PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte was simply taking his cue from the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in his order to ban news site Rappler from covering events in Malacanang, the highest-ranking official of the Office of the President said on Wednesday.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued the statement a day after Rappler’s Palace reporter Pia Ranada-Robles was barred from entering the Palace premises by a Presidential Security Group (PSG) officer, citing “orders from higher-ups”.
Medialdea, in a chance interview on Tuesday night, said that the President was just executing the decision of the SEC, which revoked the certificate of incorporation of Rappler for allegedly violating the foreign equity restriction in mass media.
“No [it is not the President’s desire], he was just following the decision of the SEC,” Medialdea said.
The SEC ruling was dated January 11 but was released to media on January 15.
The ban on Rappler in Malacanang was enforced on Tuesday.
“[Rappler] should fix first their personality as a corporation, [as a]local corporation. Otherwise, they cannot [cover], right? That was the gist of the decision of the SEC,” Medialdea said.
The online news site said in a statement that the ban was “another instance of power attempting to intimidate independent journalists”.
Rappler argued that the SEC ruling could not be the basis on the cancellation of its accreditation in Malacanang since it was the SEC that ruled to revoke the news site’s registration although the decision was not final and executory as the case had been elevated to the Court of Appeals.
“The executive branch must respect the judicial process and await the court’s decision,” the statement read.
Rappler also said that the Palace could not act prematurely on the matter.
“We encourage government to answer these uncomfortable questions and avoid using its immense power to obstruct, harass, and evade public scrutiny,” the statement added.
On Tuesday morning, Ranada-Robles was initially barred from entering the Malacanang complex after being waylaid by an officer of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) identified as Marc Anthony Cempron, according to Ranada-Robles, Cempron asked for her identification card and upon showing it, not allowed to enter the premises.
After coordinating with the Media Accreditation and Relations Office, Ranada-Robles was allowed to enter the New Executive Building just in time for the news briefing with Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
Ranada-Robles, who was supposed to cover the induction and oath-taking of the new board of directors of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commers, Inc. at the Rizal Hall of Malacanang on Tuesday afternoon, was once again led out.
The order came a day after Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go appeared before a Senate inquiry on the controversial frigate deal between the government and South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI).
Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) linked Go to the negotiations, which President Duterte himself has denied.
The two media outlets, in their reports, showed documents baring Go’s signature in the processing of the P15.7-billion Philippine Navy frigate project. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA