Solicitor General Jose Calida. (File photo)

MANILA -- The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Thursday defended Malacañang's decision not to renew the accreditation of online news outfit Rappler to cover its events following government regulators' findings that it violated constitutional restrictions on foreign investments for mass media entities. 

In a statement, Solicitor General Jose Calida said the firm's petition before the Supreme Court failed to prove their allegations of abridgment of free press.

“Rappler attempted to portray this case in their news reports as an alarming threat to press freedom. However, the petition miserably failed to present any genuine issue on the alleged abridgment of free press. The mere act of the government enforcing its accreditation rules does not, in any way, affect or trample upon petitioners’ constitutional freedom of the press,” Calida said.

The top government counsel asserted that the mere act of the government enforcing its accreditation rules "does not, in any way, affect or trample upon petitioners' constitutional freedom of the press".

The constitutional right, he added, "does not certainly include the right to demand a special press pass, special accreditation, or special spot at any news conference or press briefing,"

Calida noted that since the expiration of its accreditation in December 2017 and its eventual non-renewal, Rappler continues to have access to press releases and media briefers from PCOO and re-broadcasts presidential events through Radio Television Malacañang (RTVM).

“Its reporters are also free to ask questions, through SMS (short messaging system), during media briefings with Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo and publish articles regarding the President and all events attended by him. Notwithstanding its non-renewal of accreditation, Rappler has published and continues to publish numerous stories on current events involving the President within and outside of Malacañang. Those are the undeniable facts,” he added.

He noted that Rappler’s accreditation was not renewed simply because it failed to meet the requirements set by the concerned government bodies.

“Under the IPC (International Press Center) and MARO (Media Accreditation Relations Office) accreditation rules, a legitimate media entity must be accredited in order to cover the President. Even the Malacañang Press Corps By-laws require, among others, that to be a member of the MPC, it must be duly-recognized by the Presidential Communications Operations Office as a bona fide media organization, duly-accredited by the IPC and duly-registered at the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission). Here, Rappler simply failed to meet these accreditation requirements, hence, the non-renewal of its (or Ranada’s) accreditation to cover Malacañang,” he added.

While the renewal of Rappler' media accreditation was pending when it expired in December 2017 with the International Press Center, the Securities and Exchange Commission, in a decision dated January 11, 2018, revoked Rappler's certificate of incorporation for violating the foreign equity restriction for mass media under the Constitution.

Following the SEC decision, the IPC denied Rappler's application for renewal of accreditation. The MARO also denied its reporter Pia Ranada physical access in all events attended by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Solicitor General said while the government recognizes the role of free press in the country as part of the democratic process, it does not mean that media organizations are above the law.

“The government recognizes the role of free press in our democracy; but our people deserve news reports from legitimate media organizations that comply with rules on accreditation, respect the decisions of tribunals and obey the Constitution and our laws,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Office of the President, through the OSG, submitted a consolidated comment to the petition for certiorari filed by Ranada and eight other Rappler reporters and the petitions-in-intervention submitted by various individuals. (PNA)