The disingenuous Salvador Panelo resorts to deliberately twisted logic to justify Malacanang’s ban on Rappler.
“There are certain rules that you have also to observe as a guest of the Palace,” Panelo said after the Supreme Court ordered the government to comment on the petition to lift the ban ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte on the news outfit.
“When you violate that, maging rude kayo and disrespectful, oh eh ‘di syempre it’s the right of the Palace to either reprimand you or to exclude you kasi you have to observe courtesies, decorum, respect,” he added.
We maintain that presidential coverage is not so much a matter of privilege for the press as a matter of duty for government in keeping with its duty to be transparent and keep the citizenry informed.
While it is true that rudeness and disrespect could be grounds for banning, as far as we can recall, all that rudeness and disrespect came not from Rappler nor its Malacanang reporter Pia Ranada but Duterte himself.
The ban, in fact, followed his unarguably rude and diarespectful public dressing down of Pia who, in contrast, stood her ground in dignified silence when she would have been perfectly justified to walk out on hin while, perhaps, flipping him the finger.
And even if the ban on Ranada were justified – which is was not – such a ban for rudeness and disrespect should have applied to her and her alone. In fact, the Palace could have asked that she be replaced.
But it did not. Instead, it extended the ban to all journalists affiliated with Rappler, including its correspondents in the regions, with minor factotums getting into the act and interpreting the ban arbitrarily like when they forced Bobby Espinosa Lagsa out of a school campus even if he was nowhere near the venue where the chief executive was to speak.
In fact, he wasn’t even going to cover Duterte but his supporters.
Clearly the ban has nothing to do with Rappler’s non-existent affrontery and everything to do with this administration’s spite-driven effort to silence a critical news outfit.
Which makes the matter a clear assault on freedom of the press and of expression by a government led by a man who apparently believes his position of power allows him to insult and offend anyone and everyone but is absolutely averse to criticism and dissent.
Mr. Panelo may twist logic into a pretzel but he is not entitled to twist facts to do so.