Palace media slam Andanar over 'misreporting' tirade

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – The Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) slammed Palace Communications Secretary Martin Andanar for accusing its members of "misreporting" President Rodrigo Duterte's recent statements on martial law.

"We take exception to the statement of Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar accusing the media of 'misreporting' President Rodrigo Duterte's statement about martial law," the MPC said in a statement released on Wednesday, January 18. (READ: Duterte: I will declare martial law if I want to)

It was released after a majority of MPC members voted to issue the statement. MPC members from state-run media agencies did not join in the voting.

The MPC said it issued the statement after its officers reviewed its members' published reports on Duterte's martial law remarks in Davao City on Saturday, January 14. Some reports also featured video recordings of the President's remarks.

"A review of the President's speech last Saturday in Davao City would reveal that the media merely paraphrased or translated some of his lines," the MPC officers concluded.

It supported its conclusion by citing Duterte's specific remarks on martial law on January 14:

"You know I have to protect the Filipino people. It’s my duty. I tell you now, if I have to declare martial law, I will declare it. Not about invasion, insurrection, not about danger. I will declare martial law to preserve my nation, period."

"Wala akong pakialam diyan sa (I don't care about the) Supreme Court or – because the thing, the right to preserve one's life and my nation, my country transcends everything else even the limitation. Kung gusto ko at (If I want to and) it will deteriorate into something really virulent, I will declare martial law if I wanted to. Walang makapigil sa akin (Nothing can stop me)."

"They say, ‘Why are you declaring martial law?’ ‘Because I have to preserve the Filipino people and the youth of this land.' That's why I said, ‘Do not go into that thing because I will kill you.’ That's what I said in Davao, eh di namatay na talaga (they really died). Anak ka ng (Son of a)…Sinabi ko sa 'yo (I told you), do not tinker with this; it's a very dangerous thing.'"

The MPC urged Andanar and his staff to read reports on Duterte's statements in full.

"We encourage the good secretary and his officials to read the entire news stories, not just the heads or titles to get a better picture of the media's coverage of the President," the MPC said.

'Disturbing'

The MPC, the group of accredited journalists assigned to cover the presidency, said it was disturbed by how some administration officials tended to blame the media whenever the President's controversial statements drew criticism.

"We are disturbed by the propensity of the officials of this administration to blame the media whenever the inflammatory statements of the President stir controversy or draw flak. This trend should stop as it would not contribute to the elevation of the level of public discourse," it said.

"We hope that such behavior is not an attempt to discredit or undermine the media, which play a crucial role in keeping our democracy healthy and checking those in power, and supplant them with information sources that would push for an agenda that is less noble than the truth," it added.

The MPC reminded Andanar that "the media have no obligation to please or satisfy their sources because their loyalty is to the citizens, those who will be affected by the actions of people who are far more powerful than them."

On Sunday, January 15, Andanar issued a statement describing articles about Duterte's speech as examples of "irresponsible" journalism. He decried what he called "the latest misreporting that the President will declare martial law simply 'if he wants to' or that 'no one can stop the President from declaring martial law."

"Such headlines sow panic and confusion to many. We consider this kind of reportage as the height of journalistic irresponsibility," Andanar said then.

Other Cabinet officials sought to downplay the President's statements on martial law, among them Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II who said "the public and the media should not be surprised and rather be already accustomed to this mindset of the President."

Duterte had made contrasting pronouncements on martial law. He had said that he did not favor the imposition of martial law to fight illegal drugs, though he considered it, but had also said in a previous occasion that the president must be given the "sole power" to declare martial law. 

Blaming the media

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines had earlier posted an open letter to Andanar, also in response to his "misreporting" allegation, entitled, "Rediscover Your Way Back to the Truth."

"As a former news reader who no doubt valued truth in reportage and clarity in communication, we are sure it pains you to have to spin your principal's words every time he utters something inappropriate," the NUJP said in the open letter posted on its Facebook page on Monday, January 16.

The NUJP expressed its dismay that Andanar, a former broadcast journalist, had chosen to take the "easier but utterly dishonest tack of blaming the media for accurately reporting your principal's remarks that he may declare martial law even outside the clear justifications and limits set by the Constitution."

"You cannot falsely accuse the profession of misreporting by peddling brazenly outrageous lies. That is so beneath you," the NUJP told Andanar.

It added that contrary to the communications secretary's claims, it was Duterte's words and Andanar's "sorry attempts at creative imagination" that contributed to the "confusion."

Here is the full statement of the MPC:

We take exception to the statement of Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar accusing the media of "misreporting" President Rodrigo Duterte's statement about Martial Law.

A review of the President's speech last Saturday in Davao City would reveal that the media merely paraphrased or translated some of his remarks.

In particular, we are referring to  following lines:

"You know I have to protect the Filipino people. It’s my duty. I tell you now, if I have to declare Martial Law, I will declare it. Not about invasion, insurrection, not about danger. I will declare Martial Law to preserve my nation, period."

"Wala akong pakialam diyan sa Supreme Court or --- because the thing, the right to preserve one’s life and my nation, my country transcends everything else even the limitation. Kung gusto ko at it will deteriorate into something really virulent, I will declare Martial Law if I wanted to. Walang makapigil sa akin."

"They say, ‘Why are you declaring Martial Law?’ ‘Because I have to preserve the Filipino people and the youth of this land.' That’s why I said, ‘Do not go into that thing because I will kill you.’ That’s what I said in Davao, eh di namatay na talaga. Anak ka ng…Sinabi ko sa’yo, do not tinker with this, it’s a very dangerous thing."

The media have no obligation to please or satisfy their sources because their loyalty is to the citizens, those who will be affected by the actions of people who are far more powerful than them.

We encourage the good secretary and his officials to read the entire news stories, not just the heads or titles, to get a better picture of the media's coverage of the President.

We are disturbed and appalled by the propensity of the officials of this administration to blame the media whenever the inflammatory statements of the president stir controversy or draw flak.

This trend should stop as it would not contribute to the elevation of the level of public discourse.

We hope that such behavior is not an attempt to discredit or undermine the media, which plays a crucial role in keeping our democracy healthy and checking those in power, and supplant them with information sources that would push for an agenda that is less than noble than the truth.

– 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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