Pia Ranada's defense of Rappler 'fake news' offended Duterte - Roque

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 22) — President Rodrigo Duterte was offended by Rappler reporter Pia Ranada, who continues to defend her news team's report that the president's right-hand man was involved in an anomalous deal, his spokesperson said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte was irked when Rappler insisted Special Assistant to the President Bong Go "intervened" in the P15.7 billion frigate deal.

"Nabastos po ang presidente... Na-ban lang sila dahil nagpipilitan sila na totoo raw ang storya na napatunayan nang fake news," he said in a media briefing in Sara, Iloilo.

[Translation: The president was offended... They were banned because they're insisting their story is true despite it being proven fake.]

He said it is the President's prerogative because Malacañang is his home.

"Kung na-fake news, at siguro nag-acknowledge nalang sila na nagkamali sila, walang problema. Pero yung pagpipilitan mo na katotohanan ang napatunayan nang fake news, pambabastos po iyon.  At uulitin ko, tahanan naman yan ng presidente," he said.

Roque has always said Ranada was banned because of the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) ruling that revoked the media outfit's registration for allegedly engaging in a fraudulent transaction and circumventing constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership.

He said Duterte only allowed Rappler to continue its coverage in Malacañang because of his close ties with Palace beat reporter Ranada, even if PCOO lawyers advised against it.

"Ito po'y tinutulan na ng napakadaming abogado sa Malacañang  matapos sabihin ng SEC na kontrolado ng dayuhan ang Rappler. Pinagpatuloy lang po yan ng Presidente dahil malapit sa kanya si Pia," Roque said.

[Translation: Our lawyers were against it after SEC issued its ruling that Rappler is controlled by a foreign national. The President continued to allow it because he was close to Pia.]

Malacañang once again defended itself from accusations it is curtailing the freedom of the press by banning Ranada.

Roque was asked if critical media runs the risk of being banned from covering the President's event. He said even Inquirer,  which comes out with critical stories is still allowed to cover the President.

"Bihira po ang magagandang write up sa presidente. Hindi naman po kayo naba-ban,"  he said.

[Translation: It's rare to read positive write-ups about the president, but you do not get banned.]

Roque added they leave it up to other government agencies to decide if they will also ban Rappler from covering their events.

"We leave it to the other line agencies to determine for their purpose what to do with Rappler," he said.