MANILA - Communications Secretary Martin Andanar offered no apology Tuesday, despite calls from journalists' groups, over his earlier claim that Senate reporters were offered money to attend a press conference.
"I already gave my statement and that's my statement," Andanar told reporters in Malacanang when pressed about the demanded apology.
Andanar said he was not claiming that Senate reporters took the money but that he was standing by an intelligence report that at least $1,000 were making rounds at the Senate during a press conference led by administration critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes.
"The same way that you validate your stories, I also validate mine," said Andanar when pressed about the accuracy of the intelligence report.
But while he did not offer an apology, Andanar sought to appease Senate reporters.
"It was not intended to say that the reporters in Senate are corrupt...I hold them in high esteem. The reporters at the Senate are good reporters and they stuck to their journalistic integrity," Andanar said.
Earlier Tuesday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) also called on Andanar to step down from his post.
In a statement published in their website, the NUJP said Andanar should prove his allegation that $1,000 (about P50,000) were given to some Senate reporters so they would cover Trillanes’ press conference, where retired policeman Arthur Lascañas tagged President Rodrigo Duterte as the brains behind the Davao Death Squad.
"Unless he can present credible proof to back up his claims, he should zip his mouth or better yet, step down for gross abuse of his office and ignorance of his responsibilities," the statement signed by the group's chairperson, Ryan Rosauro read.
"His baseless accusations are mere distractions from the immediate issue on hand," it added.
Rosauro said it's a "disgrace" that such statements came from "someone who used to work for the media and knows the integrity required by this profession."
The NUJP also urged Senate reporters and their media outfits "to consult their counsel and take a legal action against Mr. Andanar for shamelessly besmirching their reputation, and in this age of tokhang, even putting their safety at risk."
"We will support you all the way. Mr. Andanar is proof positive that his loss is no loss for media at all," their statement said.
In his interview with [email protected], Rosauro said Andanar must be held accountable for his "malicious imputations" on the credibility of Senate reporters. He noted that this was not Andanar's first run-in with journalists.
Journalists covering the Palace last month slammed Andanar over his statement that media supposedly "misreported" President Rodrigo Duterte’s remark about martial law.
"In defense of his boss, he has to spin these lies. It's very sad that he came from the very same industry, the news industry, and now he's trying to undermine not just the Senate reporters, but the entire news industry," he said.
"It is not the first time he is doing this. Every time the President issues a statement and they seem to be indefensible by his communications people, they resort to blaming the media for wrong reportage, irresponsible reporting, misquoting the President and all," he added.