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Rappler insists on its ‘7,080-killed’ fake news; resorts to ad hominem arguments

IN a panicky tone, the news website Rappler (rappler.com) insisted in an article that the lie it had fabricated, that there were 7,080 drug-related killings since President Duterte assumed power, which it spread around the world, is true. This is despite all the debunking and data the Philippine National Police itself and I have presented.

Rappler’s epic lie—or intentional boo-boo—as I explained in the preceding two columns, involved misinterpreting the PNP’s number of “deaths under investigation or concluded investigation”, 4,525, as all due to the campaign against illegal drugs, when the PNP itself—which after all created that category—says they are not, that it included all kinds of killings, of all motives, from road rage to robbery.

Rappler then added this number to the police’s figure of 2,555 of suspected drug personalities killed in police operations to get the sum of 7,080 – which it claimed was the death toll of President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs from the time he assumed office up to January. The accurate figure would be just a third of that: 2,102 based on my calculation using data from the Philippine Daily Inquirer to 2, 582, according to the latest PNP report.

I had emailed Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria and the researcher who wrote the piece, Michael Bueza, two weeks before I wrote my exposes on their epic lie, requesting if they could clarify to me how they got the 7,080 figure. They didn’t respond at all, not even a “no-comment” or mind-your-own-business reply.

It is so unfortunate and unfair for our country that Rappler’s 7,080 number has been swallowed uncritically by the European Union Parliament, the Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, USA Today, and by most foreign media, exaggerating by a third the number of those killed in Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

AD HOMINEM EXPERTS: Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa (left), managing editor Glenda Gloria (middle): “Tiglao is just an ex-journalist, out to get Rappler.” Do they know whom they’re really working for (right)?

Rappler still insists that the PNP’s number of “deaths under investigation” (or DUI) are all drug-related in its recent article, unimaginatively titled in its ad hominem thrust, “Tiglao’s fake news”.

This is despite the fact that police spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos last March 15 pointed out, in reference to Vice President Leni Robredo’s recent use of the same Rappler figure, that its category of “deaths under investigation” are mostly “regular crimes happening on the street”. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, “PNP disputes Robredo on 7,000 drug-related killings,” March 15).

Rappler tries to wiggle out of its lying quagmire by implying that the PNP changed its reporting system and only “last week apparently clarified that its DUI numbers now cover all crimes.”

This is a total lie, and it is shocking how Rappler can assert such a falsehood when it is so easy to debunk it. Rappler itself reported August 23, 2016 when the PNP first set up that category: “PNP chief Dela Rosa: Not all deaths under investigation drug-related. There are other motives.”

Several other newspapers reported this clarification, among them the following Philippine Star article of December 9, 2016:

“What we are claiming as those recorded as deaths under investigation are not all drug-related. So, these were not part of the war on drugs,” said PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa in a mix of English and Filipino. He said other deaths were just ‘normal’ cases of murder, homicide, riding in tandem and parricide.

Another similar report, in ABS-CBN’s website December 6. 2016:“According to the PNP, ‘deaths under investigation’ are ‘murder cases outside police operations,’ regardless of the motive.”

7,080 not mentioned anymore
Interestingly, in its discussion on DUI, claiming that my expose was wrong, the Rappler article no longer mentions that now infamous “7,080” figure that it spread around the world, probably realizing it is indefensible. Yet, it still insists my expose was wrong, basta. What data does it present for this?

Nothing, it just asks readers to take their word for it: “There are many more unreported deaths in the war on drugs. We know this from the many hours that our news team has been spending on the streets, pounding the graveyard beat in the last 8 months.” Rappler can do that with its lone police reporter?

But that claim certainly sounds familiar.

That’s how Vice President Leni Robredo blackened the Philippines’ image in her message to the UN, citing anonymous sources, telling the world to believe her: “Some told us… We were told…There were reports.”

That the writer or writers of that Rappler post  purportedly debunking my expose aren’t really confident of what they’re writing is obvious in that they can’t even identify themselves, with the article only by-lined by “Rappler.com.” Is the writer the executive editor Maria Ressa? Or is it managing editor Glenda Gloria or the writer of the original epic lie, a researcher, Michael Bueza? Or is the outfit’s Board of Directors?

Rappler had very little arguments to prove its 7,080 as correct. In its its short, sophomoric 340-word post (a fourth of the length of this column), it resorts to ad hominem arguments, referring to me as an “ex-journalist and Arroyo apologist”, obviously implying that I am not a real journalist now. Ad hominem are a sure mark of bad, bad journalism.

“Arroyo apologist”? While I was Presidential Spokesperson and Press Secretary for a few months, I was under President Arroyo, behind the scenes, so to speak, for four years as her Presidential Chief of Staff and Presidential Management Staff Head, and then for five years Ambassador to Greece. But I am astonished why Rappler is still hung up about Arroyo, who stepped down from office seven years ago, and who has been practically cleared of all the trumped-up charges against her?

Ex-journalist? I returned to being a professional, full-time journalist in 2010 after my stint in public service when I started writing a column, first in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I have written more investigative pieces in my column since then up to today and won more awards for journalistic excellence,  than all of Rappler’s editors and reporters have in all their working lives or could in several lifetimes, combined.

Vintage yellow thinking
Rappler’s argument is really vintage yellow thinking—when criticized, claim that there’s a nefarious motive. “Tiglao is out to get Rappler. And that’s the only explanation for his series of fake news about us.”

Proof that I am not out to get Rappler, which would be news to Rappler staffers: I had not disclosed for three years now, other than its recent foreign funders, the real controlling Filipino owner of Rappler – if he is not fronting for anybody else, that is— who is so secretive, he isn’t even named in its founding or present board of directors. I had talked several times to its main, controlling investor, a friend from college, even advising him that Rappler must be more objective and balanced, rather than being so supportive of past president Aquino to the point of servility.

He says he is just a businessman just trying make money, in this case by setting up Rappler, which would take advantage of the new brave world of the internet. Alas, in this project to make money, unconcerned about what his biased editors publish, he is responsible for the damage his employees do to our country, as in this case of Rappler misleading the world with a spurious exaggerated number of deaths due to the anti-drug campaign.

I can no longer allow that. Now, especially with his outfit’s ad hominems against me and its supreme insult that I am not a journalist, I will certainly relish to have the truth out. That will be for Monday.

To Rappler: maghunos-dili kayo. There is no shame in admitting a mistake: it’s a mark of professional journalism. And this is more about your pride and there’s a nation here we are building.