Online news group Rappler complained Chairman and Diwa party-list Rep. Michael Aglipay ordered the removal of their reporter Rambo Talabong from the Viber media coordination channel with access to a hearing of the House of Representatives committee on Good Government and Public Accountability. 

Rappler condemned in the strongest terms Aglipay’s removing its reporter from the Viber coordination channel on September 27.  

Aglipay barred Talabong from the Viber group of reporters after the journalist wrote a story on the representative’s latest defense of the Duterte administration. 

Aglipay commented that the Senate hearing’s revelation that the production stickers on the face masks procured by the government from Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation were tampered. The tampering of the production stickers in effect changed the expiry dates. 

For Aglipay, the changing of expiry dates was not a problem, so he asked a Department of Health (DOH) official if the alleged expired face masks hurt or killed any of health workers who used them. DOH Undersec. Carolina Taino said “no.” 

This exchange was the subject of Talabong’s story, which included a video excerpt ofAglipay during the panel hearing. 

Aglipay then singled out Talabong during the hearing, even though CNN Philippines also published a similar article with the same angle

The congressman argued, “So, it is one-sided, and I’m calling him out to be balanced, because they are claiming to be a balanced organization but (his) article never mentioned that Sec. Duque said that the shelf life is 36 months, and he only focused on my comment, making it appear that we are one-sided here, and covering up the government.” 

The House’s line of questioning in its hearings seemed predisposed to dismiss the negative findings at the Senate, defending the Duterte government’s deals with Pharmally

Aglipay faulted Rappler for not including in theirs story a quote from the Health secretary that face shields had a shelf life of 36 months.  But Rappler noted that Aglipay overlooked the fact that when Pharmally tampered with the expiration dates, it was past the 36-month shelf life, according to Pharmally’s own warehouse staff. 

This detail about Duque’s comment on the shelf life, which Aglipay wanted to include in Rappler’s story, was therefore a non-issue, the news group said. Mentioning this non-issue would have muddled, not clarified, issues for readers monitoring the Pharmally scandal. 

Aglipay must have realized his blunder during the hearing but instead of acknowledging it, he blamed Talabong for publishing his quote. He named and shamed Talabong in a public committee hearing, then removed him from the Viber channel for journalists covering the House committee on good governance. 

This is bullying in the first degree, Rappler said.  

Rappler condemns in the strongest terms Aglipay’s act of removing Rappler from a media coordination channel that is every journalist’s right to access – especially at this time when the public has the right to know more about the Pharmally deal that has cost billions in taxpayers’ money.