MANILA, Philippines – Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, on World Press Freedom Day, promised he would not ban reporters from Malacañang nor order the closure of media firms should he win the Philippine presidency on May 9.
“I’ll speak my mind, I’ll speak my heart. Walang (No) sugarcoating…. This is me and this is the kind of presidency na i-offer ko sa inyo, at hindi kita iba-ban, hindi ako magsasara ng prangkisa (I won’t ban you, I won’t shut down a franchise),” he said on Tuesday, May 3, during a media interview.
He had been asked by CNN Philippines’ Paolo Barcelon how he would treat the press if he were president, given World Press Freedom Day being commemorated on Tuesday.
Moreno’s remarks depart from President Rodrigo Duterte’s own moves in relation to press freedom.
Duterte has banned Rappler reporters from covering his official events since 2018. His ban has been challenged before the Supreme Court by Rappler and other journalists and media personalities. Duterte’s rants and threats against broadcasting giant ABS-CBN led to its shutdown in 2020 – in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic when media workers feared for their jobs due to the economic downturn.
Moreno has praised other aspects of the Duterte administration, such as his infrastructure program and facets of his anti-illegal drugs campaign. He previously said he would welcome the President’s endorsement and even wanted him on his senatorial slate back when there was talk Duterte would run for senator. These moves led observers to say Moreno was courting Duterte supporters.
‘Gold medal’ in interviews
The 47-year-old Manila mayor said his pro-media freedom stance is proven by his track record on the campaign trail. Without fail, the Mayor has granted media interviews at the start of every campaign sortie, or nearly every day he is on the campaign trail.
“Hindi ko naman itatangos ilong ko, kayo dito, tingnan ninyo ‘yung ibang kandidato, na-iinterview ‘nyo ba nang ganito, natatanong ‘nyo ba nang ano man ang gusto ‘nyong itanong?” said Moreno, addressing campaign beat reporters.
(Not to make myself look good, but you here, look at the other candidates, can you interview them like this, can you ask whatever you want to ask?)
“Kung may gold medal for interview, malamang gold medalist ako (If there is a gold medal for interviews, for sure I would be a gold medalist),” he added.
It is true that Moreno is the presidential candidate to give the most number of media interviews. He and his camp have also never asked reporters in advance for their questions nor limited them to certain topics.
However, Moreno has had tussles with certain reporters about their stories. There was an ethical point his camp wanted to raise about one story and at one point his camp sought to bar a reporter from covering a campaign trip, according to sources privy to the matter. But this was eventually resolved by his camp and the reporter who was not hindered from covering future sorties.
Moreno was asked by Rappler how he would deal with a reporter whose headline about him he does not like. His response: readers would be the ultimate judge of the reporters’ credibility.
“Point of view of a viewer or a reader, be careful because you may lose your credibility. It is your profession, it is your career, if you keep on doing biases or slant… you have to be careful. But I’m not your parent, I’m not your father or mother, it is the reader who will judge you,” said the Mayor.
He then quoted his idol, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who had a complicated relationship with the press and whose term included arrests of journalists and political activists, especially in its early years.
Moreno was unable to recall the exact Lee quote but based on his paraphrase, it is most likely this famous 1971 quote: “Freedom of the press, freedom of the news media, must be subordinated to the overriding needs of the integrity of Singapore, and to the primacy of purpose of an elected government.”
The Manila mayor aspiring for the presidency said that like Lee, he would be candid about his thoughts about anything, including the media, because he wanted citizens to see his human side.
“‘Pag kailangan magalit, dapat makita ng tao na galit. ‘Pag kailangan masaktan, kailangan makita ng tao. ‘Pag masaya, kailangan makita ng tao masaya. Para makita ng tao na hindi ako iba sa kanila,” said Moreno.
(When there is a need for me to be angry, the people must see the anger. When I am hurt, the people need to see that. When I am happy, they need to see I am happy. So people can see I am no different from them.) – Rappler.com