CAVITE, Philippines – The Philippine Navy refused to allow Rappler to cover its 121st anniversary celebration which President Rodrigo Duterte attended on Monday, June 17.
Rappler reporter Sofia Tomacruz earlier confirmed her and production specialist Jeff Digma's attendance with the Naval Public Affairs Office, which received their requirements needed for accreditation to cover the event on Sunday, June 16.
Rappler was only told at the venue in the Navy's base in Sangley Point, Cavite City on Monday, that it could not cover the event. Guards at the main gate informed Rappler they were given instructions not to allow the news organization to enter its premises.
Asked why it could not cover the event, guards said they were only instructed to bar representatives of the organization. This comes as the ban against Rappler from the President’s public events has been in effect for 16 months now.
Duterte attended the Navy's 121st anniversary, which came 8 days after a Chinese ship rammed, sank, and abandoned 22 Filipino fishermen of F/B Gem-Ver in Recto Bank (Reed Bank), an oil-rich underwater reef formation in the West Philippine Sea that belongs to the Philippines but is being coveted by China.
During his speech, Duerte dismissed the sinking of the Filipino fishing boat as a "maritime incident" as he spared China from criticism over the incident.
This was Duterte's first statement on the issue, 6 days after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana first exposed it on Independence Day, June 12.
Earlier statements from Lorenzana and the Philippine military strongly condemned the incident, saying it was "far from accidental" and that China's actions were "not the action from a responsible and friendly people."
Prior to Duterte's first mention of the issue, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo defended the President's silence as he said Duterte "as a lawyer" was waiting "for the facts to come in." Malacañang likewise indicated its openness to China's claim denying it intentionally rammed and sank F/B Gem-Ver.
Testimonies from Filipino fishermen involved said it feels like Filipinos "are slaves of China" who have no rights over their own waters. (READ: Malacañang refutes PH boat owner: 'We can never be slaves') – Rappler.com