IT gives us hope for this country’s future that we have a new breed of real investigative reporters like the blog Thinking Pinoy’s Rey Joseph Nieto.
This cyber-journalist first exposed one Cocoy Dayao as the technical man who set nearly all of the Yellow websites spreading lies against President Duterte. More importantly, he unearthed the identity of one Jover Laurio, who has for several years through her blog been throwing the vilest of lies against the President and those who support him one way or another. She has been particularly vicious against two of our widely read and respected columnists, Antonio Contreras and Sass Rogando, when these writers joined this newspaper.
She appears to be close to Yellow leaders Mar Roxas, Vice President Leni Robredo, and the former president’s mouthpiece Edwin Lacierda. When Laurio admitted her identity in their tactic now to portray her as the victim of cyber-bullying, the Yellows have rushed to her defense.
Aquino’s former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay pointed out that Laurio uses “magical instruments that meld logic and emotion.” Hilbay is revealing his moral standards if he declares it magic for Laurio to be claiming that the President is “drugged in Fentanyl,” that our columnist is a prostitute, or that the Public Attorney is stupid. Laurio’s posts are downright vulgar, as when she posts an altered image of Nieto as picking his nose.
Nieto forced Laurio out of her hole of anonymity. But it is not just Laurio who has been running the anti-Duterte website. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Yellow’s propaganda men are behind it. Its consistency is revealing: Laurio’s website hits everyone outside the Yellow camp, and paints everyone in it as saints.
I have a particular disdain for anonymous detractors, since even while the Yellows were in power and practically controlled the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the Philippine Star, and ABS-CBN TV—all of whom dutifully reported what they wanted reported—I became their target when I was writing a mere once-a-week column for the Inquirer.
The paper received then so many letters to the editor criticizing not just my columns but bad-mouthing me on a personal level, which pretended to be readers’ feedback, as these even had their actual or email addresses. Many of these consequently were published in the “letter-to-the-editor” section.
I got fed up with these letters, and investigated if the writers were real, either by trying to contact them by email and sending them letters through their regular mail. I even played detective and went to the addresses they claimed were their residence—“no one by that name here,” I was told in a hostile manner by the residents. All but two of the scores of the letters to the editor maligning me or criticizing my columns proved to be authentic.
To expound on how the Yellows used fictitious letter-writers even when they were in power, a black propaganda scam that erstwhile anonymous blogger Laurio mimicked, I am reprinting here my column that exposed it, way back in 2012, titled, “Aquino camp faking letters to the editor” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, April 12, 2012):
My 2012 column:
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 teenage high-schooler from Batasan Hills National High School. Her postings there, mostly in Filipino, are about stuff young girls post in their FBs—“Angpangit ng buhokko!!!!” “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. 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 phenomenon—“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 or scanty results.
There are of course authentic letter writers, and the Google tool indeed filters the authentic writer from the bogus
However, “authors” of most of the letters viciously maligning Corona and myself have no record at all in cyberspace, a major indication that these are aliases.
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.