Palace doors block briefly Rappler journalist

Published February 20, 2018, 5:42 PM

by AJ Siytangco

By Genalyn Kabiling

Online news entity Rappler felt briefly the sting of Malacanang powers Tuesday.

Upon the orders from superiors, the Presidential Security Group (PSG) blocked –for a short unnerving period–the entry of Rappler reporter Pia Ranada at the New Executive Building’s (NEB) entrance gate.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque (left); Rappler reporter Pia Ranada (right) (MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque (left); Rappler reporter Pia Ranada (right)

Was this retribution?

The block occurred a day after Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go blasted Rappler and Philippine Daily Inquirer for publishing “fake news” on the Philippine Navy’s frigate acquisition project during the Senate hearing.

Fearing a travesty of freedom, colleagues of Ranada at the Malacanang Press Corps interceded with the Presidential Communications Operations Office—and the door of Malacanang was opened to Ranada.

In a subsequent Palace press conference, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque denied knowing beforehand about the PSG order preventing the entry of the Rappler journalist.

Roque, however, said the Office of the Executive Secretary had ruled that Rappler could still cover the President’s activities and other Palace events pending its court appeal on the revocation of its license to operate.

Roque also locked horns with Ranada during the Palace news conference over the PSG order barring her to cover the President’s events inside Malacañang.

“I do not know about that. That’s absolute Presidential Security Guard—or Security Group discretion,” he told the reporter.

When Ranada asked if it would be a Palace policy to bar reporters who publish unsavory reports, Roque replied: “No, I don’t think the issue is unsavory reporting. The issue is fake news.”

Ranada however stood by Rappler’s reports about Go’s alleged intervention in the frigate deal, when his office endorsed the complaint to the Department of National Defense.

Roque insisted that the report was “fake news,” citing witnesses in the Senate hearing who claimed Go did not intervene at any time.

“As of yesterday, the Executive Secretary was asked whether or not Rappler can cover Malacañang. The answer given by the Executive Secretary is ‘yes, because they have a pending appeal,'” Roque said.

“But after the Court of Appeals decides, and if the decision of the SEC is sustained, Rappler would have to transfer to FOCAP (Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines),” he said.

If the SEC decision is upheld, Roque admitted that they would have “no choice” but to revoke Rappler’s accreditation with the MPC since it is owned by a foreign entity.

“We are able and willing to work with them as members of FOCAP if the decision is sustained by the Court of Appeals,” he said.