Medialdea: Duterte just following SEC decision with ban on Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said President Rodrigo Duterte's order to bar Rappler CEO Maria Ressa and reporter Pia Ranada from entering Malacañang was only his way of implementing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) decision.

Medialdea, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, February 20, was asked if it were Duterte's "desire" to bar Ranada and Ressa from the Palace.

"No, he was just following the decision of the Court of Appeals (CA), ah, of the SEC," said the senior Cabinet official.

However, the SEC itself had earlier stated that its decision is not yet final and executory. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque had also previously said Rappler can continue covering Malacañang since the CA has yet to decide on Rappler's petition.

Yet Medialdea insisted the SEC decision is executory.

"No, he is just following because the SEC decision is executory," the Executive Secretary said.

Medialdea confirmed that Malacañang deems Rappler's accreditation to cover the Palace as revoked, as stated earlier by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

"There was already an SEC decision saying, revoking their license. Pia's accreditation is from that particular accreditation so that accreditation is gone, in effect," said Medialdea.

This goes against Roque's public statement earlier that day in which he maintained that Ranada can only be restricted from entering the Palace after the CA decides on Rappler's petition. Roque had in fact been quoting Medialdea when he made the statement.

The incident is also curious because of the timing. The SEC decision was made public on January 15, more than a month before Duterte's order to ban Ressa and Ranada from the Palace.

The President had made the decision right after the Senate hearing on the Philippine Navy frigates deal to which Special Assistant to the President Bong Go was called after Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer published reports of his intervention. (READ: Rappler statement on Bong Go's fake news accusation)

Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno, dean of the De La Salle University (DLSU) College of Law, said that even without a temporary restraining order (TRO), the case remains pending.

"Government must respect the fact that the case is still with the Court of Appeals.... It is a direct way of preventing Rappler from reporting in Malacañang. This is a form of censorship," Diokno said. (READ: Rappler to Malacañang: Don't use power to obstruct– Rappler.com