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Duterte loss of trust triggered decision to block Rappler


By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

Malacañang revealed that it was not really the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ruling, but President Duterte’s lost trust in Rappler that caused it to be barred from covering the premiere political beat.

FILE PHOTO: Journalists work at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines January 15, 2018.   REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao/File Photo

Journalists work at the office of Rappler in Pasig, Metro Manila, Philippines January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Dondi Tawatao/File Photo/MANILA BULLETIN

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the statement after it was reported that Rappler reporter Pia Ranada was twice barred from entering Malacañang and from covering the President’s event Tuesday.

Roque, in an interview over DZMM, said that Duterte decided to finally bar Rappler from covering Palace events following the online news agency’s supposed “fake news” about the alleged intervention of Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher (Bong) Go in the Department of National Defense’s frigate deal.

“Pero ang Presidente rin ang nag-utos noong alas dos ng hapon na talagang hindi na pupwede ang Rappler sa Malacañang dahil nawalan na nga ng tiwala ang Presidente diyan sa Rappler (It was the President who ordered around 2 p.m. that Rappler will not be allowed in Malacañang because he lost trust in them),” Roque said Wednesday morning.

According to the Palace official, Duterte was told to bar Rappler from covering Malacañang upon the release of the SEC’s decision to revoke Rappler’s license to operate. However, Duterte initially decided not to because of his close relationship to Ranada.

“Yung sa SEC talagang sinabihan na si Presidente ng marami, ‘Wag na nating papasukin yan dahil until magkaroon ng TRO talagang effective na yan.’ Pero talagang Presidente na ang nagsabi, ‘Hayaan mo siya diyan.’ Dahil alam mo naman, talagang tinuturing ni Presidente na parang apo niya yan si Pia (The President was told not to allow Rapper in Malacañang until a temporary restraining order is issued. But the President said to let them be because as we all know, he treats Pia as his granddaughter),” Roque said.

According to Roque, Rappler should learn how to keep a healthy relationship with their news sources or else they will lose access to information in their beat.

“Kahit sino namang peryodista, alam nila na kailangang pangalagaan din ang relasyon sa mga news source. ‘Pag sinira mo yang relasyon na yan, mawawalan ka ng access (Every journalist knows that they need to take care of their relationship with their sources because if the relationship turns sour, you will lose access to information),” he said.

“Ang hindi lang pupwede magkaroon ngayon ng access sa Presidente dahil bwisit sa kanya ang Presidente (What she cannot have is access to the President because the President is irked with Pia),” he added.

The Office of the Executive Secretary earlier said that Rappler lost its accreditation with the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) after the SEC revoked its license to operate over foreign ownership.

“There was already an SEC decision revoking the license, ang accreditation ni Pia (Pia’s accreditation) is from that particular accreditation so nawala rin ang kanyang (so she also lost her) accreditation in effect,” Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said.

“Ayusin muna nila ang kanilang (They should fix their) personality as a corporation, local corporation otherwise they cannot [cover Palace events],” he added.

Medialdea said that Rappler can still cover Palace events if it can get credentials from the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).

Roque, in the same DZMM interview, said that despite being barred, Rappler, particularly Ranada, can still write Palace stories but they will not be allowed to enter Malacañang or Presidential events.

“Lilinawan ko lang po, bagaman hindi na siya pwedeng magcover sa Malacañang, pwede siyang magsulat kahit anong gusto niyang isulat. Kahit puro fake news yan. Kung kaligayahan niya yan, ituloy niya yan (I will just clarify, Pia can still write whatever she wants to but she can’t cover Malacañang. Even if it’s fake news. If that is what makes her happy, she can do it),” he said.

Rappler still part of MPC

MPC President Reymund Tinaza of Bombo Radyo said Ranada is still a member of MPC until the Court of Appeals (CA) reaches a decision regarding SEC’s ruling on Rappler’s license to operate.

Tinaza asserted that MPC is an independent organization of journalists and has the prerogative to accept, suspend or revoke membership to the body.

He also asked Malacañang to communicate first with the MPC before implementing decisions such as restrictions.

“While we respect the discretion of Malacañang to set accreditation rules for presidential events, we deplore any arbitrary attempt to bar access and harass reporters performing their duty as an independent monitor of power and guardian of public interest,” he said.

“We also urge Malacañang to communicate properly the grounds for such restrictions,” he added

PSG remark uncalled for

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana called out Presidential Security Group (PSG) Commander Brigadier General Lope Dagoy for his statement saying Ranada should be thankful that the PSG personnel who stopped her from entering did not hurt her.

“That remark is uncalled for and really off the mark. Whatever Rappler’s offense, the PSG had no right to harm Rappler’s people nor threaten them,” Lorenzana said.

Dagoy, in an interview with Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, said he did not like how Ranada pressed the PSG officer on duty to explain who gave the ban order.

“Huwag ninyo ganunin, sumusunod sa orders lang ‘yan. Pasalamat kayo hindi kayo sinaktan sa pagbabastos na ginawa ‘nyo (Don’t do that because they are only following orders. You should be thankful because they did not hurt you for being disrespectful),” Dagoy said.

Roque, in the DZMM interview, said that while he did not witness the said encounter, he can imagine how it happened, alleging that Ranada has a problem with her attitude.

“Nai-imagine ko na pupuwedeng ganyan ang asta talaga ni Ranada, dahil maski naman sa presscon, maski pagtatanong kay Presidente ay talaga namang walang pakialam iyang si Pia Ranada pagdating sa paggalang (I can imagine that she can bully the officer because she really has an attitude. Even in press conferences and the way she asks the President questions, she really does not care about being respectful),’ Roque said.

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