MANILA - The accountability of government has been "razed to a level at which most Filipinos should be deeply concerned about," a watchdog said Thursday as it urged Philippine media not to cover live President Rodrigo Duterte's penultimate State of the Nation Address (SONA).
Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility executive director Melinda de Jesus made the remark after the President's communications group barred private media from the Batasang Pambansa on Monday.
"I think the public should be very well aware about what issues are being manipulated because there is COVID. It is as though it has become a blanket with which to cover everything that the government wants to do in terms of its own communications," she told ANC.
"I would rather the government just not, if it doesn’t wish to provide the whole mechanism then the media just needs to decide it will not cover it. It will cover it post-facto, after it received whatever it received from every other sources and basically present its own perspective as it does and should do anyway every time there’s a national event."
The President's media group also said his speech would be aired live and unedited on broadcast and social media. This after government was criticized for the edited airing of Duterte's speech in Jolo where he mentioned ABS-CBN as he claimed he took down oligarchy in the Philippines.
"It also revealed what had been denied, that the President had nothing to do with the closure of ABS-CBN. He basically admitted it there. And I think this is the crux of the splicing of that part speech, it contradicted the false narrative. It came out with the truth," De Jesus said.
"As far as credibility, we must ask what is the truth that comes out of the communications office in Malacañang. Why are we spending so much money when we cannot trust the information that government provides?"
Under the Constitution, the President must deliver an annual report before Congress every 4th Monday of July in a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate. This year's SONA falls on July 27.
The number of attendees on Monday's SONA will be limited to 50, including the President's entourage, lawmakers and staff members, Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said.
Of the 50 people who will physically attend the SONA, 25 will come from the executive branch, 13 from the House of Representatives and 12 from the Senate.