Duterte threatens snub of Cagayan de Oro debates

Posted on February 16, 2016

PRESIDENTIAL candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte has threatened to snub the first leg of Pilipinas Debates 2016, as the community press group of Cagayan de Oro City -- where the debates will be held -- has protested the limited access to members of the local media.

“[If] you limit the press coverage, I will not attend.... That is the reason I am running for president. I want people from the provinces to be given equal treatment,” Mr. Duterte said at an event hosted by televangelist Apollo C. Quiboloy on Sunday in Davao City.

In a “Statement of Indignation” issued by the Cagayan de Oro Press Club, Inc. last Sunday, the group with about 80 members said, “We... express our serious concerns over what appears to be an attempt to bar the provincial press from covering the first Presidential debate scheduled at the Capitol University on February 21, Sunday. We see this to be a clear case of discrimination towards the province-based media.”

The statement was signed by the press club’s president, Monsignor Elmer S. Abacahin of the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese, and immediate past president Hugo “Ka Jerry” Orcullo, Jr., who is also the regional chairman of the Samahan ng mga Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA), a group of former detainees during the martial-law era.

“We ask that Manila-based organizers lift this “exclusivity clause” in the coverage of the presidential debate to be held in our city. This early, there have been suggestions for a Cagayan de Oro media boycott of the debate but we still trust that, in the end, reason will prevail, and that the organizers would reconsider their position and right this wrong,” they said in the statement.

Mr. Duterte, meanwhile, said he will discuss the issue with Senator Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III, president of Mr. Duterte’s party, Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan, and who hails from Cagayan de Oro City. He said he is hopeful the Commission on Elections will find a solution acceptable to both the local media community and the forum’s organizers.

The Cagayan de Oro media group said organizers Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, GMA Network, Inc., and the Philippine Daily Inquirer “have made it clear in a letter to the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) that they have allotted only five slots for local editors/publishers as debate audience and five slots for newspaper reporters. In the same letter, it was also made clear that five newspaper reporters will only be allowed access to the event’s media center -- a separate venue where a video monitor will broadcast feeds [from] the debate.”

“The organizers further stated that they are allowing PPI to choose who to short list so as to ensure that ‘only legit local press’ are allowed to cover the event. But who would know better than the press community of the host city?” the group said. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco, Maya M. Padillo and Mark D. Francisco