House media rule: No toilet, elevator interviews

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star
House media rule: No toilet, elevator interviews
No coverage in cooling towers, electrical power house, switch gear area, fire pump area, chiller area, generator set area, cistern for the fire pump.
Michael Varcas / File

MANILA, Philippines — No interviews in toilets and elevators.

No coverage in cooling towers, electrical power house, switch gear area, fire pump area, chiller area, generator set area, cistern for the fire pump.

These are some of the restrictions Antipolo Rep. Chiqui Roa Puno is proposing to impose on journalists covering the House of Representatives. Ironically, Puno is a former broadcaster.

The limitations are part of media coverage rules Puno wants the House to adopt. She has filed a resolution to that effect.

Reporters are protesting the proposed media coverage guidelines, saying they feel offended and insulted.

“We don’t do toilet interviews. Damn! We are not that desperate,” one of them angrily protested.

Another said journalists do not even know where the installations Puno wants closed to media coverage like cooling towers are located within the House complex.

The other no-coverage areas include offices of the Speaker, majority leader, other House leaders, members, officials and employees; hallways and corridors connecting offices and committee meeting rooms; entrances and foyer area; session hall and its lobby; main building front and rear entrances. 

In her proposed guidelines, Puno designated two small spaces in the session hall in the main building, another two at the south wing annex, one at the Mitra (north wing) building and another one near Andaya Hall in the main building.

Puno largely adopted the rules proposed by the previous House leadership under then speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, which wanted to impose restrictions on media coverage of the chamber for the first time in the history of the post-martial law Congress.

The Alvarez House intended to ban critical reportage by withdrawing accreditation to journalists who write stories critical of the chamber, its leaders, members and secretariat officers and personnel. Puno did not adopt this particular part of the proposed media restrictions.

The draft guidelines are now under scrutiny by the committee on public information, which Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, a former newspaper reporter, chairs.

Evardone admitted that the Puno-proposed rules “might restrict” media coverage of the House.    

“Actually, I wanted to consult with you because I, for one, have some reservations and questions on the draft guidelines because I understand that you can’t…because we look for news, we will find a way to get the news. Don’t worry. As far as I’m concerned, we won’t release these until everyone agrees,” he said.

In a text message to reporters, Puno claimed she “revised the version first presented to media during Alvarez’s time.”

She said her proposed rules are “for the safety of both members of the House and media and also to safeguard order and security within the House.”

Puno said she would soon tackle her proposals with the committee on rules chaired by Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr.

If she goes direct to Andaya so she could have the House tackle her media coverage guidelines, that would mean bypassing Evardone and his committee, which have to endorse Puno’s proposals before they could be discussed in plenary.

It is the rules committee that is empowered to include a measure in the chamber’s order of business for its sessions.

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