Top Palace officials blasted an online media outfit for spinning a statement of President Rodrigo Duterte that made it look like the President is linking the Chinese Ambassador to a drug trafficker.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano lashed out at Rappler which he said put the country in a bad light after “maliciously” reporting that President Duterte has linked Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua to a narcotics trader.
A clip of Duterte’s speech Thursday night did not show him supposedly implicating Zhao of having knowledge of Yang’s perceived illegal drug trade as was reported.
“I’ve reviewed the speech of the President again and again and I have to say that there was a malicious misrepresentation by Rappler in its article that said the President linked the ambassador to a drug lord,” Cayetano said.
“If it’s an opinion piece we have to respect the freedom of the press but if it’s a factual reporting and they misrepresent that gives the country a problem,” Cayetano added.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque rebuked the misrepresentation in the report.
“I think it’s very clear that what the President meant to say was, number one, he cannot believe that Michael Yang is involved in the drug trade. Number two, because he was saying he could not believe that Michael Yang is involved in the drug trade, the report that the President linked the Chinese ambassador to a drug lord is obviously false,” Roque stated.
On the contrary, Cayetano stressed that the President defended Yang from accusation that he was involved in the proliferation of illegal drugs.
Cayetano stressed that Mr. Duterte, in a speech on Wednesday, said there are those who are saying Yang was involved in illegal drugs, initially as a user and later on as a pusher.
“He (Mr. Duterte) was saying that he (Yang) cannot be accused because the ambassador (Zhao) even sleeps in his house…he was using as a guaranty how the Chinese government vets people…they have strict rules…how their ambassador cannot associate,” Cayetano said.
“So, he (Mr. Duterte) was in fact defending (Yang) but the way Rappler wrote its article was completely the reverse,” he added.
Cayetano noted that this is not the first time that Rappler was involved in “malicious” reporting – citing the “spinning” of his pronouncements about possible joint exploration with other countries in the disputed West Philippine Sea previously.
“I didn’t use strong words even if I disagreed with Rappler in the past for their right to publish (but) sometimes it was half-truth,” Cayetano said.
Rappler has clarified its story, in a latest posting saying “President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday night, 4 October, practically cleared a Chinese businessman suspected of involvement in illegal drugs by citing the latter’s close ties to Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua.”
Roque said the news item was picked up by international media outlets which he said could cause “dire consequences” to the bilateral relations between the two nations.
He said Rappler’s story was a “false, wrong and even malicious” report and that its interpretation of what the President meant “absolutely has no basis.”
Roque also asked Rappler to “be responsible and to give the profession of journalism a favor by issuing the corresponding errata and to correct its story” – which it already did after the Palace issued the clarification.
ABS-CBN’s online news site has likewise corrected what it earlier had posted regarding Duterte’s remarks.
with Kristina Maralit