In what was an unusual exchange Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque went off on CNN Philippines reporter Triciah Terada for what he claimed an inaccurate report she made.
The exchange, which happened during the live virtual press briefing, began when Terada asked a follow-up on the so-called “expanded targeted testing” of the government.
Terada asked: “Sir, I understand the term now that we are using is expanded targeted testing or that the direction that were moving towards to. Pero, Sir, since iyon nga po iyong statement yesterday, many reacted in the negative, noong sinabi pong iiwan iyong testing doon sa private sectors, at least doon po iyon sa anti — iyong sa rapid test po. Pero, Sir, the question now is: Bakit po hindi magawa iyong mass testing?”
Roque, looking irked, responded: “Mali kasi iyong term na ginamit mo kaya tuloy nagkagulo sa Twitter. Kaya nga po ang pakiusap ko sa ating mga kasama sa media, ingat lang po sa reporting. Kasi ang lumalabas, Trish, sa report mo ay wala tayong expanded testing program. Wala tayong kahit anong programa sa gobyerno, na hindi naman totoo.”
“Iyong reaksiyon ng tao sa Twitter, ganyan po ang reaksiyon pag hindi tayo nag-ingat sa reporting. And although I have to say na ikaw lang naman ang naglabas ng report na ganyan. I have to say it and get it out of my system,” he added.
Apparently, Roque was referring to a CNN Philippines online article which quoted his statement during Monday’s press briefing, in which he said the government has no program yet for mass testing.
“Well, as much as possible po ano, mayroon tayong — ini-increase natin iyong capacity natin ng testing kaya nga we’re aiming na aabot tayo sa 30,000. Pero in terms of mass testing na ginagawa ng Wuhan na all 11 million, wala pa pong ganiyang programa at iniiwan natin sa pribadong sektor,” he said.
This remarks of his, which was also carried by other news outlets, caused an immediate uproar, with the public asking why the government is becoming too reliant on the private sector.
Following his outburst, GMA-7 Malacañang reporter Joseph Morong tried to challenge Roque, quoting his statement word by word.
“Literally I compared the situation to Wuhan where they seek to test all 11 million residents. Hindi po natin ‘yan gagawin ‘yun sa buong Pilipinas. Ni hindi nga natin magawa po ‘yan sa Metro Manila,” Roque answered, adding that what the government is doing is a “systematic program targeted testing.”
On Tuesday, Terada’s employer came to her defense, issuing a statement which partly read: “Secretary Roque also said that only CNN Philippines reported about the issue but in reality, other news organizations carried the story as well.
“Further, we find unfortunate the manner by which the Secretary treated our Malacañang correspondent Triciah Terada in today’s televised press conference. He accused Ms. Terada, a well-respected journalist and member of our reportorial staff, of filing an inaccurate report.”
The network also clarified that Terada did not write the story herself, and that it was “regrettable” that she “was not given a chance to challenge the allegations made against her and defend herself from the public attack that could harm her reputation as a journalist and a professional.”
Likewise, the National Union of Journalists (NUJP) also criticized Roque, saying in a statement that he owes Terada an apology “for his boorish and, as it turned out, misguided tirade.”
“Officials who earn public ire for their pronouncements should not blame journalists who are merely doing their jobs,” the group said.
Watch the exchange below: