Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: March 2017
Thursday, 30 March 2017 09:21

The New York Times vs the Philippines

“President Rodrigo Duterte… a defiant crusader, willing to encourage the slaughter of thousands in the name of saving his nation from the scourge of drugs.“New York Times, March 21, 2017

THIS is how a New York Times feature story last March 21, 2017, opened, as part of a series of articles bashing President Duterte’s war on drugs. The newspaper obviously wanted to start a hurricane of global outrage when it started urging the European Union (EU) and our other trading partners, to “hit” the administration “where it may hurt” and that is in trade incentives – imposing tariffs on Philippine goods.

Richard Paddock’s piece “Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman” was followed by a teaser of a trailer on Deegong’s drug war, two days later, March 23, for full release of the full documentary on March 26.

The Paddock article was then followed by an editorial entitled “Accountability for Duterte”; and a video documentary, “When A President Says, I’ll Kill You”. The New York Times wrote: “We sent a film crew to the Philippines, where death, grief and fear fill the streets.”

“The fakest story of all” screamed the Manila Times editorial. And I quote: “As an adult in the news business, The Manila Times as a matter of policy does not dignify a piece of fake news or fake story, by commenting on it as if it should be seriously considered by our readers and the Filipino nation”.

And then, The Manila Times proceeded to use 663 words to dignify Paddock’s article.

Malacañang’s Abella came out with his own pitiful response dismissing the NYT article as a “a well-paid hack job for well-heeled clients with shady motives.”

First, let us look at the purveyor of these attacks and the medium used. The New York Times is one of the three or four most prestigious US newspapers (along with the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post). In 1971, it published, “The Pentagon Papers,” a secret US Defense Department history of political/military involvement in the Vietnam War, which was leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, an activist and a US military analyst at the RAND Corporation. The US government filed lawsuits against the paper. The US Supreme Court decision in favor of the paper enshrined “an absolute right to free speech”. It has been awarded 119 prestigious Pulitzer Prizes – more than any other newspaper.

Richard C. Paddock, is not a regular columnist of the NYT but a contributing editor for the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), a Pulitzer Prize winner himself and a 30-year foreign correspondent, reporting from 50 countries.

These are the protagonists that have stirred a political hornet’s nest agitating Philippine social media to take sides: the usual suspects purportedly led by the remnants of the past administration out to “destabilize” the regime versus the red-blue army taking the cudgels for DU30. This time the mainstream media are all over each other defending the “reputation” of the country and by inference the Deegong administration (witness the Manila Times) on one hand and the perceived anti-DU30 PDI and Philippine Star on the other.

But the greater battle raging now is in Facebook, Twitter and the internet media – where everything goes including “ad hominem” arguments by all sides trying to stress their points of view.

But how is the cynosure of all this taking it?

Let me quote what he said last Friday after all of these hit print, the airwaves and the internet: “I’m now the President. The least of my worries is the EU. I have to build a nation…” And then in a speech during the 31st Biennial Convention of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry “…that’s why I went to China. I went everywhere, because we are really poor and we have to improve the economy…”

I could admire the attitude of the Deegong – chutzpah! While everyone is in frenzy, here is the “cool hand Luke,” trying to do what he is supposed to do, trying to govern! But how can he effectively govern given these conditions. And not everyone shares the President’s impudence.

It is a given that the Deegong has brought these negative vibes upon himself by inviting controversy with his unguided (misguided?) pronouncements interspersed with his colorful language. He is his own worst enemy. He stands defiant from the very start against nations that have criticized his war on drugs. His rhetoric, however, has been mostly accepted by leaders in China, Russia and even the new US President Trump. But this EU initiative could hurt not Deegong but the Filipino masses if the proposed trade “embargo” succeeds.

Highlighted in this NYT article is the impeachment case filed by the former mutineer, party-list lawmaker Gary Alejano, using the perjured testimonies of Matobato and Lascañas, and which has no way of advancing through the Deegong-controlled supermajority. Sure, these can be discredited in any court of law, but the Deegong is not facing such a court but that of international public opinion. He needs similar tools fought in comparable battlefield in international media.

