Media and journalism issues

Inquirer.net defends takedown of Romualdez Harvard donation story

Dwight de Leon

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Inquirer.net defends takedown of Romualdez Harvard donation story

Photo from congress.gov.ph; Screenshot from Inquirer.net; Graphics by Guia Abogado/Rappler

(2nd UPDATE) Inquirer Interactive says the article detailing Speaker Martin Romualdez's supposed $1-million donation to fund Harvard's Filipino language course was removed for not meeting the website's editorial standards

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine news outlet Inquirer.net stood by its decision to delete the story detailing House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s supposed generous donation to Harvard University, saying it violated the website’s standards.

The statement came a day after the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) flagged the article’s takedown.

In a statement on Tuesday night, September 19, the publication said the article did not meet its rules on accuracy, transparency, and accountability.

“The report was based mainly on unnamed sources or statements of persons who refused to be identified and therefore raised questions about their true identity and credibility,” the statement, attributed to Inquirer Interactive Incorporated, read.

“Although reporters are not prohibited from using unnamed sources or sources who refuse to be identified for reasons of security or confidentiality, it is essential that extra caution should be observed for news subjects regardless of the subject’s stature or position in society,” it added.

What was deleted, exactly?

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.

The article cited an unnamed Harvard alumnus who was supposedly present at a dinner for Romualdez in April hosted by Filipino-American Harvard alumna Geraldine Acuña-Sunshine. There, the source and other guests were supposedly informed that Romualdez was the generous donor that made Harvard’s Filipino language course a reality.

Inquirer.net, which had a content partnership deal with The FilAm, republished the story on August 31, but it was subsequently taken down.

The FilAm said the Inquirer.net 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 owns the Inquirer Group of Companies.

On September 1, Inquirer.net US bureau chief Rene Ciria Cruz tendered his resignation, telling Rappler that “no public officials should be shielded from scrutiny by the free press.”

He said he was given “no explanation or justification for the removal” of the article.

NUJP said on Monday, September 18, that the little pushback that ensued after the story’s takedown “points to the chill that has pervaded the media community in recent years.”

But Inquirer.net asserted it just exercised its right to correct itself.

“We continue to be the same news organization that advocates freedom of the press and democracy that has withstood eight presidential terms,” the online publication said.

“Although reporters are not prohibited from using unnamed sources or sources who refuse to be identified for reasons of security or confidentiality, it is essential that extra caution should be observed for news subjects regardless of the subject’s stature or position in society,” it added.

The statement itself disappeared from the website on Tuesday night, but became publicly available again on Wednesday morning, September 20. 

Did Romualdez or Harvard confirm the reported donation?

The caveat is that people who can clarify things once and for all remain mum about the donation.

Harvard officials said they do not discuss terms of individual donations in line with their gift policy.

Romualdez also declined to confirm or deny whether he indeed made the donation, quoting the same excuse used by Harvard.

But the story has already received considerable media attention.

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

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 secured the speakership 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. – Rappler.com

2 comments

Sort by
  1. ET

    Clarification to previous comment: “Sandy Prieto Romualdez owns the Inquirer Group of Companies.”

  2. ET

    There are two acts of Lack of Transparency here. First, even though Speaker Martin Romualdez “declined to confirm or deny whether he indeed made the donation” – it is already an act of Lack of Transparency. Second, Inquirer.net did not explain to former Inquirer.net US bureau chief Rene Ciria Cruz why the subject article was removed is also an act of Lack of Transparency. Hence, while Inquirer.net claims that “We continue to be the same news organization that advocates freedom of the press and democracy that has withstood eight presidential terms,” this incident has tested the limit of such commitment. This is understandable as Ms. Sandy Prieto Romualdez is the wife of Philip Romualdez, who is the brother of Speaker Martin Romualdez. In conclusion, Blood is thicker than Press Freedom and Political Dynasty is of greater power than Democracy.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Loading
Download the Rappler App!
Avatar photo

author

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.