Andanar alleges bribes of $1,000 offered to journalists; reporters slam claim

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Communications Secretary Martin Andanar claimed people from the opposition offered Senate reporters as much as P50,000 to cover the press conference on the alleged existence of Davao Death Squad (DDS).

Andanar told CNN Philippines in a phone interview Monday that he received information from his source in the Senate that the reporters covering the beat were offered as much as $1,000.

"Nakakuha tayo ng report na as much as $1,000 ang pinamigay sa presscon na ito. Meron daw pinagbibigyan ng ganito kalaking halaga ng pera para lang i-cover ito... Pinagbibigyan daw ang reporters du'n sa kung saan nangyari," he said.

[Translation: We received a report that as much as $1,000 was given to cover this press conference. There were those given this huge amount to cover this...It was given to reporters where the press con took place.]

Despite his allegation, Andanar said he cannot explicitly say that the Senate reporters took the offer.

"'Yun ang umiikot na storya, pero hindi naman sinabi na tinanggap. Pero merong mga offer na ganung kalaking pera ang opposition para lamang pabagsakin ang administrasyong ito at ipakalat itong storya ni SPO3 (Lascañas)," he said.

Self-proclaimed DDS leader SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, said in a press conference in the Senate on Monday, that then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte ordered the vigilante group to kill suspected criminals in Davao City.

Related: Self-proclaimed DDS leader says he followed Duterte's orders to kill

Andanar's allegations were immediately slammed by the press corps covering the Senate and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

NUJP to journalists: Sue him

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) urged Senate reporters to file charges against Andanar for his claims.

"We encourage our colleagues present at the press conference, as well as the outfits they work for, to consult their counsel and take a legal action against Mr. Andanar for shamelessly besmirching their reputation, and in this age of tokhang, even putting their safety at risk," the statement said.

NUJP also slammed Andanar, a former broadcast journalist, over the allegations and demanded his resignation if he has no proof.

"Unless he can present credible proof to back up his claims, he should zip his mouth or better yet, step down for gross abuse of his office and ignorance of his responsibilities. His baseless accusations are mere distractions from the immediate issue on hand," the NUJP statement said.

Senate reporters to Andanar: Show proof or publicly apologize

Broadcast, print, and online journalists covering the Senate beat immediately denied Andanar's allegations, saying accepting bribes is not tolerated among the Senate reporters.

"We would like to ask the good Secretary to prove his allegations as we are now placed under a cloud of doubt, and our reputations besmirched. Otherwise, we would ask Secretary Andanar to publicly apologize for his irresponsible statements," they said in a statement.

Andanar refused to name who from the opposition was behind the alleged bribes to reporters.

When asked by CNN Philippines if Senator Antonio Trillanes IV — who invited the media to cover the presscon — could be behind it, he replied, "I cannot categorically say na galing kay Senator Trillanes."

[Translation: That's the story we heard. But we didn't say if it was accepted. But there were offers as big as this made by the opposition just to bring down this administration and spread this story by SPO3 (Lascañas).]

Trillanes, a critic of President Duterte, has denied that he was involved in the alleged bribery.

"I categorically deny na nagbigay ako o kung sino man ng $1,000 sa mga reporters ng presscon kanina. Hindi namin gawain yan at mataas ang respeto namin sa Senate media para gawin yan.

The senator hit Andanar for his irresponsibility to drop such claims without a solid basis.

"That's the height of irresponsibility for a Cabinet official to say that publicly. I believe this is just to divert the issue of the President's complicity to multiple murder as confessed to the public by SPO3 Arthur Lascañas," Trillanes added.

Trillanes has been in the limelight lately, resurrecting claims last Thursday that President Duterte held two billions pesos in different bank accounts. However, he could only produce summaries of the alleged deposits to back his claims.