The claims in the international media are gaining traction when not debunked properly. So far, the most that Deegong’s alter egos have been doing is to lamely declare that the NYT publication appears to be part of a well-funded demolition campaign to remove Duterte from office.

The alter egos need to carry the burden of defense of PRRD and the country against the onslaught of the local “destabilizers” and their cohorts abroad. Why not hire an international lobby or PR group that can do a professional job of explaining what the Deegong is doing for this country – and exposing the personalities behind these concerted attacks. I am sure the money will be well spent.

The way things are going, Deegong and his people are simply coping. This is a pathetic defense strategy.
Published in LML Polettiques
The Centrist Democracy Political Institute together with Konrad Adenaur Stiftung (KAS)-Philippines has conducted a Thematic Conference and Workshop on Political Party Management and Development in One Pacific Hotel, Makati City last 17- 18 March 2016.

Mr. Jordan Jay C. Antolin, executive director of CDPI started the workshop by presenting the rationale of the event. As he said, the framework of which the party functions and responds to the pressing national issues is essentially based on the official stand as approved with all the members of the national council, reflective of the party’s platform and principles.

Miss Cristita Marie L. Giangan, MPMD, Program Manager at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines, presented the Aspects of Political Party and Sector Management. According to Miss Giangan, the national leaders of the party are the also managers with responsibility and control of the party. Effectiveness and efficiency must be its guiding principles.

Mr. Benedikt Seemann, Country Director of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines discussed the creation of commissions in a political party and how to sustain them. He said that a political party essentially aggregates the interest of the people on the ground. The party consults and agrees in democratic process the general representation and priorities of members and chapters.

The next session was facilitated by Mr. Roderico Y. Dumaog, Chairperson of the CDP Iligan City Chapter. He facilitated a discussion and workshop on political party thematic commissions. He presented the function of the four principal commissions: home affairs commission, socio-economic affairs commission, and intervention and security affairs commission, political and constitutional reforms.

The event ended with each commission presenting their action plan and proposed party stand on the issues vis-à-vis the political platform of the party.

Mr. Lorenzana, the CDPI Chairman, reiterated that internal brainstorming and strategic planning is important in any organization, especially in a political party. And because of that, internal affairs and strategies must be settled and become harmonious with the political party’s agenda, else the party will lose its direction.
Published in News
Tuesday, 28 March 2017 10:31

SSS eyes mandatory OFW coverage

The Social Security System is eyeing the mandatory coverage of Filipinos working abroad, which is one of the proposed amendments to its charter now pending in Congress.

In a statement, SSS president and chief executive Emmanuel F. Dooc said the agency is seeking to cover all overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in order to provide them security protection.

SSS said only about 500,000 OFWs are SSS members out of the estimated 2.4-3.8 million Filipinos working outside the country.

OFWs’ contributions totaled P4.64 billion in 2016, SSS said.

“The mandatory coverage of OFWs would increase the number of members of the pension fund on the back of SSS’ efforts for universal coverage,” Dooc said.

In 2016, SSS disbursed P779 million in benefits to OFWs, including initial and lump sum benefits for retirement, death, (funeral with grant), disability as well as for sickness and maternity for female workers, it said.

“We are pushing for our OFWs to be covered on a mandatory basis in order to secure their basic safety net in time of contingencies.” Dooc said.
Published in News
First Read

IN 1898, at the birth of the Philippine republic, the United States press oppressed the new nation with its newly minted “yellow journalism.”

One hundred nineteen years later, the US press is using on the Philippines today its newfangled weapon of “clickbait journalism.”

The office of the historian of the US Department of State filed this report on the events of 1895-98:

“During the heyday of yellow journalism in the late 19th century, it was one of many factors that helped push the United States and Spain into war in Cuba and the Philippines, leading to the acquisition of overseas territory by the United States…

“The battle between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal for greater market share gave rise to the term “yellow journalism.”

