Duterte gives online defenders access to Palace events

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte will allow pro-administration bloggers to have access to some Palace events, Malacañang said on Thursday, February 9.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President yielded to the bloggers' request during a meeting with them on Tuesday, February 7.

"Thinking Pinoy made a request if they could access the briefings....They just want to be able to occasionally attend, visit Palace activities and the President said, 'Yes,'" Abella told Rappler on Thursday. (READ: Should bloggers be accredited to cover the Palace?)

He was referring to blogger Thinking Pinoy, whose real name is Rey Joseph Nieto. 

Nieto was among the online personalities who Duterte received in Malacañang on Tuesday, February 7.

Abella clarified that the bloggers are not seeking membership into the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC), the group of accredited journalists covering the Palace.

"They did not have any intention of becoming members of the Press Corps," said the spokesman.

The bloggers had asked for access, to among other things, regular Palace briefings where presidential spokesmen, Cabinet members, and heads of agencies discuss matters of public interest with members of the media.

"They just want access to the press briefings," said Abella.

Asked who will be allowed to cover such events as bloggers, Abella said there is only a "very limited" number of bloggers who are interested in access.

He said the group will not have a permanent office in Malacañang, unlike MPC members who have working stations in the New Executive Building inside Palace grounds.

Nieto, in a Facebook Live video posted on Wednesday night, said he and other bloggers intend to form a "Social Media Corps" that will take part in presidential coverage. 

There has been friction between some of the bloggers and the MPC. Nieto had cursed the press corps for its statement against Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar when the official had accused Palace reporters of "misreporting" the President's martial law remarks.

Prior to the meeting with Duterte, the President's online defenders had been given accreditation to cover previous presidential foreign and local trips.

Andanar is mulling giving bloggers accreditation to cover Palace events. He had previously asked MPC officers if bloggers could join the press corps, but the officers rejected the proposal, citing their qualifications for membership, among other things.

Among the criteria for acceditation as an MPC member is employment in a media organization duly recognized and certified by the Palace press office as a bona fide media group. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.