“HIGHER-UPS” barred Rappler’s Malacañang reporter Pia Ranada-Robles from covering President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, a day after Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go tagged Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer as purveyors of fake news.
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 Commerce Inc. at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang on Tuesday afternoon, was barred from entering the Palace.Ranada-Robles, known for throwing persistent and tough questions to the President, was initially barred from entering the Malacanang complex by an officer of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) on Tuesday morning.
After coordinating with the members of the Palace media office, Ranada-Robles was allowed to enter the premises.
However, she was allowed to enter only the New Executive Building (NEB) and not the Palace itself, where most events and speeches of President Rodrigo Duterte are held.
“Basically, I cannot enter [the Palace]at least today. I can only stay at the NEB,” Ranada-Robles said, adding that she would continue to cover the speeches by monitoring broadcasts.
According to Ranada-Robles, a member of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC), the PSG officer barred her on orders from “higher-ups.”
Ranada-Robles said she was asked for her identification card by PSG officer Marc Anthony Cempron and upon seeing it, she was told that she could not enter the premises of Malacañang.
“I asked [the PSG official]if the instruction was just for me. The PSG said ‘Yes, yes, it is just for you.’ I asked who gave the order, he said it was from “itaas” (higher-ups). He did not say any names and when I asked when [the order]was stated, he told me just this morning,” Ranada-Robles said.
On Monday’s inquiry of the Senate committee on national defense and security, Go accused Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of “irresponsible reporting,” that triggered controversy over the P15.7-billion Philippine Navy frigate project.
The President himself had singled out Rappler for its critical coverage of his presidency.
In January, the Rappler’s corporate papers were revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for allegedly violating the Constitution’s foreign equity restrictions.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr., in a news briefing on Tuesday, clarified that upon the instructions of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Rappler could still cover Malacañang while its appeal with the Court of Appeals challenging SEC’s order was pending.
If the court decides to sustain the decision of SEC that the news outlet is foreign-controlled, Rappler would have to transfer to the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (Focap) or be forced to seek accreditation from the office of Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Margaux “Mocha” Uson.
Ranada-Robles said there was no chance Rappler would opt for the second option.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra, in a text message shared by Ranada-Robles to members of the MPC, said the instruction of Medialdea was that without a temporary restraining order against the SEC ruling, Rappler’s accreditation with the MPC was considered revoked.
“No curtailing of press freedom”
Roque said barring the Rappler reporter was the PSG’s “absolute discretion” and that the online news outfit was not being shut out.
“There is no denial of press freedom. We are televised. You are not being barred because number one [Ranada-Robles is] here asking questions,” Roque said.
Roque added that it was not the policy of Malacañang to bar reporters who publish “unsavory” reports, saying that the main issue was “fake news.”