Indeed, it’s been one of Philippine Media’s greatest non-mysteries: the question of who owns “social news network” (pa)hipster news site Rappler.com. According to Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, all the answers to that question are in their sanitised About page which features a list of its illustrious Board members. But ever since a quick-and-dirty exposÃ© (actually, more of a quickie dissection) by media watchdog Spin Busters of what is now an evidently glaring ommission of disclosure in the Rappler money trail, questions have been raised and defensive responses fielded by Ressa over the identities of the “40something couple who want to remain anonymous” behind the shady holding company DMT Ice Angels who own 16.67 percent of “God’s Gift” to Pinoy journalism.
The Spin Busters report tables a simple question, “Who owns Rappler?” and notes…
Documents show ex-CNN reporter Maria Ressa owning 27.4% of Rappler, Inc. Combined, colleagues Marites Vitug, Chay Hofilena, and Glenda Gloria own 6.66%. (Itâ€™s their share of the pie, not the mark of the beast.)
The other significant owners are Filipino holding companies. Cappadocia, Inc. owns 29.27% while Dolphin Fire Group, Inc. owns 20%. No huge surprises there since the people behind these firms sit on the board of Rappler.
Thereâ€™s just one thing. A big shareholder, DMT Ice Angels Holdings, Inc., a company with a Makati address, is as puzzling as its corporate name. It owns 16.67% of Rappler.
If no specific person represents the interests of DMT Ice Angels on the Board of Rappler, then perhaps one can conclude that one or a number of the current sitting and disclosed Board members does. Who could that person be? Considering that it was Ressa herself who quickly confirmed in a tweet that the said 40-something couple are the shadowy figures behind this holding company, it is a reasonably worthwhile exercise to speculate on how much of the couple’s personal interests the Rappler CEO looks out for during their Board meetings.
To be fair, Rappler is a privately-held company. So it is entitled to the opaqueness of its gravy train. Every Filipino is entitled to such privacy under the Philippines’ infamous bank secrecy laws after all, right Ms Ressa? There is hope, however, for all the cats out there being killed by St. Curiosity (last I heard, the patron saint of real journalists). Cosmologists infer the properties of black holes (massive celestial bodies that suck everything out of the universe, including light itself) by observing the behaviour of neighbouring objects. So far there is enough circumstantial information surrounding “God’s Gift to Pinoy Journalism” to make certain inferences.
The fun part is in connecting the dots. But that need not be an urgent goal. Political exercises (like elections and impeachment trials) have the interesting effect of teasing out the real characters and real agendas of self-appointed “thought leaders” and moral beacons.
So like Rappler’s partner-in-crime ABS-CBN, we can only say for now:
Abangan ang susunod na kabanata…