The decision of SEC (Security Exchange Commission) to revoke the Rappler’s license to operate has been the center of debate since the news broke out. According to SEC, Rappler violated the Foreign Equity Restrictions in Mass Media, as stated in the Constitution. This was when eBay founder Pierre Omidyar placed some investment on Rappler.
“Rappler Holdings Corporation, the parent company of Rappler, Inc., welcomes Omidyar Network, the fund created by eBay founder and entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam to help businesses use markets and technology for social impact.” A statement reads at Rappler’s news report published on November 5, 2015.
According to an earlier study on Rappler’s financial statements, Omidyar’ investment on Rappler is about P100 million. Nevertheless, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa recently admitted that Omidyar holds 5.5% of Rappler’s total PDR (Philippine Depositary Receipts). This means that Omidyar has assets on Rappler, but not a co-owner of Rappler.
As a response, Ressa, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, accused the government of suppressing press freedom, and that SEC’s order was done because of political pressure. On the other hand, Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has already said that President Duterte is not behind the order to shutdown Rappler.
As expected, the Liberal Party (LP) and the CHR (Commission on Human Rights) used the issue against President Duterte. Last Thursday, January 18, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) sent subpoenas to Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr, a former reporter or Rappler. This is after a cyber crime complaint was filed against Rappler.
But while the debates still continue and Rappler is still operating, it is also interesting to know Pierre Omidyar’s background. To start with, the Iranian-American investor became a billionaire back in 1998 at the age of 31, after eBay had its initial public offering (IPO). In 2010, he became the head of Honolulu Civil Beat, an investigative and public affairs news website. In 2004, Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pamela founded Omidyar Network. They moved to Hawaii in 2006 but now live in Henderson, Nevada. Known as one of the richest men in the world, Omidyar’s net worth is US$9.3 billion, as of August 2017. The couple is also a philanthropist and has committed P100 million as support for investigative reporting.
But on February 24, 2014, Pando Daily, a digital news organization in the Silicon Valley reported that Pierre Omidyar that “the American government – in the form of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) – played a major role in funding opposition groups prior to the revolution (against then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych).
“Moreover, a large percentage of the rest of the funding to those same groups came from US billionaire Pierre Omidyar, who has previously worked closely with US government agencies to further his own business interests.” Pando’s Mark Ames wrote in his news report and showed some screenshots of the documents that support his claim.
“Omidyar Network covered costs for the expansion of (Oleh) Rybachuk’s anti-Yanukovych campaign, “Chesno” (“Honestly”), into regional cities including Poltava, Vinnytsia, Zhytomyr, Ternopil, Sumy, and elsewhere, mostly in the Ukrainian-speaking west and center,” Ames added. Rybachuk was Yanukovych’s Secretary of State.
The so-called 2014 Ukrainian revolution started on February 18, 2014, when some 20,000 Euromaidan protesters demanded the restoration of the 2004 Constitution of Ukraine. Yanukovych was elected in 2010 as the 4th president of Ukraine, which officially declared itself an independent state on August 24, 1991, shortly after the Soviet Union broke up.
Yanukovych, a known supporter of Russia, rejected a pending EU association agreement, and instead chose to pursue a Russian loan bailout and to have closer ties with Russia. On February 22, 2014, in the middle of the series of street protests, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove him from his post as president of Ukraine.
Yanukovych fled to Russia on February 23, 2014, with the help of Moscow troops, as approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin. He is currently facing high treason charges in Ukraine, as well as corruption and criminal charges for the death of hundreds of protesters. Meanwhile, Omidyar has not yet commented on the allegations against him.
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