Gascon takes aim at Roque: What world do you live in?

CHR Chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon

MANILA — Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Jose Luis “Chito” Gascon took aim at Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Friday for labelling as “fake news” journalists’ claims that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling to revoke Rappler’s license was an assault on press freedom.

“For him to say this is fake news, I don’t know what world he lives in because obviously, what is under assault are our fundamental freedoms,” Gascon said at the #BlackFridayforPressFreedom protest at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

“And in particular, in this instance, the assault is directed at those who ferret out the truth and to present the truth to those in power. If we allow this to happen, then we will be entering darkness,” he added.

Earlier on Friday, Roque dismissed as fake news Rappler and media group’s claims that the SEC order was an attack on press freedom.

“That’s a decision of the SEC which is manned by Aquino appointees. It’s a money making scheme which SEC said violated the Constitution,” Roque said in a message to the press.

“Allegation that it’s about press freedom is fake news. It’s about avarice for money that violates the Constitution and the laws of the land,” he added.

In a decision dated January 11, the SEC ordered the revocation of Rappler Inc.’s certificate of incorporation for violating the restriction on foreign ownership of local media, the anti-dummy law, the corporation code, and the Securities Regulation Code.

The SEC declared “void” the Philippine depositary receipts (PDRs) issued by Rappler Holdings to Omidyar Network Fund LLC, a fund created by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, claiming this was a “fraudulent” transaction under the Securities Regulation Code.

Philippine Daily Inquirer associate editor and former editor-in-chief John Nery said there seemed to be an “active threat” to press freedom in the country. He cited the case of the Catholic Media Network, whose franchise remained in limbo at the House of Representatives.

“If there is one issue in which all journalists have a duty to get involved in, it is press freedom,” Nery said.

“If journalists like us cannot stand up for freedom of the press, who will? So we feel there is an active threat so we are standing up,” he added.

Media groups pointed out that the SEC order was just part of the series of attacks against the press and press freedom. Last week, the House subcommittee moved to amend the constitutional provision on free expression.