Malacañang cancels Duterte's press conference

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – An hour before it was scheduled to begin, President Rodrigo Duterte's much-awaited press conference on Tuesday, September 11, was cancelled, Malacañang announced.

Instead, Duterte decided to hold a "tete-a-tete" with Chief Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo. 

Reporters were sent a message at around 2 pm that the press conference was taken out of Duterte's Tuesday events.

"Hi all, I would like to relay that the PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte) press conference today is no longer included in today's activities," said Media Relations Undersecretary Mia Reyes.

Minutes later, Duterte's new schedule was sent – this time, including a "tete-a-tete with Sec Panelo" at 3:15 pm. Only state-run PTV4 and close-in presidential media are allowed in the event. A "tete-a-tete" is a conversation between two people, usually in private. A photo of the Duterte-Panelo "tete-a-tete" venue, Malacañang's Rizal Hall, shows two chairs facing each other, as in a talk show.

At the time the message was sent, Palace reporters were already preparing to enter Malacañang for the briefing as they were told Duterte's press conference would be open to accredited media.

The other day, Special Assistant to the President Bong Go told Rappler that Panelo was going to "co-anchor" the press conference. When asked if media would be allowed to ask questions, Go said, " Ask ko pa (I will ask)."

He also described the event as "showbiz type." Duterte apparently had something "specific" to say during the interview.

Moments after Reyes' messages, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque faced confused reporters at the Palace press briefing room.

He denied there were plans for Duterte to hold a press conference, despite advisories from Malacañang's Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO) that used the term "press conference" to refer to Duterte's 3 pm engagement.

Roque said Panelo would be asking questions from reporters.

"Who issued the advisory? It’s still the same because your questions were collected and will be asked.... The format is the questions will be asked by Presidential Legal Counsel Panelo," he said. – 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.

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