MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte spoke for the first time about his order to ban Rappler reporter Pia Ranada and CEO Maria Ressa from Malacañang on Thursday, February 22.
Responding to questions in an interview with reporters in Iloilo, he said he would only allow the two in Malacañang if the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) decision to revoke Rappler's registration is overturned.
"Kung sabihin na legitimate sila, pasok kayo uli, walang problema sa akin 'yan (If they say that [Rappler] is legitimate, then come back in, no problem with me)," he told reporters after attending the wake of slain overseas Filipino worker Joanna Demafelis.
The President said his reason for giving the order was to enforce the SEC ruling.
"Because it is not a legitimate agency, according to SEC. So I am now invoking executive action based on the SEC ruling," he said.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque had previously said Duterte ordered the ban because he was "irritated" by Ranada's questioning on the Philippine Navy frigates deal even after the Senate hearing which, Malacañang claimed, proved the "innocence" of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go.
Duterte also revived his allegation that Rappler has ties with the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
"'Di naman Filipino pala ang may-ari o baka CIA-sponsored, bawal rin yan...That is the history of America, CIA, and 'yung political dissenters inaalagan nila. Eventually mamili sila ng kandidato, utusin sila," said Duterte.
(They aren't owned by Filipinos or maybe they are CIA-sponsored, that's also prohibited...That is the history of America, CIA, and they take care of political dissenters. Eventually, they will choose a candidate they will order around.)
He alleged that Rappler had constantly tried to "undermine" his administration.
"Rappler, read it, it takes every chance to undermine you," said Duterte.
He then told reporters around him to observe the "distortion" Rappler makes when it reports news.
"They will make a distortion or a report that is distortion. Read it. We're all together here. Look at their reporting," he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Rappler has denied all of the President's allegations. In a statement, Rappler said it is 100% owned by Filipinos and that is not in any way controlled by the CIA.
Human rights groups and media groups have slammed the SEC decision and Malacañang's coverage ban on Rappler as assaults on press freedom. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.