An affront to the Constitution and our sovereignty
WITH the disclosure that they have been the conduits for spreading vicious black propaganda against President Duterte, it is high time, even an urgent matter of national security, for our sovereign state to shut down the four media outfits, funded by American entities, which have been used as tools to advance US hegemony over Filipino consciousness.
These are the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (set up 1989), the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (also in 1989), Vera Files (2008), and Rappler (2012).
It is indisputable that these news websites got funds from US entities — among them the Asia and Ford Foundations, National Endowment for Democracy, the Omidyar Network, North Base Media — which have even been explicit in their soft-power task to advance American interests globally.
For the first time, the PCIJ yesterday admitted that it received a huge fund (an “endowment”) from the Ford Foundation, and from other foreign sources it has not named yet.
PCIJ should “investigate” the recent Securities and Exchange Commission’s ruling — upheld by the Court of Appeals — in the case of Rappler. It said that the constitutional ban on foreigners in media (Article XVI Section 11) is absolute: “Anything less than one hundred percent Filipino control, as stockholder or through any other means, is a violation.” It will be a stretch of imagination for PCIJ to claim that its foreign funds have not decreased at all the 100 percent Filipino control mandated by the Constitution.
However PCIJ quibbles that “foreign funds are not foreign ownership,” or that foreign funds were used only for training, it cannot avoid the SEC’s ruling that even 0.01 percent foreign participation in a media firm is unconstitutional. If PCIJ releases its books, it will be incontrovertibly proven that without foreign funding, it wouldn’t have survived even for a month. The same is the case for Vera Files and CMFR. With its first funder Benjamin Bitanga refusing to put in more money in 2014, Rappler would have closed down in 2015 if it had not gotten a P100-million infusion from the US firms Omidyar Network and North Base Media.
One reason why this affront to our Constitution had been allowed for three decades is that except for a few years under President Estrada and the second half of President Gloria Arroyo’s term, Philippine administrations since 1986 have all been slavish to the US.
President Duterte, has expressly declared he won’t be a US puppet. The government has started to enforce the constitutional ban on foreign funds in media. It is not surprising that the four horsemen for US interests have become so stridently critical of his administration, and have succeeded in exaggerating the alleged human rights abuses it has allegedly undertaken in its campaign against illegal drugs.
A second reason is the result of the emergence of internet-based media.
When I proposed the founding of the PCIJ in 1989, it was not supposed to be a media outfit. My template (based on a research I did during my year at the Neiman Foundation at Harvard) was for it, as American investigative centers do, to cover for the salary of reporters who would take a leave of absence from their newspapers to do in-depth journalism. Their output would be published (become media) by mainstream newspapers.
The idea was also for patriotic businessmen wanting a professional press or to investigate corruption to fund such projects, as was the case of the US. Alas, there are not enough such local businessmen here, so that I managed to get PCIJ funding from the Ford Foundation, which I thought was at least technically not a violation of the constitutional ban as it wasn’t a media firm. Alas, the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star snubbed the PCIJ’s articles, saying thank you but they would do their own investigative journalism. Only small newspapers desperately needing free content published PCIJ’s output.
With no major outlet for its articles, the PCIJ in the 1990s set up its website that published its investigative pieces as well as its tidbits of opinion and short articles as “blogs.” That turned it into a media firm, with PCIJ conveniently forgetting that getting foreign funds into a media firm is banned by the Constitution.
The CMFR, Vera Files and later Rappler (which is headed by an American, for chrissake!) adopted this PCIJ template since nobody was telling them that having foreign funds in media — even if such media was only in cyberspace — violated the Constitution.
These entities are an affront to our sovereignty, especially as internet media has practically become on par in audience with traditional media.
Media entities here all have Filipino stockholders, to which the editors are accountable. There is a Filipino market which validates to a great extent whether the news generated by these entities are worth the cost of a newspaper.
In sharp contrast, the heads of these US-funded entities answer to no one but their US funders. A PCIJ statement that it has a board it is responsible to is total bullshit. It was Sheila Coronel (who moved to the US a few years back) when she still headed the PCIJ, and now, it’s Malou Mangahas who decides whom to “invite” to become members of it’s rubber-stamp board. CMFR head (since its founding in 1989) Melinda Quintos-de Jesus (sister of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s peace talks official Ging Quintos-Deles) “invites” its board of trustees. It they after all who talk to the US funders, nobody else. Vera Files is a one-woman show of Ellen Tordesillas, although I suspect her silent partner is Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th.
Who are these firms accountable to?
They won’t survive a month without funding from US entities. Do you think they’d get any funding if they always presented the Duterte government’s side in their vicious articles against him?
These may all seem a small issue of whether these firms are complying with the Constitution. However, it is really a matter of national security, of our sovereignty and our future.
Duterte has thrown a monkey wrench into the US “Pivot to Asia” started during the Obama administration. As asserted even by US officials and respected journalists, it is actually the agenda to block China from emerging as a superpower in the region. A major part of its strategy is to get Asian countries, and especially those in Southeast Asia, to hate China as their enemy, using the South China Sea disputes. The Philippines was the weak link the US could exploit, especially with such pro-American officials as Aquino himself and his foreign secretary Albert del Rosario.
However, right after Duterte won power in 2016, he boldly moved to reverse the US success in pitting the Philippines against China during Aquino’s term. He in fact has drawn the country closer to China than any president.
The US will, therefore, do everything it can to remove Duterte and prevent his anointed from assuming power in 2022. Funded by US entities, their lackeys PCIJ, Rappler, Vera Files, and CMFR will no doubt help the Americans in this agenda. They know which side of their bread is buttered.