Not contented with mainstream media sympathetic to its master, President Aquino’s camp has been faking letters to the editor to vilify those critical of his actions and policies, sources disclosed to this writer. Such bogus letters, many oozing with uncivilized venom, have especially targeted, ever since the impeachment trial started in December, Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Mr. Aquino’s PR operatives have hijacked young people’s Facebook names and fabricated e-mail addresses to use as authors of these spurious letters. These bogus e-mail addresses are mostly Yahoo or Hotmail addresses, as these services enable their users ($20 yearly for Yahoo Plus) to use so-called “disposable e-mail addresses” which conceal the senders’ identities.
Don’t believe my sources, just consider the facts.
A letter to the editor was published in this paper April 2 maligning me. The letter—purportedly written by one Shyril Chloe Quirod—was well written and even used erudite, uncommon terms as “confrere.”
A boo-boo of Mr. Aquino’s operators in this case: Quirod has a very active Facebook account, which shows her to be a teen-aged high-schooler from Batasan Hills National High School. Her postings there, mostly in Filipino, are about stuff young girls post in their FBs—“Ang pangit ng buhok ko!!!!” “Lol, I found the meaning of my name!”
There was no response to attempts at communicating with the purported writer at the e-mail address (shyrill.chloe@hotmail) given to this paper. Mr. Aquino’s propagandists have obviously hijacked this teenager’s Facebook identity and used a fake e-mail address to spread their lies through the letters-to-editor section of this newspaper.
Unscrupulous politicians and PR operators have been sending fake letters to the editor ever since newspapers started this venue to get readers’ feedback. A term has even been coined in 1985 to describe the phenomena—“astroturfing,” derived from the idea of the plastic (artificial) carpet “AstroTurf” replacing real grass (i.e., grassroots support).
Because it is an attack on a newspapers’ credibility, the press especially in the United States has long ago established protocol to detect astroturfing. Letter-writers are asked to give their e-mail addresses and office telephone numbers through which the editor contacts them to confirm their authenticity. When there is doubt on the authenticity of a letter-writer because of his impassioned writing on a controversial issue, and especially when it vilifies somebody, editors require the writer to submit proof of his identity, such as a driver’s license.
Such procedures however have not been the practice in the Philippine press, a weakness which Mr. Aquino’s black-propagandists have exploited to the hilt.
However, the Internet has given editors and media managers a very accessible tool for detecting astroturfing and fake letters to the editor: search engines. Because the Internet since the 1990s has become an immense depository of information generated, most of the educated population leave some trace in cyberspace. Try it yourself. Google your full name. You will get so many results.
Google a fictitious name, or fake e-mail addresses, and you will get zero results.
Other than from “Shyrill Quirod,” there were hate letters against me, purportedly by a “Rowela Quilat” and “Janice Barreiro.” Google shows no “Rowela Quilat” existing. Google has three “Janice Barreiros,” one from Miami, one from Hollywood, and another from Georgia. A “Jacklord C. Alba” from Digos City maligned me in two letters published in this paper. Google shows no “Jacklord Alba” existing. I dare them to e-mail or fax our editor proof that they’re not the Palace’s fictions.
There are of course authentic letter writers, and the Google tool indeed filters the authentic writer from the bogus. For instance, a “Bobby Kraut” may seem to be an artificial name, but he is a half-German retiree, the owner of a stained-glass store, who got six of his letters published in this paper in a year’s time. An “Arnold Van Vugt”—who ranted against me and my colleague Amando Doronila, who have been critical of Mr. Aquino—a foreign leftwing Carmelite priest, a remarkable octogenarian who has a twice-weekly column in the newspaper Sun Star Cagayan de Oro, and so pro-Aquino that he likens the President to Jesus Christ.
However, “authors” of most of the letters viciously maligning Corona, Doronila and myself have no record at all in cyberspace, a major indication that these are aliases.
There were nine published letters to the editor bad-mouthing Doronila. Seven are fictitious. There have been 12 letters which were vicious in maligning Corona, and expect more as the trial resumes in May. Google the authors, you get zero results. They don’t exist. Any veteran editor would also easily discern that these letters’ writing style is the same, with certain editorial tics and all with a black-and-white ethos and a vitriolic tone.
The color yellow is quite appropriate for Aquino’s propagandists who hide behind pseudonyms when attacking those they dare not cross. A “Norman Yanus” in a letter blasted Sen. Miriam Santiago and the Iglesia ni Cristo for allegedly supporting Corona. A Google search shows no “Norman Yanus” existing anywhere in the world.
Messages were e-mailed to the addresses which these bogus writers gave this paper. Either there were no replies at all, or the cyber postmaster replied that the e-mail address was “disabled.”
Never before has any administration undertaken such organized, unethical campaign to subvert the press and even democracy itself, through sham letters to the editors, a most crooked PR tactic. So much for tuwid na daan ethics