MANILA The Office of the President did not commit any violation of press freedom under the 1987 Constitution.
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II made the statement Wednesday in response to the incident where Rappler reporter Pia Ranada was barred from entering MalacaAang's New Executive Building (NEB) where press briefings are regularly held.
"No, that was not a violation of such right. There is such a thing as proper accreditation as you know very well in your profession. Media men should comply with all requirements," he told reporters in the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The DOJ chief further pointed out that freedom of the press - while constitutionally protected - has its limits.
"Freedom of the press is not absolute. People also have the right to be protected from fake news," he noted.
As to the eligibility of the online news outfit to cover the Palace as a "mass media" outfit under the Constitution, Aguirre said this remains as a justiciable issue.
He cited the pending case in the Court of Appeals (CA) involving the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month to cancel Rappler's corporate registration due to violation of constitutional ban on foreign ownership in mass media firms in the country.
"We want to emphasize that your DOJ respects freedom of the press. However, to borrow the words of the National Press Club, responsible journalism means compliance with the law," Aguirre clarified.
Aguirre said that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is also conducting its probe on foreign ownership in the media outfit funded by foreign firms Omidyar Network and North Base Media.
Last month, the SEC ordered the closure of Rappler, claiming it violated the Constitution's restriction on foreign ownership of local media.
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made the assurance after Ranada, who covers MalacaAang, was briefly stopped by members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) from entering NEB where press briefings are regularly held.
Special Assistant to the President Christopher Bong Go earlier accused Rappler of being a peddler of fake news.
Rappler was one of the two media companies that first released a report on Go's alleged intervention in the PHP18-billion Frigate Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy.
Roque said it was the discretion of the PSG to bar people from entering MalacaAang but noted that Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea himself allowed Rappler to cover events at the Palace.
Roque said that the only time reporters would be barred from covering Palace briefings and events would be due to security threats and an exclusive coverage solely for the MalacaAang Press Corps (MPC), which accredits local media.
Roque said, if the SEC decision to close Rappler is sustained, Ranada would have to seek accreditation to cover briefings from the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), instead of the MPC.
Another option, Roque said, is to seek accreditation from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) to cover the briefings as a blogger.
Roque also assured that he would personally pick up Ranada if she would again be barred from entering the NEB.
I was willing to pick you up downstairs to bring you here in case you were not allowed. That's the full extent of what I can do, Roque said.
Source: Philippine News Agency