Malacañang on Sunday asked for a reassessment by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) of its blacklisting of several foreign journalists who allegedly taunted President Benigno Aquino 3rd during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Indonesia last year.
“Our position is that the exclusion should be reassessed, given that there was no similar incident during this year’s summit,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. told government-run dzRB radio.
Malacañang was informed of the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency’s request for exclusion with the Immigration bureau only on Friday.
Government-run Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) had reported that one of the journalists, a cameraman for Now TV, learned about the blacklist through a letter from immigration officers after he was denied entry to the Philippines on Thursday.
“The letter said the Office of the President had described the nine journalists as ‘undesirable’ and barred them from entering the country to cover next year’s APEC summit there,” the RTHK said in an online report.
Coloma explained that “if the identity of the Hong Kong-based cameraman who was reportedly denied entry is known, then the BI could verify from its records if, indeed, there was a denial of entry as well as the legal grounds for such denial.”
But he said “the specific actions attributed to the journalists in the 2013 APEC Summit, is not one of the grounds for denial of entry into the country.”
Coloma added that his office, the Presidential Communications Operations Office, which gives accreditation to international and Filipino journalists covering official government events, has not started the accreditation process for journalists who will cover the APEC Summit in the Philippines in 2015.
“Therefore, no journalist has been given or denied accreditation, and there is no factual basis for the existence of a so-called ‘blacklist,’” he said.
In last year’s APEC ummit in Bali, Indonesia, the Hong Kong journalists questioned Aquino about the Manila hostage crisis in 2010 that killed eight Hong Kong tourists.
Aquino was entering a meeting of APEC business leaders when the reporters demanded to know whether he would meet with Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying in Bali and apologize to the families of the hostage crisis victims.
In a Hong Kong TV footage, the journalists were seen shouting: “So you’re ignoring the Hong Kong people, right?” as they pushed their microphones over the people surrounding Aquino, who declined to answer the question.
The APEC staff intervened to reprimand the journalists, who were eventually kicked out of the summit.
Then-Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said the Hong Kong journalists “crossed the line” after Aquino was “accosted very rudely and very aggressively.”