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Senate, mainstream media under Marcos Jr.’s thumb?

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THE late strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr. would have been so proud of his son. Without imposing martial law, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. appears to have the Senate as well as mainstream media under his thumb. The two are the pillars of our democracy: We are entering dangerous times.

In the April 30 hearing by the 11-man Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs that lasted about three hours, only its chairman, Sen. Ronald de la Rosa, was in attendance, left alone to interrogate the resource persons. The two senators who owed their posts to former president Rodrigo Duterte’s support — Christopher (“Bong”) Go and Francis Tolentino — were absent at the hearing that would have belied or confirmed the former president’s claim, made this year and in 2021, that Marcos was a cocaine user.

He started it in 2021, repeats claim in 2024.

Whatever their reasons for boycotting the hearing, the senators’ absence indicates their servility and/or alliance with Marcos. I haven’t encountered in my years as a journalist a Senate committee hearing attended by only one senator, its chairman. De la Rosa had to call for a 10-minute break just to relieve himself.

I don’t think the 10 other senators were all so busy attending to urgent personal matters as to forget their responsibility to participate as committee members in a process that would have confirmed or debunked a burning issue of the day.

This involves the now widespread rumor that the President of the Republic, the Commander in Chief of the nation’s armed forces, was a cocaine addict, at least 10 years ago and probably to this day. While the rumor was started by Duterte back in 2021, it recently went viral in social media after the popular blogger “Maharlika” kept on repeating the allegations, and then two weeks ago showed in her vlog two Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) documents revealing that an agent was indeed going after Marcos for cocaine use, until he was ordered to stop by higher-ups.

Servile

Marcos has successfully done what his father did, without physically closing newspaper offices and presses, and arresting journalists. The mainstream print media has proven to be so servile that none of the six broadsheets (which is still what is called mainstream media) even reported that such a hearing on the issue was undertaken.

The small Daily Tribune, even if said to be bankrolled by Senator Go and a top official of Duterte’s party, did report that the hearing happened, but only in a 150-word piece buried deep inside the paper, that de la Rosa blew his top after reading blogger “Maharlika’s” text message to him asking him if the first lady, Liza Araneta-Marcos, had already “bought him.” The Cebu-based Sun Star had a very good reportage of the hearing but published it only on its internet platform.

I had presumed that columnists — the soul of media as they don’t just report events but interpret them — did not report on the hearing because most, if not all of them, submit their pieces morning of the day and even two days before it is published. The hearing was on April 30, so they couldn’t have published anything by May 1.

I was too optimistic of my colleagues: none wrote about the hearings yesterday. None of the Daily Tribune’s columnists, former top officials of the Duterte administration, commented on the hearing. Marcos-as-a-cocaine-user, so viral in social media, was the elephant in the newsrooms.

PDEA

I think the hearing was close to establishing without question that the PDEA, or at least its agent Jonathan Morales, was intending to undertake operations — based on an informant’s information that included incriminating photos — that would have eventually led to the arrest of Marcos in March 2012 when he was a senator, for cocaine use, with his close friends.

The operation was, however, ordered stopped, Morales testified under oath in the hearing, by then-PDEA deputy director general Carlos Gadapan, who told Morales that he was following the instructions of then-executive secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. Before he joined the Aquino 3rd government, Ochoa was a senior partner in the law firm of the now first lady, Araneta-Marcos. (Gadapan was fired a few months later for unknown reasons).

Former PDEA agent Morales claimed that he himself signed in March 2012 the “authority to operate and pre-operation” reports to surveil then-senator Marcos and even arrest him together with several of his friends for cocaine use in May 2012.

PDEA Director General Moro Virgilio Lazo struggled to destroy Morales’ credibility by claiming he had been dismissed from the police force and had cases filed against him. Morales responded by pointing out that the cases were trumped-up charges that were dismissed, and he was merely out of the “rolls,” that is, the list of active policemen and had not been discharged.

Lazo

Lazo, whose experience was mainly in heading police units such as the Special Action Force, claimed in the hearing that there were no such documents alleged by Morales on the PDEA’s “Plans and Operations Reports Management Information System.” Morales pointed out, however, that this management information system was not yet in place when he signed the document for the surveillance and arrest of Marcos.

The PDEA claimed through the state-run Philippine News Agency that the documents showing that Marcos was a suspect as a cocaine user were fake and made through artificial intelligence (AI) technology.

This only showed PDEA’s ignorance of what AI is, which is much, much more sophisticated than adding names to a standard form. The PDEA’s claim that it was “AI-generated” was contradicted by another of its officers, who instead claimed that the “authority to operate and pre-operations” documents are standard forms that could be downloaded through a computer, filled up and signed by the agent proposing the operation.

It is to the credit of Senator de la Rosa and his police-investigation experience that he pointed out a detail that gave much credibility to the authenticity of Morales’ documents. He pointed out that the photocopied documents had semicircle marks beneath the “C” in the words “Confidential” in the two documents. He descried these marks as made by the steel fasteners used in binding a pile of documents, which punched holes in the papers to bind them.

All by his lonesome, committee chairman Ronald de la Rosa at the Senate hearing on April 30, 2024, to probe PDEA operations vs Marcos Jr. for cocaine use.

The documents could not have been forms merely filled up by Morales. They were taken out of a set of documents held together by those fasteners, de la Rosa concluded. There existed documents saying there was an operation to surveil Marcos and even arrest him for illegal cocaine use, contrary to the PDEA’s claims none existed, de la Rosa concluded.

Maharlika

This was exactly Morales’ claim when he was interviewed last week by the popular vlogger who uses the pseudonym “Maharlika,” who broke the allegations based on the two documents, copies of which she had in her possession. Morales claimed that the documents were among a bunch of such documents on the surveillance and arrest project against Marcos, which he gave to the PDEA records office. The other documents were the informant’s detailed affidavit on the allegations against Marcos, and several images of him snorting cocaine with friends.

De la Rosa has scheduled another hearing next week and has issued subpoenas to former executive secretary Ochoa, “Maharlika” and several other persons.

He should have also summoned former president Duterte, who in 2021 revealed that he had been shown PDEA documents that reported that a presidential candidate in the 2022 elections was suspected of being a drug addict, but whom he did not identify, however.

“There has been a presidential candidate using cocaine,” Duterte said in a speech on Nov. 18, 2021 at a rally in Oriental Mindoro. Duterte also questioned in his speech the qualifications of the unidentified candidate who, he said, enjoyed strong support from Filipinos. “What contribution has he made for the Philippines? I just want to ask,” the former president said.

“He is a very weak leader… except for the name,” Duterte said. “He might win hands down, OK. If that is what the Filipinos want, go ahead.” It is quite obvious now that it was Marcos that Duterte was referring to as the drug addict.

Duterte repeated his claim that the President was a cocaine user last January, and this time Marcos lashed back at him claiming it was the former president rather who was addicted to the painkiller drug, fentanyl, which he said had affected his mind. First lady Araneta-Marcos went to her husband’s successor, very visibly snubbing Vice President Sara Duterte for allegedly laughing when her father made the claim.

In an interview with a popular broadcaster, the first lady spewed venom at Sara, saying what she did was unforgivable.

If Duterte was so good at prognosticating Marcos’ win and judging his character, he would also likely be right in believing the PDEA agent’s claim.


Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

X: @bobitiglao

My website: www.rigobertotiglao.com

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