Duterte expands coverage ban on Rappler outside Malacañang

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The ban on Rappler's coverage of presidential engagements has been expanded to cover events outside the Palace and even those organized by the private sector, as its Malacañang reporter, Pia Ranada, found out on Tuesday, March 6.

Ranada was told by people manning the media registration table at the Go Negosyo 10th Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit at the World Trade Center in Pasay City that she could not cover the event as she was not on the list of Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) members provided to the organizers.

The Go Negosyo staff called Larmaine De Jesus of the Malacañang Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO) – the office that aids the media in presidential coverages – to explain to Ranada why her name was not on the list when the event was open to MPC members.

"They (MARO) were told that I am now not allowed to cover even Duterte's events outside Malacañang," Ranada said.

De Jesus told Ranada that the staff of the MARO, which is under the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), presumed she had been informed about this development. De Jesus said she heard about this either this week or last week.

In a text to Ranada, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told her that the reasons for the expansion are the "same as when you were not allowed into Palace complex."

Asked which reason this was – annoyance of the President or the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision to revoke Rappler's license, Roque said, "Both."

The spokesman insisted that Rappler is not being banned from covering. "You can watch on PTV or FB (Facebook). You're still allowed to cover," he said through text message.

For journalists, however, covering an event means physical presence in the venue and access to the subjects involved. 

Ranada tried to contact PCOO Undersecretary Mia Reyes, but the official has yet to respond as of posting.

Duterte imposed a ban on Rappler coverage of events inside Malacañang on February 20, and later expanded this ban to the entire Malacañang complex, including the New Executive Building, where the press working area is located.

Rappler has been banned from Palace coverage even after the MPC itself had declared that Ranada remains an accredited member since the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision to revoke Rappler's registration is not yet final and executory.

Malacañang had earlier used the SEC ruling as basis for its decision to impose the ban on Rappler, but Duterte himself later admitted that he banned the news site because of its supposed "twisted" reporting. (READ: TIMELINE: Malacañang's evolving statements on the Rappler ban)

Duterte ordered the ban hours after the Senate hearing on the Navy's frigates deal where Special Assistant to the President Bong Go accused Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of publishing "fake news" on his alleged intervention in the multibillion-peso project.

According to a Go Negosyo press statement on its website, its annual Filipina Summit is "centered on reinforcing the entrepreneurial spirit of the Filipino people, particularly the Filipina and recognizing their capacity to be agents of change and progress."

"It also aims to provide inspiration and support to the significance of women’s economic power by covering different entrepreneurship and empowerment topics to be highlighted by plenary talks and forums featuring prominent female personalities," said Go Negosyo.

Presidential Adviser on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, CEO of RFM Corporation, is the founder of Go Negosyo.

A lady manning the reception table at the Go Negosyo event refused to give Ranada even a copy of any press release, saying the reporter didn't have an ID for the event. – Rappler.com