“Shame on President Rodrigo Duterte,” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said in a statement Tuesday, “for displaying extreme pettiness in ordering Rappler reporter Pia Ranada banned from entering Malacañan Palace.”
The brief, temporary prohibition on Ranada came a day after Special Assistant to the President Christopher “Bong” Go, accused Rappler along with the Philippine Daily Inquirer of propagating “fake news” about his alleged involvement in the controversial Philippine Navy frigate acquisition deal and deigned suggest they report about “good things.”
The Presidential Security Group said the order came “from above” but later clarified that Ranada was subsequently given the green light to work from the New Executive Building, where the Malacañang Press Corps journalists’ work area of the Palace Press Briefing Room is located.
For his part, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said that, according to the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES), Rappler journalists could still cover Malacañang even though it has a pending appeal with the Court of Appeals (CA) on the matter of the Security and Exchange Commission’s revocation of its license to operate on grounds of alleged foreign ownership issue.
“Duterte’s belligerence no longer surprises us,” said the NUJP statement attributed to Atty. Jocelyn Clemente, NUJP Acting Chair and Dabet Panelo, Secretary General. “But the depth to which he can stoop to unleash the awesome power of his office against individuals with whom he disagrees is, to say the least, appalling and extremely unbecoming of his office.
“He has acted much like petulant child throwing a fit.”
NUJP remarked that “Duterte’s peevishness displays a sinister side of his persona that does not bode well at all for the already uncertain health and future of democracy in our benighted country.
“Once again, we are faced with a leader who apparently sees his position as an entitlement that extends to those closest to him, one who has shown no qualms about openly wishing to silence dissent and criticism, accusing the independent press of fakery when their accurate reportage of his actions and utterances – a number of which have been later established to be outright canards or statements bordering on the criminal – boomerang on him.”
“When the highest official in the land chooses to wage a personal vendetta against an individual, whether a journalist or a media outfit, it sends a clear and chilling signal that everyone else better report only what he wants you to or else.
“This, to say the least, is anathema to democracy. But then again, hasn’t he openly bragged about being – or wanting to be – a dictator?
“Nevertheless, we are heartened by the certainty that no self-respecting and independent Filipino journalist will allow this outright assault on press freedom and the people’s right to know from the president himself pass unchallenged.
“We call on all colleagues to unite and reject this outrage and to continue resisting all attempts to dictate what we can and should report.
“We owe this to our profession, we owe this to the people, we owe this to the nation.”