“Once the term had been coined, it extended to the sensationalist style employed by the two publishers in their profit-driven coverage of world events…

“Yellow journalism is significant to the history of US foreign relations in that its centrality to the history of the Spanish-American War shows that the press had the power to capture the attention of a large readership and to influence public reaction to international events. The dramatic style of yellow journalism contributed to creating public support for the Spanish-American War, a war that would ultimately expand the global reach of the United States.”

Flash forward to the present day. The US press is waving at the Philippines the weapon of “clickbait journalism.” In the age of the Internet, US journalism has the impudence to demand that the Philippine republic bend its policies to its wishes. “Release Sen. Leila de lima,” declared the New York Times.

Most Filipinos are unmoved. They like the thought that DU30 has an unusual vocabulary for rebuff.

Clickbait to stop falling revenues

In contemporary journalism, the term “clickbait journalism” is more recent than “fake news” and “post-truth politics,” which were crowned as words of the year by the Oxford Dictionary in recent years.

Economics was the driver of yellow journalism in the 19th century. Economics is similarly driving clickbait journalism in the 21st century.

Clickbait is the offshoot of the frantic effort of media organizations (particularly print media) to find an availing response to the devastation wrought by the Internet on advertising revenues, readerships, and bottom lines.

According to Wikipedia, “Clickbait is a pejorative term describing web content that is aimed at generating online advertising revenue, especially at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines or eye-catching thumbnail pictures to attract click-throughs and to encourage forwarding of the material over online social networks. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the ‘curiosity gap’, providing just enough information to make readers curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content.”

The practice and methods of clickbait were developed because of the interest of advertisers and media buyers in the volume or number of clicks generated by certain stories and news analyses; it was thought that clicks were the virtual equivalent of readers, though clicks do not necessarily mean that the stories/ opinions are read.

The sensational writing, headlining and angling of stories are designed to induce the reader to click to the story or message.

From here, it’s a short leap of imagination to see that communication strategists and public relations practitioners would develop clickbait strategies in their communication campaigns.

Although clickbait was first started by social media, mainstream media quickly caught on and realized the potential of clickbait journalism to generate more readers and stem falling revenues. Soon every mainstream media had its own digital site and edition. In combination with fake news, clickbait journalism was potent.

Distorted view of the Philippines

Over the past eight months, I have diligently gathered in my files the many reports and analyses of Philippine developments by Western media. I can honestly say that I have read and reviewed them all.

It amazes me that what many Filipinos perceive as a time of hope (a chance) for our country, is casually dismissed without thorough analysis by Western media as a national disaster.

Thus, I have concluded that the Philippines and President Duterte have been both targets and victims of clickbait journalism. As our new government has struggled to cope with the challenge of governing a nation of over 100 million, there has been a counterpart movement—loosely composed of opposition groups, international media and international organizations—that has sought to control the narrative and eventually tried to bring the nation down.

It is not coincidental that the publication of multiple stories on the Philippine drug war and President Duterte’s bold policies, has happened alongside criticisms leveled at our new government by the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and international human rights organizations. It is not accidental that they all use the same numbers, level the same charge, and make the same demands from the Philippine government.

The entire communications effort is organized, directed and managed. And it’s mostly taking place in and from New York City, where a large international community of journalists, communicators and experts are based, and the whole community of nations can be reached.

Ms Loida Nicolas-Lewis and her group of Filipino propagandists operate from NYC. Together they work on US media and the UN; they have turned the New York Times, the Washington Post, the International Business Times, Time magazine, the New Yorker, the Atlantic and other publications into complaisant channels for critical pieces of what is happening in the Philippines.

From this perspective, the New York Times’ recent analysis, “Becoming Duterte: The making of a Philippine strongman” and Time’s earlier report, “Night falls on the Philippines” have the same DNA.

It seems unbelievable that such prestigious publications would allow themselves to be used for dishonest journalism. They all fell for the line that Duterte has perpetrated over 7,000 extra-judicial killings (EJKs) in his murderous war on drugs.

