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At Large

Truth and the tenant of Malacañang

/ 05:28 AM February 23, 2018

No, Harry Roque, what your President and his official family have done to Pia Ranada (and her boss, Maria Ressa) of Rappler is not just like being “a home owner who wants a rude visitor out of his home.”

First, as outspoken actress Agot Isidro observed: He does not own his present home, he is just renting it. And renting it only because the real owners expect him to vacate it after six years, and not do anything to disgrace the home and its storied legacy.

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But clearly, the President, his relatives and his official family really do look on Malacañang as their own private enclave, what with private parties being held in the PSG compound across the Pasig River
(still considered part of the Palace complex), and his granddaughter using the premises as the backdrop to her predebut photo shoot, including using the presidential seal as a prop.

The President resides in Malacañang only because his public position entitles him to it, and because the Palace itself stands for the state, which is why almost all the all-important state rites, ceremonies, celebrations and occasions are held there. Other presidents have chosen to live elsewhere—Cory Aquino in the Arlegui Guest House, Erap in the executive quarters nearby—but they all held office in Malacañang.

But Malacañang has always been considered the “house of the people,” even if security concerns necessarily limit public access to its grounds (as President Erap learned when he toyed with his populist promise to open the gates of Malacañang to the masses, and had to deal with an expectant, then angry, mob).

So in place of the people at large, authorities have let their “representatives” enter Malacañang during important occasions. These representatives include actual elected officials, Cabinet members, friends and members of the officials’ social circle, chosen invitees, and—most important of all—the media.

Members of the media—especially reporters who regularly cover the presidential beat and thus belong to the Malacañang Press Corps—enter the presidential residence not just as journalists, correspondents or bloggers, but also as representatives of the Filipino people. They are there to ask questions of officials in behalf of the masang Pinoy, and then convey the officials’ replies and explanations to the same audience.

Being inside Malacañang is not just a right of every reporter and legitimate news organization, it is their civic duty, and it is incumbent upon officials, especially those charged with the executive’s communications arm, to facilitate this process. Not stand in the way of the reporters’ access to officials and gloat at the hardships they face as they struggle to get at the truth behind the latest controversy, or hack away at the weeds of fake news and alternative facts that choke the path toward an accurate and full rendering of the truth.

And, yes, part of the reporter’s work is to do everything she or he must to get past the lies, deceptions, dodging, and denials that officials employ. If she has to be grating, confrontational, annoying, or aggressive in the process, then she’s just doing her job, as would someone like Harry Roque be doing his when he gets flustered, annoyed, or arrogant.

Roque accuses Ranada, the Rappler reporter at the crux of the entire controversy, along with everyone in Rappler, of engaging in “fake news,” when she reported suspicions being raised about the full extent of executive assistant Bong Go’s interest in the Navy frigate deal. But it must be made clear that news that question the administration’s views, or raise doubts about the veracity of the official line, is not peddling fake news. It is in fact an earnest effort to get at the full “real” truth behind the lies being peddled to the public.

I find it ironic that Roque and Mocha Uson, the high priestess of fake news, should now hijack the term “fake news” to attack all other media people who try to get at the factual actual news. Remember, “you may be entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

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TAGS: Harry Roque, malacanang, Pia Ranada, Rappler
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