Unfair treatment

Journalists slam continued unequal Presidential coverage policy.
The police shooed away around 20 journalists, who were already waiting for two hours to cover President Aquino in the SMX Davao Convention Center, allegedly on instructions from the Presidential Security Group.

“Sorry, but you should now go and leave the area,” Supt. Royina M. Garma, head of Sta. Ana Police Precinct, addressed reporters who were outside at the entrance of the convention center.

Some journalists explained to Garma that they are just waiting for the go ahead from Maro, or the Malacanang’s Media Accreditation and Relations Office, to be allowed inside the Philippine Development Forum on Bangsamoro. But the police officer repeated the order two more times.

In frustration, TV5 reporter Paolo Anota raised his voice, “This is an insult to (our) freedom of expression!”

Garma then suggested to the group to go down from the convention center and wait for further instructions from Maro.

Some of the reporters, who were barred to enter inside the convention center, arrived as early as 9:30 a.m., which is in compliance to presidential coverage protocol to arrive one hour before the President comes in.

Ace Morandante, a photographer from Davao Today, was red-flagged by the PSG for allegedly taking part in the protest rally against President Aquino during the Philippine Business for Social Progress forum on Sept. 8.

Based on the schedule on the Philippines Development Forum (PDF) on Bangsamoro yesterday, President Benigno S. Aquino III was expected to arrive at 11 a.m. The President arrived at 11:20 a.m. and left a few minutes past 12 noon.

Before the incident, a few reporters were already barred to enter the main entrance of SM Lanang for failing to secure an ID provided by the Philippine Information Agency (PIA).

The PSG, however, suddenly decided to stop the reporters from entering the convention center at 9:30 a.m.  even without prior advisory from organizer on the cut-off time for the event.

Local journalists can only watch as members of the Malacanang press corps were allowed to enter the area even if they arrived at around 10 a.m.

“There was a miscommunication between the PSG and the organizer on the cut-off that the Davao media be allowed at the convention,” Efren F. Elbanbuena, regional director of PIA XI, said in a text message.

He said the Maro “suggested that the media be allowed to enter at the (shopping mall’s) main entrance at 9:30 am but the PSG thought that it was at the entrance of the convention center, hence, they strictly adhered to the agreement.”

Regarding the incident when the police shooed away the reporters, he said the cops just followed the instruction of the PSG. “They thought that the media would not be allowed anymore to get inside the convention center,” he said.

Davao City Police Office director Vicente D. Danao Jr. said in a phone interview that it was the PSG who requested the police, through Garma, to instruct the reporters to vacate the entrance of the convention center.

There was about 40 police personnel inside SM Lanang Premier, in addition to the establishment’s own security force.

Although the police already told the media to leave the area, they still stayed on the promise of the Maro to allow them in by 10:40 a.m. and cover the event where President Aquino was the keynote speaker.
At 11 a.m., the Maro finally allowed half of the reporters to get inside the convention center, but only those already in the list.