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US$1,000 PAYOLA? | Andanar steps back after Senate reporters demand apology

Press Secretary Martin Andanar
The online news portal of TV5

(UPDATE 2 - 5:20 p.m.) MANILA - Malacañang Press Secretary Martin Andanar took a step back after journalists covering the Philippine Senate issued a stern reaction to accusations thrown at midday by that some reporters in the Senate were allegedly offered payola amounting to US$1,000 to cover the press conference of alleged Davao Death Squad leader Arturo Lascañas.

Following is the statement of the Senate reporters:

We, broadcast, online, and print journalists covering the Senate, strongly protest the unsubstantiated and irresponsible claims made by Press Secretary Martin Andanar that reporters were given as much as $1,000 each to cover the press conference of alleged former Davao Death Squad leader Arthur Lascañas this morning.

To our knowledge, no such incident occurred. Such practice is not tolerated among Senate reporters.

We would like to ask the Secretary to prove his allegations, as such statements placed our credibility and our respective media entities under a cloud of doubt.

Otherwise, we demand a public apology from Secretary Andanar for spreading "fake news", truly unbecoming of someone who, just a few months ago, came from the media industry.

For his part, Andanar offered the following clarification, by way of the transcript of the interview with CNN Philippines' program The Source with anchor Pinky Webb, which was made available by Andanar himself, posted on his Facebook page:

Webb: Alamin naman natin kung ano naman ang masasabi ng Malakanyang sa bagong paratang laban kay Pangulong Duterte, nasa linya ng telepono si Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. Secretary Andanar, magandang tanghali po sa inyo.

Andanar: Hello Pinky, magandang tanghali.

Webb: Ano po ang inyong reaksyon dito sa sinabi ni SPO3 Lascanas?

Andanar: I would like to read to you our crafted message, if you don’t mind…

Webb: Go ahead sir.

Andanar: The demolition job against President Duterte continues. The press conference of self-confessed hitman SPO3 Arthur Lascanas is part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration. Our people are aware that this character assassination is nothing but vicious politics orchestrated by sectors affected by the reforms initiated by the Duterte administration. The Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate Committee on Justice already cleared the President of extrajudicial killing and his involvement in the Davao Death Squad. Bringing change is not an easy task. The Duterte administration has disturbed/disrupted the establishment. However, we remain undistracted in delivering goods and services to serve the people, not just the interest of the few.

Webb: Can I ask you a question now?

Andanar: Yes, go ahead ma’am.

Webb: Secretary, tinatawag niyo po itong demolition job, political job on character assassination, may plano po ba ang Malakanyang or yung Office of the President kay SPO3 Arthur Lascanas dahil sa kanyang mga sinabi?

Andanar: Well, si SPO3 Lascanas ay kakatapos lang po ng kanyang presscon kani-kanina lamang and ang gobyerno, ang administrasyong Duterte sa pangunguna din po ng ating Secretary Aguirre ay sasagot din po in a matter of time. Hintayin na lang po natin, but what I said earlier is that… alam niyo, lahat po ng time na ito, yung ingay sa social media about the diumano’y yaman ng ating Pangulo, tapos ito ngayon, itong Davao Death Squad, puro rehash kasi ito Pinky, at sa amin, para sa akin din, ito ay in preparation for that march, for the protest rally that they are planning this coming February 25. Kaya ito po ay kasama na rin po sa plano, at mayroon din po tayong mga natanggap na mga report, Pinky, na as much as 1,000 dollars ang ipinamigay dito sa presscon na ito, hindi ko na lang po papangalanan yung aking source, pero mayroon daw pinagbibigyan ng ganito kalaking halaga ng pera para lamang i-cover ito.

Webb: Secretary, one thousand dollars, yung umiikot na one thousand dollars, kanino? Kay SPO3 Lascanas… kanino napunta yung pera?

Andanar: Pinagbibigyan daw yung mga reporter doon sa kung saan nangyari, may mga nag-offer daw, hindi ko lang alam kung tinanggap, pero mayroong nagsumbong sa akin na ganoon.

Webb: Ok, para malinaw lang po, Secretary, that umikot ang one thousand dollars para ibigay sa mga reporters na nagko-cover po diyan sa Senado, tama po ba ang aming pagka-intindi sir?

Andanar: Yun ang umiikot na istorya, pero hindi naman sinabi na tinanggap. Pero ang sinabi mayroong mga offer na ganoon kalaking pera ang oposisyon para lamang pabagsakin itong administrasyong ito at para ipakalat itong istorya ni SPO3…

Webb: Lascanas?

Andanar: Opo.

Webb: Opo. So yung one thousand dollars, sabi niyo po nanggaling sa oposisyon?

Andanar: Nanggaling ito kung sinuman ang nagsimula, alam mo mahirap din sabihin kung kanino nanggaling, kung sasabihin natin kay… sa taong ito, mahirap magbigay ng ano, pero kung sino man ang naninira sa ating Pangulo, ay those who are opposing this administration na nangunguna diyan sa nangyari na nga diyan sa may presscon na iyan, yung balita kumakalat na itong one thousand dollars, ino-offer diumano sa mga reporter.

Webb: Para po i-cover, parang ganoon po?

Andanar: Parang ganoon na rin, ganoon ang lumalabas sa report.

Webb: Alright. Let me ask, categorically, sir, are you saying that the one thousand dollars is coming from Senator Antonio Trillanes?

Andanar: I cannot categorically say na galing Senator Trillanes, basta ang sabi lang po ng aking source diyan sa Senado na mayroong pera na ganoon na umiikot. Pero I would like to categorically say also na hindi naman sinabi kung tinanggap yung pera na yun.

Webb: Ok po. Secretary Martin Andanar, maraming salamat po sa inyong oras and sa pagpapaunlak sa aming tawag.

Andanar: Maraming salamat po, mabuhay po kayo.