The Philippines said Saturday it had banned certain foreign journalists from the country over an incident last year, when President Benigno Aquino 3rd was taunted by a group of Hong Kong reporters during a visit to Indonesia.
The immigration bureau said the journalists, whom it did not name, were blacklisted on the recommendation of the intelligence services over “acts committed against the president during a summit in Bali, Indonesia”.
“The rationale is that the subject is a threat to public safety and blacklisting minimizes that risk,” immigration bureau spokeswoman Elaine Tan said in a statement to Agence France Presse.
Hong Kong newspapers reported that nine journalists from the Chinese territory have been banned ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit to be hosted by the Philippines next year.
In October last year APEC summit host Indonesia withdrew the credentials of nine Hong Kong journalists for shouting questions at the Philippine leader, insisting they had posed a security threat.
Hong Kong media said the journalists and technicians were from Now TV, RTHK and Commercial Radio.
An Aquino spokesman at the time said the journalists had “crossed the line” by aggressively questioning Aquino about a hostage siege in Manila that left eight Hong Kong tourists dead in 2010.
When an individual “shows disrespect or makes offensive utterances to symbols of Philippine authority”, it is sufficient ground to ban him or her from the country, immigration spokeswoman Tan said Saturday.
“If he (or she) submits sufficient proof to reverse the blacklist, it may be lifted accordingly.”
An Aquino spokesman stressed it had not specifically prevented anyone from covering the APEC summit in the Philippines in November next year.
Herminio Coloma said the presidential office, which is in charge of accrediting journalists who will cover the summit, “has not started the accreditation process for journalists”.
Relations between Hong Kong and the Philippines were strained for years following a botched rescue attempt by Manila in 2010 when Hong Kong tourists were taken hostage inside a bus by a disgraced ex-Manila police officer.
In April the two governments announced they had resolved the row.
The Manila city government issued a formal apology while the Philippines expressed “its most sorrowful regret and profound sympathy”.
The government also provided undisclosed financial compensation to victims and their relatives from money donated by private individuals.
Tan said under a memorandum order dated March 29, 2001, a foreigner may be barred entry into the country if he “shows disrespect or makes offensive utterances to symbols of Philippine authority.”
The foreigner is also included in the Immigration blacklist,” Tan said.
Immigration gathers information on a foreign national through various sources and in close coordination with law enforcement agencies in the country and abroad.
Among the agencies she mentioned include the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
“The rationale is that the subject is a threat to public safety and blacklisting minimizes that risk,” Tan added.
The blacklisted foreigner could request the Immigration commissioner to lift the ban.