MANILA - At least 2 senators on Monday questioned the plan of Malacañang's communications group to mount in Europe an information campaign about the arrest of Rappler chief Maria Ressa and other issues related to Philippine press freedom.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, in a media report over the weekend, was quoted as saying that some officials of his agency will meet and answer questions from journalists in Belgium, Bosnia, and Switzerland.
Andanar bared the plan after Ressa, whose news site has repeatedly clashed with President Rodrigo Duterte, was arrested for libel on Wednesday, a move that press freedom advocates dubbed as an act of persecution.
Senator Kiko Pangilinan asked why the government is "suddenly interested" in clearing its name before the international community when it previously "ignored" criticisms on the alleged killings under its anti-narcotics crackdown.
"Could it be that Secretary Andanar and the PCOO people just want a whiff of winter, thus, the sudden urge to go into this information caravan?" he said in a statement.
The opposition lawmaker also asked how much money would be allocated to the trip and if it would be "more worthwhile and beneficial" to help the health department in its information campaign on vaccination to curb the ongoing measles outbreak.
"Let's use our meager resources judiciously," he said.
Senator Grace Poe echoed reservations on spending taxpayer's money for the trip, saying: "Hindi pa ba sapat ang paliwanag ng iba't opisyal na nagsalita hinggil sa isyu?"
(Isn't the explanation of various officials who spoke about this issue enough?)
"Nasa korte na rin ang bagay na ito kaya pabayaan na natin ang proseso na gumulong," Poe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media, said in a statement.
(This matter is already pending before the court so we should let the process roll.)
She also urged the PCOO to spend its funds on disseminating information on vaccines or the upcoming midterm elections in May.