Those who produce the news are generally advised to avoid, at all costs, being in the news.
It did not seem to apply to Rappler reporter Pia Ranada who was held at Gate 2 of Malacañang Tuesday morning. She was told she was no longer authorized to cover Palace events.
Rappler’s certificate of registration had been ordered canceled by the Securities and Exchange Commission amid allegations it is effectively owned and controlled by a foreign entity.
After much confusion, Ranada was told she could come in and attend the press briefing by Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. At the briefing, she questioned Roque about the decision to bar her given that Rappler’s case was still on appeal and that the SEC ruling was not final and executory.
Roque and the rest of the presidential family branded a Rappler report as “fake news.” For several minutes, the reporter and the spokesperson argued about this charge, after which Roque’s temper seemed to flare.
He was not the only one miffed. The Presidential Security Group said Ranada should be thankful she was not hurt when she “insulted” the officer who initially prevented her from entering the Palace grounds.
“Huwag ninyo ganunin. Sumusunod lang sa
orders ‘yan. Mabuti nga di kayo sinaktan. Pasalamat kayo hindi kayo sinaktan sa pagbabastos na ginawa ‘nyo. Pambabastos ‘yun,”
said Brigadier General Lope Dagoy.
He was referring to Corporal Marc Anthony Cempron, stationed at Gate 2 of Malacañang, who told Ranada that the order to bar her came from “higher ups.”
Dagoy was offended that microphones were thrust onto Cempron’s mouth while cameras reeled. Next time this happens, he said, “I will ban you from the whole Malacañang complex.”
If President Duterte ever had sound reason to prevent Ranada’s organization from entering the Palace, he just lost the battle even before he or his minions could explain themselves. Actuations of Palace officials showed the move was spiteful, impulsive, ill-advised, even arbitrary. Look at how it was just enforced without any warning. How different Palace officials had different reasons and demeanor. How Malacañang would probably react now that the incident is being cited as an attempt to curtail press freedom.
Now more than ever, the Duterte administration has to avoid behaving petulantly when confronted by journalists about the way it governs, and the way it responds to criticism. Who then would still believe Mr. Duterte when he claims he respects the freedom of the press and believes in upholding the truth?