Roque: Rappler reporter barred because 'buwisit sa kanya ang Presidente'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – "Buwisit sa kanya ang Presidente." (The President is irritated at her.)

This was how Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque explained President Rodrigo Duterte's order to bar Rappler reporter Pia Ranada from entering Malacañang Palace.

"Hindi lang pupuwede magkaroon ngayon ng access sa Presidente dahil buwisit sa kanya ang Presidente," he said on Wednesday, February 21, in an interview with radio station DZMM.

(She can't have access now to the President because the President is irritated at her.)

This comes a day after Roque said personal dislike of an official is "not a valid reason" to bar a reporter from covering events in Malacañang.

"It is not a ground because someone dislikes you, no!" he told members of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) during their press briefing on Tuesday, February 20.

Roque's latest remark also contradicts that of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea who said Duterte had only banned Rappler because he was just implementing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision against the media entity. (READ: Rappler to Malacañang: Don't use power to obstruct)

'Lost confidence'

Roque also sought to explain the contradiction between his statement  on Tuesday morning – that Rappler can still cover Malacañang – and the statement from the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES) that Rappler can no longer cover Malacañang because it has lost its accreditation with the MPC. 

The OES had said that because of the SEC decision against Rappler, Rappler has now lost its license to operate and now needs a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals (CA).

Roque said that Ranada had only been allowed to cover presidential events after the SEC decision in January because the President liked her.

"Unang desisyon ng Presidente no'ng unang lumabas ang desisyon ng SEC, palibhasa dahil malapit sa kanya si Pia Ranada, talagang 'yan ang desisyon. Habang hindi pinal ang desisyon ng SEC, payagan si Pia Ranada," said Roque.

(The first decision of the President when the SEC decision came out was, because he is close to Pia Ranada, while the SEC decision is not yet final, was to allow Pia Ranada to cover.)

Duterte made the decision, said Roque, despite lawyers in the Palace saying that Ranada has no more basis to be accredited until the CA issues a TRO against the SEC decision.

But all this changed when Duterte "lost confidence" in Rappler.

"Pero ang Presidente rin ang nag-utos noong alas dos ng hapon na talagang hindi na pupuwede ang Rappler sa Malacañang dahil nawalan na nga ng tiwala ang Presidente diyan sa Rappler," said Roque.

(The President ordered that Rappler really cannot cover Malacañang because the President has lost confidence in Rappler.)

Rappler said in a statement that media accreditation in Malacañang does not rely on who the incumbent president likes or trusts.

"Accreditation to cover Malacañang Palace is not dependent on the liking or trust of whoever is president. The Malacañang Press Corps’ rules on membership are very clear. Accreditation is not a personal issue but a recognition of the role of the media as check and balance in a democracy," Rappler said.

"Betrayal has no place in any professional relationship between a government official, including the President, and a journalist. Secretary Roque as presidential spokesperson should know better," it added. – Rappler.com