Rappler reporter remains in Malacañang Press Corps unless SEC ruling final – MPC

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Malacañang Press Corps asserted on Wednesday, February 21, that Rappler reporter Pia Ranada remains an MPC member free to cover presidential events unless the Court of Appeals (CA) rules on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) order to revoke the registration of Rappler.

The MPC released the statement after a general assembly where members tackled the order of President Rodrigo Duterte to ban Ranada from presidential events, among other related issues.

"Rappler will remain a member of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) unless the Court of Appeals upholds the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking its registration," said the MPC.

"MPC, an independent organization of journalists regularly covering the President and Malacañang activities, asserts its prerogative to accept, suspend, or revoke membership to the body," it added.

Palace reporters said while they respect Malacañang's discretion to set "accreditation rules" for presidential coverage, they "deplore any arbitrary attempt" to keep out specific reporters who are only doing their job.

"While we respect the discretion of Malacañang to set accreditation rules for presidential events, we deplore any arbitrary attempt to bar access and harass reporters performing their duty as an independent monitor of power and guardian of public interest," the MPC said.

"We also urge Malacañang to communicate properly the grounds for such restrictions," it added.

In an interview on dzMM ahead of the general assembly, MPC president Reymund Tinaza said the MPC "reserves the right to accredit its own members."

"Hindi ito pinapakialaman ng Malacañang partikular ng dating Office of the Press Secretary, na ngayon ay PCOO. So hindi sila nakikialam at hindi sila dapat makialam sa pag-accredit ng ating miyembro," he said.

(Malacañang, particularly the former Office of the Press Secretary, now the PCOO, does not interfere in this. So they do not interfere and should not interfere in the accreditation of our members.)

Duterte gave the order to ban Ranada around midnight Monday, February 20, hours after the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigates 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)

The President was apparently unaware that membership in the MPC is determined by the MPC Executive Board, composed of its officers, to ensure the independence of the group. 

Palace officials have insisted that Duterte ordered the ban based on the SEC ruling, which supposedly caused the revocation of Rappler's registration. Under the MPC rules, media organizations seeking accreditation in the MPC must be duly registered with the SEC.

The SEC decision, issued on January 15, is not yet final and executory. It is under appeal before the CA and can be elevated to the Supreme Court (SC) if necessary. Given this, Rappler continues to be registered with the SEC and satisfies the requirements for MPC accreditation.

On Wednesday, however, it became clear that Duterte wanted Ranada out of presidential events because she "irritated" him. (READ: Roque: Rappler reporter barred because 'bwisit sa kanya ang Presidente')

This is the first known incident after the Marcos regime where a Philippine president specifically ordered to ban a journalist, more so a member of the MPC, from all presidential events.

In a statement, Rappler described the move as "another instance of power attempting to intimidate independent journalists." It praised Ranada for her courage in "asking the tough questions that demand clear answers." (READ: Rappler to Malacañang: Don't use power to obstruct

Here is the full MPC statement:

Rappler will remain a member of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) unless the Court of Appeals upholds the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) revoking its registration.  

MPC, an independent organization of journalists regularly covering the President and Malacañang activities, asserts its prerogative to accept, suspend, or revoke membership to the body.

While we respect the discretion of Malacañang to set accreditation rules for presidential events, we deplore any arbitrary attempt to bar access and harass reporters performing their duty as an independent monitor of power and guardian of public interest. 

We also urge Malacañang to communicate properly the grounds for such restrictions.

– Rappler.com