MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday, March 1, that he banned Rappler from Malacañang because of its supposed "twisted" reporting.
Duterte's rationale for the ban on Rappler was different from what he and his officials had repeatedly cited since the President ordered it on February 21 – the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to revoke the social news site’s registration, even though the ruling was not yet final and executory.
“Mahirap kasi ‘pag palabas ‘yan, kita mo ‘yung mga newspaper, mga Rappler. Iba itong speech ko ngayon. Bukas, iba ang presentation niyan. Kaya bawal ngayon sila,” Duterte said during a SWAT event in Davao City on Thursday.
(It’s hard when it comes out in the newspapers, like Rappler. My speech now will be presented differently tomorrow. That’s why they’ve been banned.)
“That is my order. Do not talk to people who will produce lies out of your statements and who can twist it forever to the angle that they would like it to,” added Duterte.
He even insisted that he and other government officials would admit to anything as long as it were true. But he gave a caveat: they would deny something if “it is not the time to talk about it.”
“If we deny, it’s really because part of our duty is it is not the time to talk about it. ‘And as of this time, we just would like to investigate the whole case until it is–there is a conclusion.’ Just like that,” said Duterte.
Where there is a contradiction: Just that morning, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque told reporters that Malacañang did not ban Rappler for reasons outside of the SEC ruling.
“We did not ban Rappler. It was the SEC that came up with the decision that they are foreign-owned. And therefore on that basis they declared the corporate existence of Rappler Incorporated as being null and void,” said Roque.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea had also said the order to stop Rappler reporters from covering Malacañang was also due to the SEC ruling alone.
"He (Duterte) was just following the decision of… the SEC," the senior Cabinet official said on February 20.
Duterte followed this line on February 22, when he spoke on the ban on Rappler for the first time and said his reason for giving the order was to enforce the SEC ruling.
"Because it is not a legitimate agency, according to SEC. So I am now invoking executive action based on the SEC ruling," the President said then.
Why it matters: Malacañang has fiercely denied that the ban on Rappler is an attack on press freedom, arguing that the order arose from the corporate regulation issue cited in the SEC ruling. For Malacañang, the SEC ruling provided a technicality to serve as basis for the ban. But the President’s latest remarks show that his displeasure with Rappler’s reporting was the primary reason for the order.
Duterte, however, had yet to cite specific examples of when Rappler “twisted” his statement or “produced lies” out of his speeches. Rappler has a Corrections Page that cites stories that had been edited to correct mistakes.
Roque had said in previous press conferences and media interviews that Duterte was particularly angered by Rappler’s stories on the supposed intervention of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go in the Philippine Navy frigates deal. He said then that Duterte was "bwisit (infuriated)" with Rappler. – Rappler.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.