I’ve been going over the theories raised by online-only news outlet Rappler, spread mostly by the local and international media, that President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the Securities and Exchange Commission to supposedly close the outfit. And I can’t help but laugh, since you can actually make a stronger argument that Rappler “killed” itself in order to stay alive.
Malacañan Palace has denied that Duterte had a hand in the SEC decision revoking Rappler’s incorporation documents. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the President didn’t even know that a ruling on the matter was about to be released.
Solicitor General Jose Calida, who filed the complaint against Rappler before SEC that led to the decision, also denied that he was ordered to go after the anti-Duterte news provider by the President. Calida claimed that he acted alone after reading a column by former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao exposing Rappler’s anomalous use of Philippine Depositary Receipts in order to skirt constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of media companies.
It’s clear that the press freedom “victim card” is being overplayed by Rappler in order to cover up for its flawed documentation. It’s as if, after being caught with its hand in the cookie jar, Rappler is now saying that it shouldn’t be punished by the government because doing so is an affront to Rappler’s liberty to steal.
Since Rappler and its friends are crying victimhood, they should be made aware that an alternative theory also exists. And to many people who, like Duterte himself, have no love lost for Rappler’s brand of Yellow-influenced fake news, may find this scenario is even more plausible.
Consider that Rappler is already in the throes of financial ruin, having lost hundreds of millions in investments plunked down in Maria Ressa’s great media experiment. In the past months, in fact, Ressa and her team have been soliciting money from their readers, miserably failing to hit even more than the very modest P5-million target they set in their online “crowdfunding” bid.
Then there’s the fact that SEC is actually dominated by a board, led by Chairman Teresita Herbosa, appointed by former President Noynoy Aquino. Duterte has only appointed only one member of the five-member commission, Emilio Benito Aquino.
Now, if Rappler wanted to jump-start its crowdfunding efforts, especially among its foreign-based “constituency,” how difficult would it be for the outfit to conspire with an Aquino-appointed SEC board in order to fake its own closure (which is not really a closure, actually)? That Rappler is now terribly impecunious cannot be debated; that it will resort to underhanded tactics —like bringing in foreign investors despite the constitutional prohibition—also makes perfect sense.
Before you discard this as a wild conspiracy theory, take a moment to consider the basis for Rappler’s “attack on press freedom” line. And remember that it was Rappler that first invented the 7,000 figure of supposed EJK killings in the first year of Duterte while Ressa’s own most recent journalistic contribution was an “exclusive” about a terrorist attack on the Resorts World casino—which was really staged by an out-of-luck gambler gone amuck.
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Speaking of conspiracies, the new (and currently the only) member of the Energy Regulatory Commission, Chairman Agnes Devanadera, is reportedly under intense pressure to resign, just weeks into her appointment. An energy industry player identified with the previous administration supposedly wants Devanadera, the only ERC member appointed by Duterte, to quit because she cannot perform the job given to her.
This despite the unqualified support expressed for Devanadera by almost every other industry bigfoot after she was given the mandate by Duterte to clean up the agency and the power sector. Ironically, the strategy being employed by the small but well-funded anti-Devanadera lobby is to paint the new ERC chairman as anti-people, anti-environment and anti-renewable energy—attributes which, if she had them, would certainly make Duterte think twice before appointing her anywhere.
That Devanadera is against “green” energy is certainly false. But it also clearly identifies who is behind the move to oust her, because the industry player behind the move to force the new chairman to resign is deeply invested in renewable energy.
The power industry player reportedly needs Devanadera, a former justice secretary and solicitor general, out of the way because it is in dire financial straits. It needs a more malleable ERC chairman and board whom it can bend to its wishes.
Devanadera is faced with a monumental task of putting the ERC’s house in order after the Ombudsman suspended four of its commissioners soon after Duterte dismissed Jose Vicente Salazar, whom she replaced as chairman.
In a recent interview, Devanadera stressed that suspension of the four commissioners involved issues affecting the entire power industry and not just distribution utilities like Meralco. In all likelihood, Devanadera intends to also crack the whip on all other power players, including those now plotting her ouster.