press freedom

Romualdez article takedown: Editor quits, asserts no official immune from scrutiny

Dwight de Leon

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Romualdez article takedown: Editor quits, asserts no official immune from scrutiny
'There was no explanation or justification for the removal,' former US editor Rene Ciria-Cruz says of the deleted story on Speaker Martin Romualdez's generous donation to fund Harvard University's Filipino language course

MANILA, Philippines – The US bureau chief of resigned after the article on Speaker Martin Romualdez’s supposed generous donation to Harvard University was unceremoniously removed from the Philippine news outlet’s website.

“I tendered my resignation on September 1 because no public officials should be shielded from scrutiny by the free press,” veteran journalist Rene Ciria-Cruz said on Tuesday, September 19, in response to Rappler’s query.

“I don’t know who among the owners ordered the removal or who in the Manila editorial office actually took it down. There was no explanation or justification for the removal,” he added.

On August 29, US-based magazine The FilAm published an exclusive story detailing Romualdez’s $1-million donation to fund Harvard’s first-ever Filipino language course., which had a content partnership deal with The Filam, republished the story two days later, but it was subsequently taken down.

The FilAm said the article “was deactivated by order of the owners, who are related to House Speaker Martin Romualdez.”

Martin’s brother is Philip Romualdez, whose wife Sandy Prieto Romualdez serves as CEO of the Inquirer Group of Companies.

Since the original article was removed from’s website, it has only published one article mentioning Romualdez’s supposed donation – a column from Inquirer USA on Wednesday, September 13.

It did not write about Romualdez’s statement on the matter, as well as the concerns raised by some groups through press releases.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines flagged the article’s removal on Monday, September 18.

“When done arbitrarily, they always build resentment among staff and affect a masthead’s credibility,” the group said. “That the takedown was met with little outcry or follow-up also points to the chill that has pervaded the media community in recent years.”

How did others react to the donation reports?

The Harvard Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, reported on September 14 that Romualdez committed $2 million to Harvard, twice the amount cited in The FilAm report.

Both publications cited well-placed individuals who requested anonymity.

Some groups have sounded the alarm over the lack of transparency surrounding the reported donation.

Advocacy organization US Filipinos for Good Governance said the sources of the $2 million should be disclosed, while progressive group Alliance of Concerned Teachers sought assurance from the Speaker that the donation did not come from government funds.

That amount is equivalent to around 25% of Romualdez’s P475-million net worth in 2016, the last time he publicly declared his wealth.

The group Campaign Against the Return of the Marcoses and Martial Law also called the supposed donation a “vanity project” aimed at deodorizing the Marcos name.

Romualdez easily became House speaker in 2022 after his cousin, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., won the presidential election.

He leads a super majority alliance in the House where opposition representation has significantly diminished through the years.

Romualdez declined to confirm or deny on Sunday, September 18, whether he indeed made a donation to Harvard.

“Harvard has already communicated that they ‘do not discuss the terms or specifics of individual gifts,’ and I stand by that principle,” he said. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    A sincere appreciation to veteran journalist Rene Ciria-Cruz for showing his courage to stand up for the Principle of Transparency (“… no public officials should be shielded from scrutiny by the Free Press.”). I got two lessons from his recent experience: 1) Readers should not trust media corporations owned by relatives or in any way connected to corrupt politicians; 2) The “unceremonious” and “unexplained” removal of a specific article on Speaker Romualdez’s supposed donation to Harvard University – showed that the Romualdez-Marcos Political Dynasty has something to hide. Lastly, the incident describes the Corruption-Disinformation-Repression nature of the Marcos Political Dynasty.

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Dwight de Leon

Dwight de Leon is a multimedia reporter who covers President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Malacañang, and the Commission on Elections for Rappler.