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Manila Times chairman denies Tatad 'fired' on Duterte's order

The chairman emeritus of The Manila Times on Friday denied that President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in the newspaper's decision to remove former Senator Francisco "Kit" Tatad from the newspaper's roster of columnists.

In his editorial, Dr. Dante Ang said Tatad was lying, noting that neither Duterte nor any of the President's advisers had reached to him about the erstwhile lawmaker.

"Erstwhile columnist Mr. Francisco S. Tatad lied when he said he was fired from The Manila Times upon instructions from President Rodrigo Roa Duterte. I swear on the graves of my parents that no such thing ever happened," Ang said.

"I challenge Mr. Tatad that we both undergo a lie detector test anywhere, anytime as he pleases to determine once and for all who between the two of us is lying on this matter," he added.

Tatad earlier claimed that Duterte could have been behind Ang's order, saying that Duterte wants him silenced after his write-ups about the President's health.

Ang claimed that Tatad had gone "ballistic" after his last column for the local newspaper was not published. He emphasized that an editor would never publish an article from one of his columnists that contains "lies, innuendos and malice."

"Does Mr. Tatad honestly think I will give him space in my paper for his egregious, baseless, malicious article that assaults my competence and integrity, and pay him for it?" Ang asked.

Ang also asked if Tatad's story did "pass the test of the canons of journalism," as he cited an instance in which Tatad supposedly accused him of acting as a consultant for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

"Even a mediocre journalist would have exhibited the most basic element of reporting: call the source for confirmation. He did not. If only he had asked me, I would have enlightened him there was no truth to that allegation and that he was given a bum stir," Ang said.

Ang further criticized Tatad of supposedly not owning his mistakes as he cited the story which the former lawmaker alleged that Duterte had a kidney transplant.

"Mr. Tatad should have used critical thinking and asked himself if it was possible for a man 73-years-old, like the President, to be up and about 14 days after such procedure, moving around the country, meeting various constituencies for hours on end, before even contemplating to write the story," he said.

Ang also clarified that Tatad was not fired. He recalled that Tatad's first words when they met were “I don’t want to put The Manila Times in a compromised position.”

"What am I to do? Beg him to stay? If he was bluffing, woe to him, I accepted his bluff. And so I said, 'Write your last column.' Maybe he was soliciting my sympathy," Ang said.

Press freedom

Meanwhile, Ang also slammed Tatad for deeming his case as a "censorship of the worst kind and the biggest blow to press freedom."

"What censorship was he talking about? All his excoriating articles against the President saw print on our paper, save the last, and only because it was full of manufactured data, illogical, if highly improbable scenarios," Ang said.

Ang stressed that press freedom has its boundaries, saying that it is not a liberty to write falsehoods as well as bend or twist facts.

Ang said the management of the newspaper had respected Tatad for his wide experience as a journalist.

"We were disappointed. His articles were far from being accurate and objective, hardly the type of work a good, veteran journalist, or columnist for that matter, would normally exhibit," he said.

"It would now seem that he is too righteous and can’t accept his mistakes. A good journalist is one who is uncompromising, truthful, objective and always ready to apologize for his mistakes. Not Mr. Tatad," Ang added.  —KBK, GMA News