COMMUNICATIONS Secretary Martin Andanar insisted Tuesday that a “confidential intelligence report” said reporters had been offered $1,000 to attend a press conference in which a former policeman accused President Rodrigo Duterte of heading the Davao Death Squad when he was still mayor of Davao City.
Andanar said this was part of a plot to destabilize the administration, even though Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzano and National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said they saw no such threat.
During the Palace briefing, Andanar offered no apologies to Senate reporters who challenged him to prove his claims.
Visibly irked as he defended his bribery claim, Andanar told CNN Philippines that he based his information on a “confidential intelligence report.”
Andanar could not say why the alleged bribes were denominated in dollars.
“I didn’t ask. Maybe I don’t know why the offer was in dollars,” he said in Filipino.
“I was just pointing to the fact that there is this concerted effort for a massive action, massive protest in Edsa this Feb. 25,” he added, referring to the anniversary of the People Power revolt that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
At one point, Andanar grew testy when questioned about the contrasting views of Lorenzana and Esperon.
“There are intelligence reports that are not reaching everybody’s eyes. There are classified reports,” he said.
“Don’t pit me against them,” Andanar told one of the reporters in Filipino, then questioned his fairness in reports critical of the administration.
“Are you fair in everything that you write?” he asked, to which the newspaper reporter replied yes.
“How about your posts on—on social media?” Andanar shot back.
When the reporter said the social media posts were personal, Andanar berated him, saying that as a reporter, he was the “ambassador” of his newspaper.
Citing transcripts that he provided to Palace reporters, Andanar repeatedly denied having alluded to Senate reporters who were assigned to the press conference.
“You can see and read that I never alluded to a reporter [who] received this kind of money, either in dollars or pesos,” the Palace official said.
“I already gave my statement,” Andanar told reporters in Malacañang, after Senate journalists demanded an apology.
Andanar said he was not claiming that Senate reporters took the money, but that he was standing by an intelligence report that at least $1,000 wwas making the rounds at the Senate during a press conference led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV.
“The same way that you validate your stories, I also validate mine,” said Andanar when asked about the accuracy of the intelligence report.
“It was not intended to say that the reporters in Senate are corrupt...I hold them in high esteem and none in the intelligence report claimed that they received money,” Andanar said.
He also blamed his lack of proficiency in the Filipino language, saying that he’s more well-versed in the Visayan dialect, despite reading Tagalog news in his entire media career.
Also on Tuesday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines called on Andanar to step down.
In a statement published in their website, the NUJP said Andanar should prove his allegation that $1,000 (about P50,000) were given to some Senate reporters so they would cover Trillanes’ press conference, where retired policeman Arthur Lascañas tagged President Rodrigo Duterte as the brains behind the Davao Death Squad.
“Unless he can present credible proof to back up his claims, he should zip his mouth or better yet, step down for gross abuse of his office and ignorance of his responsibilities,” the statement signed by the group’s chairperson, Ryan Rosauro, read.
“His baseless accusations are mere distractions from the immediate issue on hand,” it added.
Rosauro said it’s a “disgrace” that such statements came from “someone who used to work for the media and knows the integrity required by this profession.”
The NUJP also urged Senate reporters and their media outfits “to consult their counsel and take a legal action against Andanar for “shamelessly besmirching their reputation, and in this age of tokhang, even putting their safety at risk.”
“We will support you all the way. Mr. Andanar is proof positive that his loss is no loss for media at all,” their statement said.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said Andanar should have checked the facts before releasing his damaging accusations.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said Andanar might have been misled with the wrong information.
“Somebody whispered [the allegations] in his ear,” Sotto said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta
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