MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he was merely following the ruling of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in ordering that Rappler reporter Pia Ranada be banned from covering events at the Palace.
Duterte earlier this week barred Rappler from covering Palace press briefings and other presidential events, citing the SEC ruling which revoked the online news site’s registration papers for supposedly violating foreign ownership rules. The SEC, however, had said the online news site may still continue with its operations pending its appeal to the courts.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said, aside from the SEC ruling, Ranada’s insistence on the veracity of Rappler’s reports on the alleged intervention of Duterte’s top aide, Christopher “Bong” Go, in a frigate deal of the Philippine Navy was the last straw for the President.
“It [Rappler] is not a legitimate agency, according to SEC. I am now invoking executive action based on the SEC ruling. Kung sabihin na sila legitimate sila, pasok kayo ulit (they may come in again),” Duterte told reporters in a chance interview in Sara, Iloilo, where he visited the wake of slain overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis.
Duterte also lashed out at Rappler for “distorting” his statements in its reports. He again accused Rappler of being funded by the United States Central Intelligence Agency, an allegation the online news site has already denied.
“Rappler, it takes every chance to undermine you,” Duterte said.
Ranada, who has been covering Duterte since the 2016 election campaign, on Wednesday evening said it “breaks her heart” that she will no longer be able to ask questions to Duterte and other Palace officials in person.
“‘l’ll definitely miss that. I didn't realize today would be my last day in Malacañang,” Ranada said on Twitter on Wednesday evening.
Roque on Monday said Ranada may still cover his briefings. However, as the controversy developed, Palace officials clarified that Ranada and her fellow Rappler reporters are banned from covering all briefings and events in Malacañang.
Roque, who once took up the cudgels for some members of the media, also maintained that Duterte’s action against Ranada is not a press freedom issue, even as media organizations accused the President of muzzling the Philippine press.
Duterte’s order to bar Ranada from the Palace came a day after 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.
Roque said Rappler could have issued an errata for its series of stories about the matter but did not do so.