Rappler – P180M from ‘private’ entities
THE four internet-only media firms that have been stridently critical of President Duterte’s administration have received at least P74 million in funds from the US government, through its US Agency for International Development (AID). The AID is the US federal agency that extends development aid throughout the world, not because of charity, but as a means of advancing its geopolitical interests.
This revelation is not from some anonymous source, but from the website of the US AID itself and its main conduit, the National Endowment for Democracy. (Credit is to the popular blogger Rey Joseph Nieto for pointing me to these websites. His articles on these are posted at his blog ThinkingPinoy.)
These media firms are the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), Vera Files, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and Rappler. The amounts are huge for thinly staffed websites with little overhead and none of the huge paper costs that burden newspapers. These therefore mainly went to the salaries (reported as “allowances” by its few operators). No wonder these four have ignored my private and public requests to them to disclose their funding sources.
We are a sovereign nation. Why do we allow a foreign power to fund media entities dedicated to painting the duly elected president black, in the hope that the masses, or the military, would be roused to topple him?
In its article posted on its website, the PCIJ even shamelessly concealed its main source of funding, which is the AID. It claimed that the bulk of its funding came from “interest income from an endowment fund that Ford Foundation gave in 2003 and from ‘patrons.’”
It didn’t mention at all that most of its funds, at least since 2009 (for which data is available), totaling P25 million, came from the US federal government’s AID, disbursed annually without interruption. This was coursed through the US State Department, and then through the private foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).
The CMFR on the other hand, which has a working staff of four, surprisingly was the biggest recipient of the AID-NED funding, totaling P35 million in the same period. It has been headed since its organization in 1989 by Melinda Quintos de Jesus, the sister of former president Benigno Aquino 3rd’s “peace adviser” Ging Deles, and the wife of Edilberto de Jesus, an adviser in the Corazon Aquino government. The CMFR does not disclose its funders in its website. It arrogantly refused to do so when I requested its head to do so in an email last year, claiming I “was belligerent.”
CMFR has been a strident anti-Duterte news website, routinely republishing articles from Rappler and PCIJ critical of this administration as well as opinion pieces bylined only by “CMFR” that propagate the propaganda thrust of the Yellows.
For instance, its current website has a banner statement that screams as it lies: “An Attack on One is an Attack on All: The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility condemns the arrest of Rappler CEO and Executive Editor Maria Ressa on cyber libel charges filed several years after the alleged offense was supposedly committed.”
CMFR however has been as critical of Duterte as much as it has been slavish to Aquino 3rd when he was in power. For example, in the weeks after the Mamasapano bloody fiasco that resulted from Aquino’s incompetence and his reliance on his close friends, police chief Alan Purisima (who was under a court suspension at the time for graft charges), the CMFR scolded mainstream media as being hysterical, and claimed that the incident wasn’t a massacre but a clash between police and Moro rebels.
On the other hand, Vera Files, a “fact checker” for Facebook, got P6.5 million from NED for its 2016 and 2017 funding and P2.2 million from Asia Foundation, which has also been alleged to be a conduit for CIA operations to mold the minds of a target population. It got an additional P750,000 from the NGO Reporters without Borders, which is also funded by NED.
The organization’s founder Allen Weinstein himself had pointed out that NED “has been doing what the Central Intelligence Agency did” in molding public opinion in its “target” countries. A State Department official in a congressional budget hearing explained: “What was done was to shift many of the awful things [done by the CIA] to a new organization, with a nice sounding name. The creation of the NED was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.”
With Rappler in the past two years being reported in US media as Duterte’s most vociferous critic in media, NED probably got a State Department order for it to give Rappler money, which it did last year, amounting to P7.5 million. It was a lifeline that it would be getting regularly, as Rappler’s funds from two US firms had been used up fast.
The NED funding was disguised as a grant to it for a project tilted “Understanding and Addressing Disinformation’s Impact on Democracy.” That’s so ironic as it was Rappler that first spread the vile disinformation that the police had killed “7,080” from July 2016 to January 2017 in the government’s war against drugs. The anti-Duterte media here and in the US used that figure to extrapolate very falsely that by 2018, there were “21,000” killed in the anti-drug war — 7,000 multiplied by three (years).
The P7.5-million funding from NED was small change though, compared to the colossal funding Rappler got from two American outfits in 2015. In the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s tax-evasion case filed against Rappler, it pointed out that the funds Rappler received from San Francisco firm North Base Media and Omidyar Network amounted to P180 million.
That explains why Rappler has been able to afford extremely expensive Internet tools — which no other local website can afford — for it to quickly expand its footprint, such as software to make its articles appear high in google search results.
These media outfits won’t a last a week without the American funds. And they dare to call themselves the “independent media”?
I had written several columns pointing out that these outfits are violating the constitutional ban on any foreign participation in media, with recent laws unequivocally classifying internet-only news websites as media. The Securities and Exchange Commission had ruled that anything less than “100 percent” control violates the Constitution.
Never did it cross my mind that they are funded by the US government, which has a very strategic interest in molding Filipino minds, especially at this time when China is challenging its decades-old hegemony in Asia.
Why do we allow that?