In a way, Duterte was (is) a dream subject for clickbait journalism. He is outrageous, out-of-control, and uncouth, and the more outrageous he is, the more clicks he will generate.

This is the reason why international media have eagerly given him space. The wonder is why they never bothered to report on Duterte and the Philippines properly through serious fact-finding, investigation and fact-checking. They remain as blind and clueless as the UN and the human rights lobby.

Backlash against clickbait

Not surprisingly, there has lately emerged a backlash against clickbait journalism. The modus operandi of clickbait has been exposed by alert media critics and fact-checkers in the US and UK.

In a revealing critique of clickbait journalism by the International Business Times, Mother Jones magazine reported that IBT journalists are subject to constant demand to produce clickbait; one former employee reportedly complained that management issued “impossible” demands, including a minimum of 10,000 hits per article, and fired those who couldn’t deliver. Of 432 articles published by IBT Japan in a certain time interval, 302 were reportedly created by copying sentences from Japanese media and combining them, “collage-style,” to create stories that seemed new.

Similarly, IBT employees told The Guardian in 2014 that at times they seemed to operate more as “content farms” demanding high-volume output than a source of quality journalism. At least two journalists were allegedly threatened with firing unless traffic to their articles increased sharply.

Katherine Viner, editor in chief at the The Guardian, declared that “chasing down cheap clicks at the expense of accuracy and veracity” undermines the value of journalism and truth.

Others have concluded that clickbait could be the death of journalism.

Alarmed by the trend, Facebook and Google have taken measures to reduce the impact of clickbait on their social network and internet service.
Published in Commentaries
I NEARLY fell out of my seat when I read Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ Lenten message. Villegas is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) which posted his message in its website – dramatically titled “Meditation”.

What kind of Church leaders do we have now in someone like Villegas? Political partisans exploiting the name of God, and lusting to be the country’s second Cardinal Sin, who had a glorious crucial role in the EDSA revolt that toppled a dictator?

The title of Villegas’ meditation is shocking enough: “Edgar and Art and God’s Mercy.”

Who is Edgar? He’s Edgar Matobato, an admitted hit man, whom the Yellow Cult or probably just Senator Antonio Trillanes IV got to testify in the Senate last October not really to seek justice, but to portray in the most vivid way that President Duterte was a ruthless killer who organized the Davao Death Squad (DDS) that murdered innocent people in that city in the 1980s.

Who is Art? He is Arthur Lascañas, worse than Matobato as he was an officer of the law, a police sergeant. “Just our low-level killer we contracted at times,” Lascañas even denigrated Matobato. Lascañas in contrast was a middle-level DDS leader, who ordered men under him to kill, and who by his own admission, himself killed some 300 human beings.

That puts him in that very small group of serial killers in the modern world with that many people murdered. Matobato obviously is the Phase 2 of the Yellow Cult’s program to demonize Duterte.

How can Villegas be so naïve or gullible as to assume that these two killers repented for killing so many people? I watched so many of the TV interviews of these two killers, and endured so many hours of their testimony: Did they ever shed a tear, or become misty-eyed over their victims? Absolutely not.

Lascañas testified that he stopped killing people, not because he sympathized with his victims or their relatives, but because the Devil visited him in his dreams – which means he was simply afraid of some killer more powerful than he. (Villegas claims though that the Devil actually appeared to him.)

Killed two brothers

Why, even Lascañas had some respect for the truth that he didn’t even attempt to narrate that such a dramatic conversion happened to him: He simply said he had a “spiritual renewal,” a term that had obviously been fed to him to say.

Like a telenovela writer, Villegas wrote of Lascañas: “He did not give up. He returned to his knees and sobbed tears of shame and guilt. He heard a voice again ‘Do you love me? Feed my people. Feed them the food of truth. Set my people free. I will wait,’ the Lord assured Art.”

