MANILA - Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said he only used the case of Rappler chief Maria Ressa's arrest as an example of possible questions that may be raised during his office's information campaign in Europe.
This, after 2 senators questioned the plan of Malacañang's communications group to mount an information campaign in Europe about Ressa's arrest and other issues related to Philippine press freedom.
In a statement, Andanar said the PCOO officials were sent to Europe to clarify the issue on "involuntary disappearances," anti-communist terrorist groups and other issues as part of its role as a committee member of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Communist Armed Conflict.
"In the same NTF mission, PCOO found it an opportune time to bring the Press Freedom Caravan in Brussels and Geneva to maximize the official trip. The Communications Department has been holding Press Freedom caravans locally and internationally to bring government to Filipinos even those in the international community. The first caravan in a foreign country was conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, last January 2019," he said.
"The caravan is a side event in-between official meetings with officials from the EU Parliament, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), European Commission, and leaders of the Filipino community," Andanar also said.
According to Andanar, the official delegation to Europe left the country two days before Ressa was arrested, and they were not aware that the arrest will happen.
"Meanwhile, the arrest of Ms. Maria Ressa happened two days after the official delegation left for Europe. Nobody from the delegation was aware it was coming. In any case, it is just natural for me to instruct the PCOO officials in Europe to answer possible queries about Ms. Ressa," he said.
"My radio interview was taken out of context. I only used Ressa’s case as an example of what might be raised in the caravan; We didn’t know much about the Ressa case when we prepared for this trip," Andanar added.
Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Grace Poe earlier expressed reservations on the ongoing information drive in Europe, adding the fund used for the trip could have been used for other matters, such as an information campaign on vaccination.