Makabayan lawmakers want probe into PCOO for Duterte speech edits
Maintenance staff disinfect the media briefing room at the New Executive Building in Malacañang Palaceas a precaution against COVID-19 on March 12, 2020
The STAR/KJ Rosales, file

Makabayan lawmakers want probe into PCOO for Duterte speech edits

(Philstar.com) - July 23, 2020 - 6:36pm

MANILA, Philippines — Days removed from the president's State of the Nation Address, four House lawmakers under the Makabayan Bloc in a House resolution filed Thursday called for an investigation on the Palace communications team after the latter edited parts out of one of Duterte's speeches. 

"The [team's] decision to edit out portions of the president's speeches runs counter to its mandate to ensure transparency and full disclosure of the chief executive's pronouncements...said decision also deprives Filipinos of their right to know, and further puts into question the credibility and transparency of the national government's communications arms," they said in the resolution. 

The four representatives, namely Reps. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women’s Party-list) Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna Party-list), France Castro (ACT Teachers Party-list) and Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list), filed House Resolution No. 1062 which seeks an investigation on the Presidential Communications Operations Office for edits on the president's speeches, which they said was contrary to its mandate to ensure transparency. 

Earlier in July, reporters found that a portion of his speech where the president mentioned ABS-CBN Corp. was edited out of his speech in the version posted on the PCOO's channels. This came just days after the embattled broadcast giant was denied a legislative franchise by Congress, and Duterte's mention of them came despite his assertion that he was neutral toward the franchise issue. 

The portion edited out of his speech though saw the president saying: "Yun namang ABS-CBN, binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag nanalo ako, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko."

(That ABS-CBN, they lambasted me. But I said that if I win, I will destroy the oligarchy of the Philippines. I did it.) 

The lawmakers pointed to Executive Order No. 4 series of 2010—the order that provided for the PCOO's creation—which stated that it is government policy to "ensure transparency and full and appropriate disclosure of policies, programs, official activities, and achievements of the Office of the President and Executive Branch which are of public concern."

"A video of the said speech lasting around 35 minutes was uploaded by the RTVM Malacanang in its official YouTube account and was aired on the country's state television, whereas an audio recording of the same public address obtained by several media outfits revealed that the entire speech was actually 45 minutes long, with several minutes of the president's speech edited out," the resolution read. 

"Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque claimed that Malacanang has no policy to edit the president's speeches before it can be aired on television [but] Malacanang has resorted to late night airing of taped and edited speeches of President Duterte regarding the government's COVID-19 response instead of airing the public address live and unfiltered," it also said. 

In the first year of his term, the president also signed an executive order mandating Freedom of information within the executive branch of government. Malacanang's communications team has already once been caught in a lie after it washed its hands of a social media post claiming, incorrectly, that ABS-CBN's "request for franchise renewal was disapproved" because of legal issues raised against the network.

RELATED: Anti-communist task force, PCOO spread false claims on ABS-CBN franchise

Ever since he was elected, President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened media companies critical of his administration, including ABS-CBN, as well as Rappler and the Inquirer, in many of his speeches and public addresses. House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano has also admitted to having personal grievances with the network, whom he likened to "terrorists" almost immediately after the House voted to junk its franchise bid.

Fresh doubts over the presidential communications team's transparency arise just days before Duterte is set to deliver his 2020 State of the Nation Address at the House of Representatives on Monday. 

A joint statement by media groups issued after reports of the edited video circulated said in response: "How can people continue to trust the government's pronouncements when the president's very own words are manipulated and then twisted by those who speak on his behalf?"

The statement was shared by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, which demanded that the PCOO to explain its reason for editing the video, adding that Duterte's speeches should be aired "live and unfiltered."

The Palace has since confirmed that Duterte will be physically present at the Batasang Pambansa to deliver his SONA, while at least two more workers of the PCOO have tested positive for the new pathogen. — Franco Luna

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