Manila, Philippines – A Malacañang official said it was President Rodrigo Duterte himself who ordered that Rappler reporter Pia Ranada be barred from entering Malacañang Palace.
Jhopee Avanceña, head of Malacañang’s Internal House Affairs Office (IHAO), told Ranada in a text message on Tuesday, February 20: “I informed the PSG (Presidential Security Group) not to allow you to enter the Palace since I was instructed last night by the President.”
Asked how long the President wants Ranada prohibited from entering Malacañang, Avanceña told Ranada: “He said you are not allowed inside. That’s it. Not only today.”
Duterte apparently gave the order after watching the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigate deal, where Special Assistant to the President Bong Go accused Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of reporting “fake news” on the Navy project. (READ: Rappler statement on Bong Go’s fake news accusation)
Avanceña said he was given the instructions at midnight.
Asked why Duterte gave such an order, Go said, “‘Di ko na ma-answer ‘yan (I can no longer answer that).”
PSG stopped Ranada from entering the New Executive Building (NEB) in the Malacañang compound on Tuesday morning.
After calls were made, the PSG informed Ranada that she can enter NEB but not the Palace itself. No reasons were given for this.
Apparently, the President apparently did not relay his order to key Palace officials. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, who said he was not aware of the order or who issued it, when asked about incident during his briefing on Tuesday.
Roque said he even had to clarify the matter with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who told him that Rappler can cover Malacañang events pending the final court decision on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order revoking Rappler’s business license.
This is the first known incident after the Marcos regime where a Philippine president specifically banned a journalist, more so a member of the Malacañang Press Corps, from entering Malacañang for official coverage.
During his presidency, Joseph Estrada briefly banned Inquirer reporters from covering his impromptu chats with the media in his official residence, the Premier Guest House, but did not keep them from entering Malacañang premises for other coverage. At the time, Estrada accused the Inquirer of unfair reporting on his presidency.