Press freedom caravan not solely to explain Ressa arrest, says Andanar
MANILA, Philippines — The Presidential Communications Operations Office’s (PCOO) ongoing press freedom caravan in Europe is not to solely to explain to the European media the “real nature” of the cyberlibel case against Rappler chief executive officer Maria Ressa, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar insisted Monday.
Andanar explained that the PCOO officials sent to Europe were part of the government’s delegation to clarify issues on “involuntary disappearances” and anti-communist terrorist groups, among others. He added that the caravan is only a “side event.”
“The caravan is a side event in-between official meetings with officials from the European Parliament, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID), European Commission, and leaders of the Filipino community,” Andanar said in a statement.
He also pointed out that the delegation left for Europe two days before the arrest of Ressa, but he instructed the PCOO officials to answer queries about Ressa.
“Nobody from the delegation was aware it was coming. In any case, it is just natural for me to instruct the PCOO officials in Europe to answer possible queries about Ms. Ressa,” Andanar said.
He explained further that the department has been holding press freedom caravans locally and internationally “to bring government to Filipinos even those in the international community.”
In an earlier radio interview, Andanar said the caravan, led by PCOO officials, were in Bosnia and would head to Belgium and Switzerland to talk to European media on the state of press freedom in the Philippines under President Duterte.
Andanar said the PCOO team was composed of Undersecretaries Lorraine Badoy and Joel Egco and Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan. /ee
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