BECAUSE it was new at the time, launched only in January 2012, many have forgotten that the internet-only news outfit Rappler, together with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, made up President Aquino’s vicious black-propaganda machine against Chief Justice Renato Corona that so unfairly painted him as corrupt, and who therefore should be removed from his post.
The truth is that Aquino and his Cojuangco clan felt it would be impossible for them to manipulate the Supreme Court with Corona as its Chief Justice, since he had been appointed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, whom they felt was their arch-enemy.
Control of the Supreme Court was crucial for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan and it reckoned that the unprecedented move of removing Corona would cow the high court into issuing a ruling reversing its unfavorable 2011 decision on the Hacienda Luisita case. That decision ordered only a P200 million compensation for that portion of Hacienda Luisita to be put under agrarian reform, a measly amount compared to the P5 billion that the clan was asking for.
The majority of the court justices resisted Aquino’s pressure. The high court’s final ruling affirmed its earlier 2011 decision in April 2012 a month before the Senate ousted Corona as chief justice.
The black propaganda against Corona by PDI and Rappler served as smokescreen for Aquino’s real strategy to remove Corona: Bribing the senator-judges not only with pork-barrel funds but with P100 million each from a fund it hi-jacked from several agencies, called the Disbursement Acceleration Program. (If Aquino could throw a billion pesos at the senators, what’s P100 million to fund a new propaganda machine in the new media targeting the millennials?)
Rappler’s launch rushed
Rappler’s launching on January 2, 2012 appears to have been rushed to create a propaganda tandem with PDI vs Corona during his trial, which started on January 12, 2012 and ended in May that year.
The opening salvo of Rappler and PDI’s propaganda vs Corona was an article on January 1, 2012, by Marites Vitug ,the website’s editor-at-large (who however seems to be no longer connected with the website).
The PDI even bent its rules on publishing articles by journalists employed in other publications, to make the piece its screaming banner headline on January 1, 2012. The timing of the article pointed to the fact that it was part of Aquino’s game plan: The House of Representatives railroaded the articles of impeachment three weeks before, and the Senate trial was scheduled to start in January.
But Corona was universally respected by the legal profession and didn’t have the slightest taint of corruption. Aquino needed a barrage of fake articles to demonize him.
The UST totally belied Vitug’s piece*, and the PDI never again ran a piece on the false accusation. Rappler however posted it twice, on January 2 or after the PDI published it, and May 21, when the Senate was deliberating on its decision, which was made on May 29.
Rappler even published several articles trying—unsuccessfully—to rebut the UST’s explanations such as a January piece that had a sarcastic headline, “UST: Corona’s lecture enough for PhD”.
PDI and Rappler made up a tag team in spewing out articles that painted Corona as a crook. PDI targeted newspaper readers; Rappler the new emerging cyber-space media.
A sample of such ruthless and false Rappler articles are in the collage of headlines accompanying this column: “Corona triples wealth while in SC”; “Corona lied about academic honors”; “Ombudsman on Corona: ‘Certified liar’.”
It is one of the Rappler’s vicious, false articles on Corona that has gotten it in trouble now. This was the allegation that Corona was using a Chinese businessman’s luxury car, which the National Bureau of Investigation was investigating on the basis of the complaint of the car’s owner.
In her melodramatic appeal that Rappler was being shut down because of its anti-Duterte stance, Ressa claimed that the Rappler has been “holding the powerful to account for their actions.”
That is a patent lie.
It was with the powerful Aquino’s political and media thugs that beat up the hapless Chief Justice to a pulp.
Rappler grew under the aegis of the powerful President Aquino. It never posted an analysis or opinion piece in the entire six years that Aquino was in power that was critical of him and his administration, while straight-news stories that showed how bad a president he was were downplayed.
Sorry, that’s not too accurate. There was an excellent analysis piece its managing editor Glenda Gloria wrote about Aquino’s deep character flaws. The piece was posted June 29, 2016—well, technically it was still during Aquino’s term as he stepped down two days later.
Rappler was so supportive of the past regime, that there were persistent rumors that it wasn’t the official stockholder, property tycoon Benjamin Bitanga who really bankrolled it, but the tycoon closest to President Aquino, Jaime Zobel de Ayala. The rumor, totally unproven so far, had been bolstered by the fact that its chairman since its start was Manuel Ayala.
However, this Ayala is not at all related to the oligarchic clan. Manuel Ayala rather is a director of Energy Development Corp. and Sky Cable – information which aren’t mentioned in Rappler’s website. These are firms of another oligarchic group that has been the closest to the Aquino-Cojuangco clan: the Lopez media and power conglomerate.
*The UST immediately issued a devastating rebuttal to the malicious piece. Classes as well as course work but not a dissertation were the absolute requirements for a Ph.D.. The dissertation is waived in recognition of a candidate’s professional accomplishments.
Such Ph.D.s had been given by the UST and other universities here and abroad. Busy as he was as a Supreme Court justice since 2002, and not really needing a “Dr.” title, Corona even finished 48 units’ course work in a span of five years and for his academic excellence, the doctorate awarded him was given summa cum laude status, or “with greatest honors.”
Faced with such a thorough denial of its article, PDI did what it had never done before, which was to put UST’s rebuttal as a banner headline. I was told the late editor in chief Letty Magsanoc was so incensed over the boo-boo that she ordered the newspaper’s internet version to permanently delete it, so one can’t access this article anymore at the newspaper’s site. Google “ust-cj-corona-earned-ph-d” for UST’s statement debunking the Rappler and PDI fake news.