Duterte ordered Palace off-limits for Rappler, reporter says

Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 20 2018 03:51 PM | Updated as of Feb 20 2018 07:18 PM

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - A reporter for news website Rappler said Tuesday she was barred from entering Malacañang Palace upon orders of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Journalist Pia Ranada said the information came from the Palace's internal affairs office head, Jhopee Avanceña.

"I informed the PSG (Presidential Security Group) not to allow you to enter the Palace since I was instructed last night by the President," Ranada quoted Avanceña as saying.

"He said you are not allowed inside. That’s it. Not only today,” she said.

Ranada was allowed inside the New Executive Building on Tuesday after being stopped briefly at the gate. The NEB houses the working area for reporters covering the President.

Rappler's reports have been critical of the government. It recently ran a story on Special Assistant to the President Christopher "Bong" Go's alleged meddling in a deal to supply the combat management system for navy frigates.

Go denied the alleged interference during a Senate investigation on Monday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission also recently revoked the business papers of Rappler, citing its alleged violation of foreign ownership rules.

"I feel dismayed kasi for me, it’s my work to cover Malacañang, it’s my job, it’s my livelihood," Ranada told the Palace press corps.

"The Duterte administration keeps saying they respect press freedom and yet we have this incident," she said.

Ranada has covered Duterte since the 2016 presidential campaign.


CAN RAPPLER STILL COVER PALACE EVENTS?

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, citing Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, said in a Tuesday morning press briefing that Ranada can still cover his regular press briefings pending the resolution of Rappler’s appeal before the Court of Appeals (CA) to reverse the SEC decision.

“There’s no denial of press freedom. We’re televised…number one, you’re here asking questions,” Roque addressed Ranada during Tuesday's news briefing.

Ranada, however, said Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra later told her that her accreditation as a Palace reporter has been revoked.

Ranada said Guevarra told her she would only be allowed to cover Malacañang briefings and events and enter its premises if the CA issues a halt order on the SEC ruling.

The PSG indeed barred Ranada when the latter attempted to enter the Palace to cover Duterte’s speech scheduled at 5:30 p.m.

“There was no written document containing the order. They just said they were only instructed [bar me from entering the Palace],” Ranada said of the PSG.

“I’ll just report about it so people will know what happened.”

Ranada added she would continue to communicate with Palace officials to defend her cause.

Aside from Roque, other Palace officials have yet to issue official statements regarding Rappler’s status.

During the news briefing, Roque said he was not privy to the reason behind the PSG’s initial refusal to allow Ranada from entering the Palace grounds. He said Rappler was not being barred because Palace officials did not like its reporting style.

"No, I don’t think the issue is unsavory reporting. The issue is fake news," Roque told Ranada.

Roque then backed Go, accusing Rappler of "editorializing" its reports on the Navy frigate deals.

"We still maintain it's fake news because witnesses clarified under oath that Bong Go did not intervene at any time," Roque said.


NUJP: DUTERTE A ‘PETULANT CHILD THROWING A FIT’

Meanwhile, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) slammed Duterte for “displaying extreme pettiness” in banning Ranada from the Palace.

“Duterte’s belligerence no longer surprises us,” the NUJP said in a statement.

“But the depth to which he can stoop to unleash the awesome power of his office against individuals whom he disagrees [with] is, to say the least, appalling and extremely unbecoming of his office. He has acted much like a petulant child throwing a fit.”

The NUJP added Duterte’s action against Ranada sends “a clear and chilling signal that everyone else better report only what he wants you to or else.”

Opposition Liberal Party, meanwhile, called on the Duterte administration to let the media do its job and respect dissenting views.

"This Malacañang action recalls the dark memories of martial law when media was silenced and freedom of the press was curtailed," said LP President Sen. Francis Pangilinan.