MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte lost trust with and got irked at Rappler’s Palace reporter Pia Ranada, which is why he has barred her from the Palace and other presidential events and gatherings, his spokesman said Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque stressed that aside from Rappler’s issue with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Duterte lost appetite in dealing with Ranada because of the latter’s supposed “fake news” reports.
“Ang Presidente rin ang nag-utos nung alas-dos ng hapon na talagang hindi na pupuwede ang Rappler sa Malacanang, dahil nawalan na ng tiwala ang Presidente nga diyan sa Rappler,” Roque told dzMM.
Roque initially said on Tuesday that Ranada can still cover his press briefings at the Palace’s New Executive Building. However, he said after the order became clearer, it appeared that the Rappler reporter can also no longer attend his regular press briefings and may just write about it by watching its livestream.
“Lilinawin ko lang po, bagama’t hindi na siya pupuwedeng mag-cover sa Malacañang, puwede siyang magsulat, kahit anong gusto niyang isulat, kahit puro ‘fake news’ iyan, kung kaligayahan niya iyan, ituloy niya iyan. Kaya nga po walang paglalabag, walang pagsusupil sa kalayaan ng pamamahayag,” he said.
“Ang hindi lang siya pupuwede ay magkaroon ng access ngayon kay Presidente, dahil buwisit sa kanya ang Presidente.”
He maintained that Duterte’s action against Ranada is not a suppression of press freedom.
“Nasaan ang pagsupil ng press freedom diyan, meron ba kaming sinensor, meron ba kaming artikulo na hindi pinayagang mapublish?” Roque said.
“Sa totoo lang po kung kami ay nanunupil ng press freedom, di wala na sanang nasulat ang Rappler dahil wala namang mabuting sinusulat iyan tungkol kay Presidente.”
Duterte’s order to bar Ranada from the Palace came a day after his top aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, lashed out at Rappler during a Senate hearing for supposedly publishing a malicious report that he meddled in a deal to supply the combat management system for two navy frigates.
US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said the ban on Rappler "threatens media freedoms".
"It could portend a broader assault on journalists and news organizations, whose critical watchdog role has magnified the government's poor human rights record," it said in a statement.
Local media groups and opposition lawmakers also condemned Duterte's decision.
"It sends a clear and chilling signal that everyone else better report only what he wants you to or else," said the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
MEDIALDEA: RAPPLER MUST FIX SEC ISSUE FIRST
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on Tuesday said Ranada or any of her colleagues cannot cover events at the presidential palace until the online news site resolves its issues with the SEC.
Medialdea said Ranada’s accreditation to cover Palace events was revoked because of the issue of Rappler with the SEC.
“I-cover muna nila ano nila, ayusin muna nila ang kanilang personality as a corporation, local corporation otherwise they cannot [cover] di ba?” Medialdea told reporters in a chance interview.
Medialdea said this after the Presidential Security Group on Tuesday barred Ranada from entering the Palace to cover an event to be attended by Duterte.
He said Ranada may apply for accreditation through the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), which can still access Malacañang press briefings but has limited privileges compared to the regular members of the Malacañang Press Corps.
The SEC last month revoked the business papers of Rappler, citing alleged violation of foreign ownership rules. However, it said the online news site may continue with its operations.
The news site has a pending appeal before the Court of Appeals.