MANILA — Online news site Rappler can still cover Malacañang press briefings pending its appeal before the Court of Appeals (CA) to stop the implementation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision to shut them down, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Last month, the SEC ordered the closure of Rappler, claiming it violated the Constitution’s restriction on foreign ownership of local media.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the assurance after Rappler reporter Pia Ranada, who covers Malacañang, was briefly stopped by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) from entering Malacañang’s New Executive Building (NEB) where press briefings are regularly held.
Rappler was accused by Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go as a peddler of fake news.
Rappler was one of the two media companies that first released a report on Go’s alleged intervention in the PHP18-billion Frigate Acquisition Project (FAP) of the Philippine Navy. In a senate hearing yesterday, Go was found innocent of any intervention on the deal.
Roque said it was the discretion of the PSG to bar people from entering Malacañang but noted that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea himself allowed Rappler to cover events at the Palace.
“I do not know about the order barring you,” Roque told Rappler’s Ranada during a Palace briefing.
“The Executive Secretary (Medialdea) just issued a verbal statement that pending appeal, you will be able to cover here in Malacañang,” he added.
Roque said that the only time reporters would be barred from covering Palace briefings and events would be due to security threats and an exclusive coverage solely for the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC), which accredits local media.
Move to FOCAP
Roque said, if the SEC decision to close Rappler is sustained, Ranada will have to seek accreditation to cover briefings from the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), instead of the MPC.
Another option, Roque said, is to seek accreditation from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) to cover the briefings as a blogger.
“As far as I know, you are still allowed until the appeal is resolved by the Court of Appeals. If it is sustained, then you would have to move to FOCAP, which is the media group for foreign correspondents because the decision of the SEC is that you are foreign-controlled,” Roque told Ranada.
“But while the appeal is pending, you are welcome to cover Malacañang unless of course there is disorderly behavior,” he added.
Roque also assured that he will personally pick up Ranada if she would again be barred from entering the NEB.
“I was willing to pick you up downstairs to bring you here in case you were not allowed. That’s the full extent of what I can do,” Roque said.
He, meanwhile, said that should “the worst case scenario” happen, Ranada is still free to cover press briefings via live streaming.
Roque maintained that Malacañang is not denying Ranada of press freedom because she is still free to cover the briefings.
“There’s no denial of press freedom. We’re televised. You’re not being barred. You’re here asking questions,” Roque said, noting that access to the Palace is not part of press freedom.
“We will never prevent any media organization from practicing their profession,” he added.
In an interview with reporters, Ranada said she was “dismayed” by initially being briefly barred from entering the NEB, noting that the Duterte administration has repeatedly vowed to respect press freedom.
“I feel dismayed. It’s my work to cover Malacañang and I thought that the Duterte administration keeps saying they respect press freedom and yet we have this incident,” Ranada said.
She, meanwhile, expressed hope that the Office of the Executive Secretary would nullify the order to bar her from entering the NEB.
“I hope that it will only be for today or that they will nullify the order and this won’t happen again,” she added.
Ranada, meanwhile, said that Go, in a text message, has assured her that it was not him who ordered that she be barred from entering the NEB.
“Tinanong ko siya, sabi niya sakin hindi daw siya (I asked him, he told me it wasn’t him),” Ranada said, adding, however, that she “was sure it was someone who held a high position. It’s not just anyone who can order the PSG to do something.”
She also said she has no intention to apply as a blogger. PNA-northboundasia.com