Panelo insists Rappler ban justified but doesn't know Rappler's violation
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has been asked to comment on the petition of Rappler and other journalists questioning President Rodrigo Duterte's Rappler coverage ban yet its own spokesman can't say which violation Rappler committed that justifies the ban.
"Hindi ba parang – Actually, hindi ko alam ang reason kung bakit na-ban siya kasi hindi pa ako nun eh, spokesperson, hindi ako familiar sa reason," said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo when asked by a reporter which violation of rules by Rappler led to their getting banned. (READ: TIMELINE: Malacañang's evolving statements on Rappler ban)
(Isn't it – Actually, I don't know the reason why it was banned because I wasn't spokesperson yet.)
He said the Office of the President would leave it to Solicitor General Jose Calida to respond to Rappler's petition, which the Supreme Court asked the government to submit 10 days after August 14.
Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, said Duterte's ban on Rappler is justified because the ability of a media organization to cover events of public interest is a "privilege, not a right."
For instance, he said, any Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) member can be "excluded" from such events and activities if they are "rude" and "disrespectful."
"Meaning to say, like for instance, you’re supposed to be MPC there are certain rules you also have to observe as guest of the Palace. If you violate that, if you are rude, disrespectful, of course it's the right of the Palace either to reprimand you or to exclude you because you have to observe courtesies, decorum, respect," said Panelo.
But asked which rules as "guests" of the Palace Rappler violated, the spokesman said he did not know.
Panelo said the coverage ban does not constitute prior restraint because Rappler "is not being stopped from writing stories" and is "not prohibited from publishing what it writes."
Rappler reporters and correspondents have been barred from covering all official events and activities of Duterte's, including those "open to media."
Though it remains a member of the Malacañang Press Corps, none of its reporters can enter Malacañang.
The ban, in place since February 2018, at first was said to apply only to certain Rappler journalists and only to the Malacañang complex. It was eventually expanded to cover all Rappler reporters and correspondents and presidential events held outside Malacañang.
The Palace is yet to produce any written document that lays down the parameters of the ban and its legal basis.
Last April, Rappler filed a petition questioning the ban before the Supreme Court. Other journalists and media practitioners who felt the ban affects not just Rappler but other journalists asked to be part of Rappler's petition, which the Supreme Court eventually allowed.
Malacañang has repeatedly insisted the ban is not an assault on press freedom as it supposedly affects only Rappler's journalists. – Rappler.com