Villegas didn’t even consider the possibility, given the apparently good financial situation of the two killers, that the Liberal Party or just Trillanes may have paid them a fortune to blacken Duterte’s image, probably explaining to them that they could trigger an EDSA kind of revolution?

Villegas didn’t even consider that the institution with more expertise on worldly affairs—the Senate committee that heard the testimony of the two killers—concluded that they were liars.

The Lenten season commemorates Catholicism’s core teaching of Jesus Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, an event really more mind-boggling than the Big Bang, when God entered Human History. Therefore, Lenten messages are supposed to be about transcendental ideas—who we are, our mortality, our relationship with the Infinite.

Degrades the Infinite

Yet Villegas degrades this commemoration of the Infinite to the mud of politics, about how bad this very temporary President is. He thinks he is being cute, or hoped his message would land in the newspapers’ front pages by referring to the two killers’ boss as “Superman,” which they had said in the Senate hearings was their code for Duterte.

In the Lenten messages this year of Pope Francis, and those of other Church heads around the world such as the Singapore Archbishop Goh, Brisbane Archbishop Coleridge, Melbourne Archbishop Hart, and Glasgow Archbishop Tartaglia, there is not a single word referring to a current event.

Which is as it should be, as an event as transcendental and cosmic as Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, cannot be dragged down to the mud of ephemeral politics. Doesn’t Villegas know that clerics get involved in politics only in a few Islamic countries, with the term Ayatollah even now connoting something fearful?

Why, for God’s sake, did Villegas do this?

Villegas’ motive is not really to inspire the faithful to have faith in God, to believe that their sins will be forgiven, whatever they are. That is certainly not a problem for most Catholics: it is in fact what makes this religion attractive for them.

Villegas’ motive is to revive in the public mind the testimonies of the two killers and to believe their allegations against Duterte, which have all been dismissed and forgotten, with the prevailing view being that these two are merely Trillanes’ paid minions.

Jesus Christ himself, Villegas claims, have forgiven them: “On the charge sheet for the sins of Edgar and Art, Jesus had stamped in clear words “PAID”. Therefore, believe their testimonies.

To heaven

He even implies that these two murderers will go to heaven: “There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” So, Villegas thinks that Matobato and Lascañas are better human beings than us who have never snuffed out a human life? Bullshit.

Why is Villegas doing this? The only reason I can think of: For vainglory. In his mind, he is the political heir of Jaime Cardinal Sin, since nobody was as close to the Hero of EDSA as he.

Villegas was for 25 years the personal secretary of Sin, who intervened actively in politics in the 1980s for the emergence and victory of the EDSA revolt that overthrew the dictator Marcos. Villegas was disheartened when instead of the prime post of Manila, Pope Francis assigned him instead in 2009 to the provinces, as Archbishop of Dagupan-Pangasinan, far from the center of politics in the country. His hopes of being the new Cardinal Sin were, however, revived when he was elected CBCP president in 2013, a post his mentor had occupied in the years leading up to the EDSA uprising.

In his egotism, Villegas believes he is the Sin of this period, which requires him though to lead such a glorious event similar to EDSA that his idol did—like the overthrow of Duterte through some People Power kind of revolt. Like the Liberal Party, Leni Robredo, and Trillanes, Villegas thinks that the controversy over extra-judicial killings and the supposedly explosive revelations of the two killers would trigger such an EDSA.

Truth—and Lenten messages—are the casualties in such ambition and in such plots.
Published in Commentaries
Monday, 27 March 2017 09:11

2019 Barangay, Cha-cha vote eyed

ELECTIONS for barangay (village) officials will likely be moved to May 2019 and synchronized with the midterm polls as well as the planned plebiscite on constitutional changes, a ranking House member bared on Sunday.

Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list, chairman of the House electoral reforms committee, made the projection following fresh calls from President Rodrigo Duterte and Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno to postpone the barangay polls for a second time.

But unlike last year’s move in which the barangay polls were postponed and incumbents were allowed to served for another year in a holdover capacity, President Duterte wants to scrap the barangay polls in October and appoint barangay officials instead.

