MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – More than a week after President Rodrigo Duterte banned Rappler from the Malacañang complex, he and senior Palace officials still can’t seem to agree on why exactly the ban was imposed.
The lack of information of top officials about the order and the ever-changing tune about it has confused the public. The National Union of Journalists in the Philippines has slammed the ban as a display of “extreme pettiness” on Duterte’s part. Lawmakers and other critics have called the move an act of “censorship” with a “chilling effect” on media.
Here’s a timeline of Duterte’s and Malacañang officials’ evolving statements about Rappler’s Palace coverage:
January 15, 2018
- Rappler announces Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) decision to revoke its license, a decision the SEC says is not yet final and executory
- Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque agrees, saying Rappler can “exhaust all available legal remedies until the decision becomes final”
- Roque says Rappler can still cover Malacañang as its corporate personality is “separate” from “the exercise of the profession of journalism itself”
- The Senate holds a hearing on the Navy’s frigates deal where Special Assistant to the President Bong Go accuses Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer of publishing “fake news.” Duterte watches the hearing. (READ: Rappler statement on Bong Go’s ‘fake news’ accusation)
- 10:30 am – Rappler is temporarily barred from entering the New Executive Building, where the press working area is located, inside the Malacañang complex
- 10:42 am – Media Relations Undersecretary Mia Reyes says she was not informed of the order against Rappler
- 12:00 noon – Roque claims he was not informed of the order against Rappler. He says personal dislike is “not a valid reason” for barring a reporter from covering Malacañang.
- Roque, quoting Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, says Rappler can cover Malacañang since it has a pending appeal with the Court of Appeals. He says this will change only “after the Court of Appeals decides and if the decision of the SEC is sustained.”
- 2:00 pm – Rappler is told the ban was ordered by Duterte himself
- 3:00 pm – Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra claims there was a “miscommunication” between Roque and Medialdea. What Medialdea meant, he said, was that the SEC decision is now considered executory and that Rappler can only cover Malacañang if it secures a temporary restraining order from the CA.
- Around 8:00 pm – Medialdea says Duterte’s ban on Rappler is only his way of implementing the SEC ruling and that Duterte’s annoyance has nothing to do with it.
- Rappler is informed by Undersecretary Reyes that its reporters are barred from entering the entire Malacañang complex.
- Roque, without addressing his supposed miscommunication with Medialdea, does a 360-degree turn and says Rappler can no longer cover Malacañang because its reportage has “annoyed” the President.
- The Malacañang Press Corps asserts that Rappler is still considered among its members even as its reporters cannot enter Malacañang.
- Roque now says Rappler was only allowed inside Malacañang after the SEC ruling “because of liberality of the President” which ceased “because of (reporter Pia Ranada’s) insistence that her fake news was, in fact, news.”
- Duterte appears to echo Medialdea, saying his ban on Rappler is his way of “invoking executive action based on the SEC ruling.”
- Roque says the order against Rappler was purely due to the SEC ruling.
- That evening, Duterte admits he banned Rappler because of his anger over its “twisted” reporting.
- Rappler is barred from covering a Go Negosyo event where President Duterte is the guest speaker
- Malacañang media relations staff says Rappler is now banned from covering all of the President’s events, even those outside Malacañang
- Roque says the reason for the expansion of the ban is still Duterte’s annoyance with Rappler’s reporting and the SEC ruling
April 11, 2019
- Rappler reporters Ranada, Bobby Lagsa, Camille Elemia, Mara Cepeda, Ralf Rivas, and Raymon Dullana file a petition before the Supreme Court for the lifting of the ban