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Removal of report on alleged Romualdez donation sends 'chilling effect’ — NUJP

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Removal of report on alleged Romualdez donation sends 'chilling effect� � NUJP
House Speaker Martin Romualdez and former First Lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos attend the post-inaugural rites at the Malacañang Palace in June 2022.
Lakas CMD

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 4:04 p.m.) — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines has warned of the possible self-censorship in newsrooms following the Inquirer’s takedown of a report on House Speaker Martin Romualdez’s alleged donation to Harvard.

In a statement Monday, the press freedom advocates stressed that the removal of legitimate news stories often ends up drawing more attention than the original report.

The group said that the lack of follow-up stories or outcry over the takedown is evidence of a chilling effect “that has pervaded the media community in recent years.”

“When done arbitrarily, they always build resentment among staff and affect a masthead's credibility,” NUJP said.

RELATED: Anti-martial law group questions 'secrecy' in alleged Romualdez donation to Harvard

Two US-based news organizations — magazine The Fil-Am and student paper The Harvard Crimson — previously reported that Romualdez donated $1 million (P56 million) or $2 million (P113 million) to Harvard University for the creation of a new Tagalog language course.

The Harvard Crimson, the university’s student-led news organization, reported last week that the $2 million donation was used to create the Filipino language preceptor position for the program.

On August 29, the FilAm originally reported the donation — around $1 million — based on sources who attended a dinner in honor of Romualdez where it was announced. 

It was The FilAm report which the Inquirer uploaded on its website on August 30. It was taken down the same day and is now unavailable even in its cached version, according to the PCIJ.

In an email to Philstar.com, Inquirer’s US editor Rene Ciria Cruz confirmed that he has resigned from his post over the removal of the story.

“I resigned my position, because no public official should be shielded from scrutiny,” Cruz said.

“I don't know who among the owners actually ordered the removal of the story and who in the Manila editorial office actually removed it,” he added.

Romualdez did not categorically deny or confirm his alleged donation to Harvard University in a statement sent to the media over the weekend.

Instead, the Speaker said that he “chooses to respect” the gift policy of Harvard.

“Harvard has already communicated that they ‘do not discuss the terms or specifics of individual gifts,’ and I stand by that principle,” Romualdez said

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