“If the October [barangay]polls will be postponed, it could be done simultaneously with the midterm elections [in May 2019]. Federalism [through charter change]is set to be discussed [when we return in May], so it is possible that the vote on Cha-cha would be done with that of the barangay polls,” Tugna said in a radio interview.

A shift to a federal form of government will mean the country will be divided into 11 independent states under a federal government, with each state having the authority to craft laws and manage resources.

“If that will be the case, the results will be reflective of the genuine sentiment of the people because voters show up for barangay polls,” Tugna added.

He disagreed with the President’s plan to postpone the barangay polls and simply appoint village officials.

“Fair and square elections will bring in competition and bring in the best. We should let the voters decide on who they want to lead,” Tugna, a lawyer, said.

Duterte has said that 40 percent of at least 300,000 barangay officials across the country are involved in the illegal drug trade, but has yet to present data backing up this claim.

Under the Local Government Code of 1991, barangay chairmen and councilors are elected every three years—meaning Congress would need to amend the Local Government Code, on top of passing the law postponing the barangay polls, if they want to grant the President’s wishes.

“The preference is free and open elections, unless those who will propose otherwise will be able to present enough data that drug money proceeds indeed influence the results of the barangay elections,” Tugna said.

“Before we pass a law, we should have enough basis that it is for the good of the citizens. After all, this is a far-reaching bill. There has to be a sufficient basis to be able to deviate from what is normal, what is the usual and what the law states,” Tugna added.

Senators hold emergency meet

“There are other issues that will be tackled but the main topic is the barangay elections,” Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd said in an interview over radio station dwIZ.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito confirmed the emergency meeting.

Sotto said two options were being studied on how to select new barangay officials who are not linked to illegal drugs.

Doing away with the election and allowing the President to appoint barangay officials will require the passage of a new law, Sotto said. Another option is to proceed with the election but people will select only a new barangay chairman.

“It would be easy for the government to monitor them since there would only be 42,000 barangay chairmen to watch over,” said Sotto, who was with the President in a visit to Myanmar last week.

The Senate majority leader said Duterte discussed the barangay polls during the trip, but did not insist on his plans on how to go about the elections. Duterte, Sotto said, only told him to study all available options on the matter.


Former Senate President Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., on Sunday cautioned the government against taking shortcuts to weed out barangay officials who are involved in illegal drugs, as it could set a bad precedent.

Pimentel, considered as the “father of the Local Government Code,” was referring to the plan of Duterte to do away with the barangay polls and just appoint new barangay officials.

He pointed out that the country has laws dealing with erring public officials.

“If a barangay official committed a violation he or she should be charged and jailed, that is what the law says,” said Pimentel, father of the incumbent Senate president.

There is no assurance that appointing barangay officials will completely eradicate the corruption and illegal drug problem, he pointed out.

If the President is allowed to replace barangay officials through appointment because of alleged corruption or involvement in illegal drugs, he might as well appoint other local government officials like mayors and governors, he said.

“What is important is that we should always follow the Constitution, and if the President wants to have a new system, it should be accompanied with a new law…it should not be, ‘I want to appoint therefore I will appoint,’” Pimentel said.

Published in News
AS an adult in the news business, the Manila Times as a matter of policy does not dignify a piece of fake news or fake story, by commenting on it as if it should be seriously considered by our readers and the Filipino nation.

But there are times when we make an exception because the fake story is deceiving too many; and it has the potential to shape international perception of our country and our people in a highly negative way.

This is the situation we face with the unsubstantiated story authored by Mr. Richard C. Paddock. which the New York Times published in the World section of its edition of March 21, 2017.

The story is grandly titled “Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman.” It is illustrated with full-color photos of various incidents in Duterte’s life.

It relates multiple stories about Duterte, and summarizes many of his outrageous statements and claims. It purports to quote some of DU30’s relatives and his acquaintances who agreed to be interviewed.

