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UNPRECEDENTED FEAT | Andanar unites unorganized Senate reporters

Press Secretary Martin Andanar (inset) and a pack of Senate reporters.
The online news portal of TV5

Presidential Communication Office Secretary Martin Andanar has succeeded where no one else has: he has united the Senate reporters in a beat where there has never been a formal press corps.

Andanar, already on shaky ground in his relations with the MalacaƱang Press Corps, on Monday alienated himself from Senate reporters with his reckless remarks about a payola of $1,000 (P50,000 at today's exchange) allegedly being offered to media - and presumably received by some - to entice them to cover the hastily called press conference where former SPO3 Arthur LascaƱas claimed that the Davao Death Squad, indeed, existed and that he took part in many of the hits.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, Andanar said, and we quote from transcript he himself subsequently provided: "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 (We have also received reports, Pinky, of as much as 1,000 dollars being handed out for this presser. I won't divulge my source, but I understand this sum was being given just to cover it)."

The allegation drew a quick, seething reaction from Senate reporters, who collegially issued a statement demanding an apology from Andanar.

Ironically, the Senate reporters DO NOT even have a press corps, a circumstance resulting from their collective choice, affirmed repeatedly through the years each time someone suggested they formally organize.

The reasoning is easy to understand: Unlike the Palace reporters who had to formally organize in order to facilitate security clearances, travel and logistical requirements each time they had to be in a venue ahead of the President, especially during his/her foreign trips, the Senate reporters needed a formal organization the least.

Many explosive investigations are handled in the Senate, and most of the veteran reporters there know that where explosive inquiries in aid of legislation are made, certain "crisis operators" could be lurking and could attempt to use or leverage an organized group, wittingly or unwittingly.

In the words of one of those who repeatedly opposed setting up such a group: "We all work independently. If we're organized, who's to say that no one will use the group's name to make it appear a certain direction in coverage was programmed by payola?"

Thus it was that no Senate press corps was ever set up, though the reporters at the beat instinctively support each other whenever the situation calls for it, i.e., to argue against arrangements that hampered their coverage during the Corona impeachment trial.

The only other time when the Senate reporters also issued a common stand was to politely oppose a reported plan by the then Senate President to renovate the PIMRO (reporters' work area) and install lavish new toilets.