This morning Pia Ranada, a reporter covering the Malacañang Palace for Philippine news site Rappler, was barred from entering the presidential palace.
According to Rappler, the Office of the Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea revoked the news organization’s accreditation from the Malacañang Press Corps due to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s decision to revoke its business license.
The decision to revoke Rappler’s Press Corps accreditation was a complete reversal from what Roque had initially said in a press conference this afternoon. Roque told reporters that Medialdea relayed to him that Ranada would be allowed to cover press briefings until Rappler’s appeal over the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) case at the Court of Appeals (CA) would be resolved.
Now, Medialdea says Rappler will need to get a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the decision, in order to be accredited to cover the Palace.
Rappler’s business registration was revoked by the SEC in Janaury after the commission deemed that a clause in Rappler’s Philippine Depository Receipts — a tool that allows foreign investment — ceded control to American-owned Omidyar Network, which is against the constitution.
Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa denied this accusation.
Rappler reporter banned
Ranada, who arrived at the Palace around 10:35am to catch Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque’s press briefing, was stopped by a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) from entering the palace grounds, even though Ranada is an accredited member of the Malañang Press Corps (MPC). This was the first time she was barred from entering the Palace.
Ranada had previously been ostracized by President Rodrigo Duterte over Rappler’s investigative reports alleging that Special Assistant to the President Bong Go intervened in the bidding of a military warship — an article the president called “fake news.”
“PSG’s Marc Anthony Cempron tells me there were instructions from ‘up there’ to bar me, specifically, from entering Malacañang,” Ranada told other reporters who were around the Palace at the time.
The incident came a day after Go had to face the senate to answer whether or not he endorsed a supplier to build multi-billion peso combat management systems for two Philippine Navy warships.
It was later clarified by the PSG that Ranada would be allowed to enter the New Executive Building, where daily press briefings of Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque are held, but not inside the Malacañang Palace itself to cover other events and meetings.
Who did those instructions come from?
The president himself, Jhopee Avanceña, head of Malacañang’s Internal House Affairs Office said.
“I informed the PSG not to allow you to enter the Palace since I was instructed last night by the President,” Avanceña told Ranada in a text message.
When asked how long Ranada would be banned, Avanceña told Rappler that he was given instructions not to allow her inside “not only today.”
According to Roque, Medialdea said that if the CA holds up the SEC’s decision to strip Rappler of its business license, Ranada would have to register as a foreign correspondent.
Ranada, who was eventually able to join the briefing, followed up by asking Roque “Am I a security threat?”
He replied, “I do not know.” “You make conclusions without facts. You editorialize stories. You should stick to facts,” he told Ranada.
The last time journalists were banned from covering the president was during the presidency of Joseph Estrada in the late 1990s, when he banned reporters from the Philippine Daily Inquirer from covering his chats at his official residence after accusing them of biased reporting.