DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A reporter of Rappler was initially prevented from entering Malacañang Palace Tuesday morning, but few minutes later she was allowed entry.
Pia Ranada, a Malacañang-accredited reporter was stopped by the Presidential Security Group (PSG) from entering the New Executive Building of Malacañang compound citing an order from “Higher Ups” which turned out to be President Rodrigo Duterte.
Her company, Rappler, reported that Jhopee Avanceña, head of Malacañang’s Internal House Affairs Office (IHAO) confirmed that the order from the President.
The Rappler report stated “Avanceña said she was given the instructions at midnight.”
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who was apparently not aware of the instructions given to Avanceña, during the press briefing, emphasized Ranada was not barred from entering Malacañang, saying it was not curtailment of press freedom.
Ranada was eventually allowed to enter the venue of the briefing.
But Roque stressed, she can still cover the Palace briefings for now — on orders of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea — pending the ruling on the media outfit’s ownership.
“For now, the decision is, while pending appeal, Rappler can cover Malacañang… You are still allowed (to cover Malacañang briefings) until the appeal is resolved by the Court of Appeals,” Roque said.
But he said once the Court of Appeals upholds the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision that Rappler violated foreign ownership restrictions, Ranada must become a member of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) and no longer as member of the Malacañang Press Corps.
Roque said FOCAP members are not allowed to enter Malacañang and cover briefings unless invited.
It can be recalled, the SEC in a January 11 decision revoked Rappler’s business registration over an alleged breach of the constitutional ban on foreign ownership in mass media.
Butu Rappler filed an appeal before the Court of Appeals on January 29 asking to invalidate SEC’s decision.
The presidential spokesperson said the government is committed to uphold freedom of the press.
“We will never prevent any media organization from practicing their profession. That is our firm commitment. We will never curtail the exercise of the freedom of the press, except access to the Palace is not part of the freedom of the press,” he said.
Roque added it is “not a valid reason” to be barred if a government official dislikes a certain reporter.
Ranada, during the briefing, questioned Roque if the government is against reporters who are critical of the government.
“I don’t think the issue is unsavory reporting, the issue is fake news….You make conclusions without facts. You are resorting to editorializing stories when you should be sticking to facts,” Roque argued.
Rappler, along with Inquirer, were labeled as peddlers of fake and malicious news by Special Assistant to the President Bong Go due to their reports on his involvement in the Navy frigate controversy.
Many suspects, Duterte gave the instruction as he was watching the proceedings of the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigates deal, where Special Assistant to the President Bong Go accused Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of reporting “fake news” on the Navy project.
It was at the middle of the Senate Hearing, when Go presented a newly published report of Rappler written by Ranada, which stated that Go admitted intervening in the Frigate deal.
Senator Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate Committee on information, who was at the hearing said the report of Ranada was contrary to the official proceedings of the Senate.-Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.ph
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