holders on corporate matters,” SEC said in its ruling.

SEC stood by its ruling despite calls from both local and foreign journalist organizations and some lawmakers to reverse its order after accusing it as a move to suppress freedom of speech.


Armand Pan, officer-in-charge of the Office of Commission Secretary, said SEC was only doing its mandate.

“It stated in the 12.2-2 [clause] of the Omidyar PDR itself that Omidyar must have prior approval when it comes to changing the articles of incorporation or by-laws of the company. That means, Rappler cannot even change the principal office address, the date of meeting, so those are operational policies of corporations. That means PDR holders exercise right of ownership,” Pan said in his ANC interview on January 16.

Pan added that by giving Omidyar the right to be involved in Rappler’s management, even if they do not exercise it, is enough to justify SEC’s revocation of the news site’s incorporation papers.

Ressa countered this interpretation, saying that specific provision was included in their agreement with Omidyar as a protection clause to prevent the news agency from changing the nature of its business.

“We disagree with that interpretation. Even if they voted against it, they can’t make us do anything. We’re not under their control, nor do they want to control us,” said Ressa.

The Rappler CEO pointed out how SEC failed to give them the chance to change the problematic clauses. Ressa added that Omidyar Network even offered to strike that clause off their provisions on corporate matters, but that the regulating agency deemed it “too late.”

“We never got a chance to talk to the SEC Chairperson. After the special panel came out with its decision, we didn’t see that decision. We weren’t given a chance to respond to it,” said Ressa.

“If it was a normal company, they would tell the company, ‘Change this,’ and give them a year. This is something we’ve seen in other records,” she explained.

This was not the first time Rappler was accused of being owned by foreign entities. President Rodrigo Duterte also leveled the same accusation at them in his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) in 2017.

Rappler also hit SEC for not following the rules of procedure, citing how the agency did not give them enough time to respond.

“The speed at which this has happened and the kinds of attacks that media in general has gone through shows a political nature of this decision. And we will be challenging this to court,” Ressa said.

“The SEC did not follow the rules of procedure. They did not follow due process. The en banc issued order to shut us down without giving us an [opportunity] to respond,” she added.

“This case began in August and within five months we have a decision with steps missing in the process,” she said further.

SEC chairwoman Teresita Herbosa, however, explained that their investigation into Rappler’s potential constitutional violations started when they received a “referral letter” from the Office of the Solicitor General on December 22, 2016. She said that they conducted their probe into Rappler from December 2016 to July 2017, although the show-cause order was only given to the news outlet in August 2017.

As to how come they chose to issue PDRs, Ressa said that they wanted to remain “fiercely independent.”

“What we felt, given the political environment, we didn’t want to be influenced by any business in the Philippines. We felt that getting PDRs, which don’t give any ownership and control, would give us the ultimate independence,” she said.

Rappler’s acting managing editor, Chay Hofileña, noted how Rappler was not the only news site company that has issued PDRs.

“We needed capital. We thought of doing PDRs because ABS-CBN has that, GMA has that, PLDT has that so it’s nothing new. It’s a template already that we followed. There’s no violation there,” Hofileña said.

She echoed what Ressa said about PDRs not giving foreign investors a say in how Rappler operate or what stories they produce.

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Netizens slam Duterte for saying women ‘could not stand threats and intimidation’



President Rodrigo Duterte drew flak for another controversial comment involving women after he remarked on May 24 that women “could not stand threats and intimidation.”

Duterte said that while he believed in women’s competence, it does not necessarily ring true in all aspects of life.

“I believe in the woman, the competence and capability, pero hindi lahat sa buhay dapat.Hindi ka, hindi, hindi. Dapat lang. It’s not appropriate when you cannot stand threats and intimidation,” he said in his May 24 speech.

He also said that women should be “prim and proper” and talked about his reservation in sending women police and soldiers to the field because unlike men, they did not grow up with a mindset that involves violence.

“Ang mga babae, sundalo pati pulis, ayaw ko ‘yan sa bukid. Unlike men kami, maliit pa lang, suntukan, bakbakan, barilan. And we grew up with a sort of a mindset na sometimes prone to violence. Itong mga babae, prim and proper man ‘yan, isang tingin lang sa nanay niyan, wala na tunaw na ‘yan. Tapos gawin mong pulis, ipaaway mo doon. Naku,” Duterte remarked.

Netizens then took to social media to react to Duterte’s most recent statements, making #BabaeAko trend again on Twitter.

“Mr. President, you just horrifyingly disrespected your own mother who bravely fought against the Marcos dictatorship. She withstood threats and intimidation. Siya ay babae! #BabaeAko,” a Twitter user remarked.

Forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun spoke out, too, saying “I am threatened and intimidated a lot. All my life. Don’t me. #BabaeAko.”

So did film and theater actress Chai Fonacier, who said, “Encouraging women — and I mean including those who identify as women — and our friends from the entire spectrum to share your #BabaeAko statements to fight the misogyny that the President and his ilk normalize through their behavior. Make them remember the feminine strength.”

KABATAAN Partylist Rep. Sarah Elago also reacted, saying she refused to be stereotyped.

Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay urged other Filipinos to protest against Duterte’s misogynistic statements.

Other Twitter users weighed in on the issue.

