Filipino journalists

Palace reporter, MPC raise alarm over reporter denied accreditation

Bea Cupin
Palace reporter, MPC raise alarm over reporter denied accreditation

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles' Facebook page

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles cites the supposed violation of the Safe Spaces Act in denying one veteran news reporter accreditation

MANILA, Philippines – The Malacañang Press Corps raised concern on Monday, August 15, over the Office of the Press Secretary’s decision to deny the accreditation of a veteran reporter, Rose Novenario, of Hataw!

In a statement, the MPC – an independent organization of reporters assigned to cover the incumbent President – called on the Press Secretary to “clearly state Miss Novenario’s alleged violations as well as the circumstances that led to the denial of her accreditation as we need clear-cut rules on what is deemed as unacceptable behavior.”

The Office of the Press Secretary, headed by Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles, had denied accreditation to Novenario citing alleged “unbecoming” conduct and “name calling.” Novenario, who has covered the Palace since the early 2000s, said it was a “general effort to selectively restrict [her] access to the Palace.”

The MPC said Angeles’ office should be transparent over its decision-making to “ensure that future decisions related to access to the Palace and the President will be reasonable and not arbitrary.”

Angeles has yet to respond formally to the MPC’s statement but confirmed before a Senate panel the same day that they had denied Novenario’s accreditation. Speaking before the Senate Committee on Public Information and Mass Media on August 15, Angeles claimed Novenario had uttered “anti-LGBT” words directed at officials of her office.

Tinawag silang: ‘itong mga baklang ito,’ among other things,” said Angeles, when asked by Senator Raffy Tulfo, a former broadcaster, about the denial of Novenario’s accreditation. (She referred to them as “these gays,” among other things.)

In Filipino slang, the phrase “itong mga baklang ito,” can be used in a derogatory manner. “Bakla,” is both the Filipino word for “gay man” but can also refer, colloquially, to any person who identifies as LGBTQ+. While the word has been mostly reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community, it can also still be used as a derogatory term.

Angeles said the utterance was in violation of the Safe Spaces Act which, among other things, protects people from sexist, homophobic, and transphobic remarks.

Eh kung yun pala ang sinabi niya, eh karapat-dapat pong parusahan (If that’s what she said, then it’s only right she be punished),” said Senator Tulfo, in response to Angeles’ narration. Tulfo’s brother, former broadcaster Erwin Tulfo, is a colleague of Angeles’ in the Cabinet as social welfare secretary.

In a statement, Novenario’s counsel Nelson Trojillo denied Angeles’ allegations. “In fact, there was a violation of Ms. Novenario’s constitutional right to due process when she was not sufficiently informed of these alleged violations and was not given a chance to be heard,” he said in a statement released late Monday, August 15.

Trojillo said that the denial of an International Press Center (IPC) accreditation had a “chilling effect” on free speech and press freedom and that supposedly, “only the Philippine Press Institute can determine whether Ms. Novenario has violated the Journalist’s Code of Ethics, and not the Office of the Press Secretary.”

Novenario’s office, in an early August 9 letter to Angeles, asked the press secretary to show proof – screenshots of messages Novenario had allegedly sent – of their basis for calling out her supposed unbecoming behavior. Hataw also said that Novenario was not informed of the allegations prior and that Angeles’ office “already condemned Ms. Novenario and is thus pre-judged in violation of her right to due process.”

The MPC in its statement said Novenario would remain a member of the organization “despite the ban” and that it would “continue to exhaust measures to address the issue, taking into account the need to balance the role of journalists to report independently and to ensure proper decorum in the performance of such a duty.”

The MPC, which is led by an elected group of officers, regularly dialogues with officials of the Palace, particularly those under the Office of the Press Secretary, on issues that range from access to information in Malacañang to accreditation issues.

Angeles’ office had recently required all members of the MPC – including those who’ve covered the Palace since before the previous administration – to submit to an accreditation process. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.