Why do some Filipinos delight in lying to the world about their country?

  • Reading time:8 mins read

I’D certainly understand it if American journalists, many with a secret racism against non-whites, do so. The website Rappler’s Maria Ressa for instance is an American, who took on Filipino citizenship for convenience, later in life.

But it baffles me why a few Filipino journalists patently lie to the world to bash their own country, and to portray their countrymen as so stupid as to support President Duterte, or accuse media people here of being cowards for not defending the press which they claim is under siege by this government.

They are either bird-brained, or too egoistic to accept the reality that doesn’t conform to their political stances.

Take the “opinion piece” which editor Vergel Santos, chairman of the US-government funded Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, managed to get published in the New York Times last week about the recently concluded elections.

He describes Filipinos who gave President Duterte’s senatorial candidates an overwhelming victory as “unchastened by a past too ignoble, too repetitive and too recent to be forgotten: They endorsed the repressive presidency of Rodrigo Duterte.”

By “past,” he was referring to the dictatorial regime of President Marcos, whom he however served as the strongman brother-in-law’s point man in setting up the Times Journal, and especially its near-monopoly in the sex-and-crime tabloid business, the People’s Journal. (He quickly changed to Yellow feathers after Marcos fell, and got into the good graces of the anti-Marcos journalism icon, Chino Roces — I guess through some personal connection.)

What makes my blood boil over Santos’ piece in the NYT — which has a huge print and digital circulation of 2 million, 250,000 of that international — is that he outrightly lies to paint the Philippines as a place where thousands of innocents are being killed, yet which is being ignored by its citizens and cowardly press.

Santos wrote: “Duterte has waged a war on drugs estimated to have produced more than 5,000 extrajudicial killings as of late December.”

But the URL link embedded in that 5,000 figure, the source of his information, leads to the UK-based Guardian newspaper article which reported that according to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), between July 2016 and the end of November this year, 5,050 lives were lost in firefights between the police and suspected drug dealers.

Either Santos doesn’t understand the term “extrajudicial killing,” or he distorts the PDEA figures for his political bias. Those 5,050 killed were not “extrajudicial killings,” or summary executions by the police that totally disregard the rule of law. Unless proven otherwise – as in the case of the 2016 murder of a teen-ager by three Caloocan cops — these 5,000 were killed by policemen defending themselves. If Santos believes otherwise, such extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

The 5,050 is practically the same figure (5,021) that even the anti-Duterte Ateneo Policy Center, funded by a Columbia University unit, reported was the total of “drug-related deaths” it compiled from news reports between May 10, 2016 and Sept. 29, 2017.

I would respect Santos’ political beliefs, but he is telling lies about my country.

Santos wrote: “Duterte’s camp holds 20 of the 24 seats in the Senate.” He therefore is a strongman just like Marcos was, he tries to tell the world.

His source for that claim? An opinion article in the stridently anti-Duterte news internet site, Rappler, which Santos again distorts, as that 20-man figure refers to the probable coalition of senators to constitute what is called the “parliamentary majority.”

Out of the 24 sitting senators starting July, only four would be the real “Duterte senators,” or those who wouldn’t have won if not for Duterte’s campaigning for them — his former police chief Ronald dela Rosa, his former aide Bong Go, reelectionist Koko Pimentel and Francis Tolentino. Their anti-thesis are the four remaining Yellow Cultists in the Senate until 2022: Francis Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and the jailed Leila de Lima.

Santos is making the preposterous claim that independent-minded senators like Grace Poe, Panfilo Lacson, Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar and Imee Marcos are Duterte’s minions. Many of the non-Yellow senators of course would likely support Duterte’s legislative agenda, because they think these new laws would benefit the country, but Santos insults them by labeling them as the “strongman’s puppets.”

Filipinos overwhelmingly supported “Duterte’s candidates” as much as they overwhelmingly rejected the Yellow candidates, even Mar Roxas who ran for president in 2016, and Ninoy Aquino’s nephew.

To explain what he cannot accept, Santos again lies to the world: “The voting on May 13 was heavily clouded by election-day violence and anomalies at polling stations and, later, by inexplicable delays by the election commission.” His source for that claim? A biased article again in the anti-Duterte news website Rappler.

The article didn’t even report that it was “heavily clouded.” It merely said that the Yellow-controlled election watchdog Namfrel was “concerned over election violence, irregularities.”

Filipinos exercised their democratic right and everyone — even the Yellow candidates — has concluded that while there had been a few glitches in the registration and processing of over 47 million votes, all made in one day, the elections faithfully reported the country’s decision whom to put in power. Filipinos should be proud that they undertook the seventh biggest elections in the world.

Yet Santos tells the world that the recent elections were as dirty and rigged as in some backward African nations that Duterte’s candidates won.

Santos seems to be so distraught that the elections didn’t comply with his wishes on who should be senator that his NYT piece sets a record for an anti-Duterte piece with the most lies.

To lie to the world that Duterte is a corrupt strongman, Santos wrote: “The president’s inner circle has been accused of maintaining links to major drug traffickers.” His source for that statement?

Again, the anti-Duterte website Rappler, in its report that struggled to give credibility to the claims made in YouTube-posted videos, produced by Antonio Trillanes 4th, and narrated by the hitherto anonymous Bikoy, which even the Yellows now say is a total fraud.

I guess Santos hadn’t predicted, when he submitted that piece days before it was published on May 25, that Bikoy would come out on May 23 to confess that what he alleged about Duterte and his family were all lies, and that the propaganda operation was Trillanes’ handiwork.

What really infuriates me is that Santos portrays Filipinos as so stupid and immoral that they would support Duterte, as demonstrated in his statements:

“Filipinos have [an] enduring attraction to strongmen leaders despite the abuses they have endured.”

“Voters are more than ready to look past his authoritarianism — apparently for the sake of quick justice and a semblance of security, however slight.”

And the supreme insult: “Filipinos certainly continue to endorse Mr. Duterte. It seems that more and more, the people of the Philippines may well have the president they deserve.”

If this piece sounds angry, it is because its author is.

CNN interview
Santos in a CNN interview pontificated that journalists (which obviously includes me) who don’t believe in his and the Yellows’ yarn that Rappler is being persecuted by government, but think instead that it is merely called to account for its violations of the law, which includes tax evasion, should quit their job.

Why, he even accused us of being cowards, because we “aren’t defending press freedom.”

This from a mercenary who advised Kokoy Romualdez to set up tabloids in the 1980s as this was the best way to get the masses to Marcos’ side, and stayed in five-star hotels in Britain ostensibly so he could get insights into how the British, who to this day are the masters of yellow journalism, do it.

While I, among others who don’t see the Philippine press as being under attack today, spent time in Marcos’ political prisons, and in my case, was threatened by “disente” government bankers that I would never get another job in journalism if I didn’t stop my exposés on how they were fooling the world.

Santos even lied about himself to the NYT, as he described himself as “a journalist in the Philippines.” Maybe he was, many years ago. No longer now.

Other than his anti-Duterte rants which only Rappler publishes, Santos’ sole work is being chairman of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, funded almost entirely in the last 10 years by the US State Department, coursed through the National Endowment for Democracy.

NYT for accuracy should have described him as a contractual, indirect US government employee.




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