Duterte’s previous misogynistic remarks


His remarks in his speech on May 24 seemed to have sought to explain another controversial remark he made on May 16 when he said that he did not want a politician, especially a woman, to become the next Ombudsman.

“Mag-nominate sila, pero I choose, but gusto ko ‘yung bilib ang tao sa integrity niya. Of course it could not be a politician, lalo na hindi babae,” he said during a chance interview.

This gave birth to the launching of the #BabaeAko movement on social media on May 21 by women activists and other people who also want to protest Duterte’s misogynistic and sexist statements.

One of  the women who joined the #BabaeAko campaign was former Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo who said, “Akala ko taumbayan ang boss ni Duterte. Yun pala sina Marcos, Gloria, Trump at China. Para sa bayang makatarungan at malaya, lalaban ako.”

In February, he was also slammed for telling his audience of former NPA rebels that he told his soldiers to shoot female rebels in the vagina.

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New DOT chief to ask Montano why he rushed official New York engagement to watch Broadway show



Newly installed Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she plans on talking with Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) COO Cesar Montano to ask for his side on certain accusations that were hurled against him.

Among these accusations came from an Abante report where Montano was said to have rushed a speaking engagement staged by the DOT in New York to watch the Broadway musical show “Hamilton.”

DOT reportedly launched the Philippine Tourism Presentation and Dinner Reception on May 9 to showcase Philippine tourism and fashion at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Montano was introduced as the event’s keynote speaker, but he was said to have only spoken for a bit before hurriedly leaving the venue, disappointing the guests, which also included US officials.

Montano was said to have been invited to the event in behalf of the now-resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo. He was also named as one of the two hosts, the other being Teo, of the said event.

In reaction to this report about Montano, Puyat said she would talk to Montano as well as the Tourism attache and other DOT officials who attended the event to verify the accusation in the report mentioned above.


Puyat said that she would investigate into the “Buhay Carinderia” program that the TPB is set to implement. This was after Philippine Star Boo Chanco accused Montano of issuing P80-million worth of three checks to the event proponent and organizer.

“I still don’t have the papers. I will be asking [and] will be arranging a meeting with Mr. Cesar Montano to ask about ‘yung mga nabasa ko sa ‘Buhay Carinderia’ – kung totoo ba na walang bidding ‘yung P80 million na advance,” Puyat said on May 15.

“I’m planning to talk to him and ask his side. I want to ask all those who were there if it actually happened,” Puyat added.

In March 2017, TPB employees filed a complaint against Montano for his alleged corruption and mismanagement of the agency. These include hiring friends and relatives, using TPB’s funds for personal trips, and showing incompetence in fulfilling his obligations as the agency’s COO.

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Eldest Tulfo vows to help Wanda clear her name, berates ‘black sheep’ Ben over controversial P60-M DOT ad deal



Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo spoke up about the controversy involving his siblings, now resigned Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo and hosts Ben and Erwin Tulfo, over the P60 million tourism ad deal.

The eldest Tulfo wrote in his Inquirer column on May 10 that while President Rodrigo Duterte himself advised the Tulfo family to avoid talking to the media, he took it upon himself as the family’s acting patriarch to tell the story behind the controversy.

First up, Ramon blamed Teo for not hiring smart staff members who could have advised her against inking a deal with PTV 4, where one of the Tulfo brothers, Ben, was a blocktimer.

As a blocktimer, Ben pays for his TV show’s airtime on the state-run channel.

According to Ramon, Wanda was only complying with President Duterte’s injunction for his Cabinet secretaries to support PTV 4, adding that she did not know Ben’s company would get most of the multimillion advertising contract with DOT.

He also hit Ben, whom he called a “black sheep” with a “middle child” syndrome as the fifth child out of 10 siblings, for signing the P60-million advertising contract with PTV 4 despite knowing that there would be a conflict of interest on Wanda’s part.

Ramon also said that Wanda still tried to save Ben, who insisted on his innocence amid the controversy, leading her to resign from her post. He also explained that Wanda seemed to have forgotten the fact that her husband was on the board of director of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza), a part of DOT, when Duterte appointed her as tourism chief. He added that it should have been up to her husband to step down from his post upon his wife’s appointment.


In the same column, he also slammed Wanda’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, whom he said did not even consult the Tulfo brothers on returning the P60-million funds from the ad deal. He also described the lawyer as “all talk,” a counsel who’s only focused on gaining publicity for himself.

Unlike what has been previously reported about Wanda resigning out of delicadeza amid the controversy, Ramon let it slip that he commended President Duterte for “sacking Wanda,” prompting some people to ask whether Wanda was fired instead of resigned.

Before he ended his column, he vowed to support “Wanda’s fight to clear her name, but not Ben’s.”
Wanda resigned on May 8 to show delicadeza and to spare everyone, especially Duterte, from the pain caused by the controversy, according to her lawyer.

The issue started with the Commission on Audit’s report showing the DOT paying P60 million worth of commercials to PTV 4, which in turn, tapped Ben’s Bitag Media Unlimited Inc. to air the tourism ads during Ben and Erwin’s show “Kilos Pronto.”

Malacañang said that Teo’s resignation does not mean that she is off the hook since the Ombudsman is still looking into her and other government officials involved in the controversial ad deal.

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