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Andanar spooks Senate reporters in Koko’s dinner

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Communications Secretary Martin Andanar answers questions in a press briefing held in Malacañang.

INQUIRER PHOTO/JOAN BONDOC

They had no idea they were in for a surprise.

What was supposed to be a rare chat with Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III turned awkward for Senate reporters on Wednesday night when an unexpected guest came to dinner: Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

The “setup” left a bad taste in the mouth for the journalists, who felt slighted and cornered to face the man who, just a few days ago, accused them of accepting $1,000 just to cover a press conference that was damaging to his boss, President Rodrigo Duterte.

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None in Pimentel’s team told the reporters that Andanar was coming, but for the Senate president it was all in the interest of making peace.

“I’m glad Secretary Andanar is here upon my invitation so we could share at least one meal with the secretary and the Senate media in the hope that, you know, I can patch things up,” Pimentel said. “This is my effort to reestablish good relations between the secretary and the media.”

Andanar was at another table as the interview went on.

None of the journalists raised the $1,000 issue and went straight to asking Pimentel about pressing matters they had come to dinner for: the Senate reorganization, the death penalty, and Sen. Leila de Lima’s arrest, among others.

The reporters did not even interview Andanar, who has not apologized to the Senate media for his allegation.

At the dining table, there was very little exchange between the media and the communications official, save for small talk he initiated with a few reporters.

Some opted to quietly leave to register their dissent. Others stayed behind, but only to interview Pimentel.

The atmosphere was tense, but the evening ended without any incident.

Citing an unverified “intelligence” report, Andanar, a former news reader, had made public allegations that the Senate media were offered $1,000 to cover the Feb. 20 press conference of police officer Arturo Lascañas, during which he accused President Duterte of being directly involved in extrajudicial killings.

Andanar on the same day said some journalists were offered money to attend. He attempted to explain later by clarifying that none of the reporters had accepted and that he held them in high regard.

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