MANILA – In what could be a break in the weeks-long standoff between President Rodrigo Duterte and members of the media, the tough-talking leader on Monday invited journalists on the Palace beat to have dinner with him.
After winning the presidency, Duterte was criticized for saying that corrupt journalists were the ones being killed in the Philippines, in response to a question on how he will address killings of journalists.
His post-election statement drew flak from local and international press groups who believe that many of those killed were crusading journalists.
Following a tense-filled press conference last June 2 where he insisted that his statement was taken out of context, Duterte announced through his aide that he will no longer grant press briefings.
Duterte was particularly irked by the call of international media organization Reporters Without Borders for journalists to boycott him.
But things may be turning for the better between Duterte and journalists covering him, when the president invited for a post-State of the Nation Address (SONA) dinner select journalists who have been covering him since the campaign period.
The author of this article, GMA Network's Cedric Castillo and Ian Cruz, CNN Philippines' Ina Andolong, Rappler's Pia Ranada, and TV5's Mia Reyes had the chance to mingle once more with Duterte, who as Davao City mayor had built rapport with members of the media.
The journalists were given a tour of his official residence, Bahay ng Pagbabago (formerly Bahay Pangarap). Also present during the dinner were the President's partner, Honeylet Avanceña, and his trusted aide, Bong Go.
The dinner saw the President explaining to the media the major points of his SONA. He also discussed his stand on the Paris climate agreement and the South China Sea dispute.
Appearing to make up for his misgivings with the media, Duterte stressed in his SONA speech that his government does not condone violence or repression of media.
He also announced that the Palace is working on an administrative order addressing media killings.
He called ''bona fide'' members of the media his "partners for change."