It levels at Duterte the charge that he sees himself as a killer-savior of the Philippines. Killing for him is the solution to key problems of the country.

Paddock writes of various killings in the country, some of which he says involved Duterte at the trigger. Yet whenever he has to substantiate an allegation he retreats by claiming that it is hard to prove. He cannot cite specific cases.

Typical is how he cites a sadistic story where Duterte allegedly throws a criminal suspect out of a helicopter, Paddock did not even supply his name.

Overall, it is hard not to agree with the charge of Duterte’s spokesman and press secretary Ernesto Fabella that the NYT story is just a clever hack job.

Mr. Paddock is unbelievably lazy as a journalist. He will not validate any of his allegations with serious fact-checking. No one corroborates his grisly tales.

For instance, he claims that in nine months. President Duterte has exceeded the number of killings during the 20-year rule of President Ferdinand Marcos — by claiming that there are now over 7,000 killings under Duterte, while there were 3,600 under Marcos.

The numbers are wrong with both Presidents. Both statistics are false and have not been validated by fact-checking.

No serious work of journalism has made the claim that 3,600 were killed under Marcos. It was Amnesty International which first made the claim. But when challenged, AI admitted that it could not validate its figures.

The problem is the same with the contemporary figures regarding killings under Duterte. Manila Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao has exposed the 7,000 figure as a concoction of a Philippine website, rappler.com, whose numbers were used by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the United Nations and Western governments to criticize Duterte and make him call off his drug war.

This is not a defense of President Duterte and his war on drugs (which the Manila Times has squarely criticized on several occasions). This is rather a call for better and fact-checked journalism.

It would have been different if the paddock story was published as an op-ed article. But NYT ran it as a news story and analysis in its world section.

We criticize the New York Times in its handling of the Paddock story, because by reason of its prestige and influence, we did not expect to see it purveying a false story. We expected it to be more factual and reliable, by demanding fact-checking from its reporters or contributors.

The net result of the Paddock story is that it contributes no new facts about President Duterte, other than some hitherto unknown personal family anecdotes. It has no facts to report.

Far truer, is that NYT and Mr. Paddock have added to the growing urban legend of Duterte and made it global.

According to the Oxford dictionaries and other respected dictionaries, an urban legend is “a humorous or horrific story or piece of information circulated as though true, especially one purporting to involve someone vaguely related or known to the teller.”

Fake news, by definition, resembles an urban legend. According to Politifact,

“Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports.”

That unfortunately is what Paddock’s story on Duterte amounts to.
Published in Commentaries
AMID reports of Chinese construction in the disputed areas in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte said China had assured him it would honor its word not to build structures on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal. Speaking to reporters upon his arrival from an official trip to Thailand on Thursday, the President said China won’t do anything that would jeopardize its relations with the Philippines.“I was informed that they are not going to build anything at Panatag. Out of respect for our friendship they will stop it. Hindi nila gagalawin ‘yan sabi ng China. ‘Huwag kayong mag-alaala, magkaibigan tayo’ [They won’t touch it, China said. ‘Don’t worry, we’re friends],” Duterte said during a news conference.

“That was the assurance given by the Chinese government. They are not going to build anything on Panatag because they want our friendship. They [won’t] do anything to place it in jeopardy…China has a word of honor,” he added.

China is reportedly preparing to build monitoring stations on the islands situated in the disputed waters, including Panatag Shoal, a traditional fishing ground off Zambales province.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has said the Philippine government should file a “strong protest” against China’s building activity, which could lead to militarization in the disputed waters.

Carpio urged Duterte to send the Philippine Navy to patrol at Panatag Shoal and invoke the Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty if China attacks the Philippine Navy.

‘Why pick a fight?’

But Duterte reiterated that his administration wants to avoid a rift with the Chinese government because it is not ready to wage war.

“This is what I said in China and it was bilateral… I said I come here in peace… I said I just want to trade with you and I want business because my country needs the money. But certainly, during my term, before it ends or in the middle of my administration, there has got to be a time when I will confront you with the arbitral judgment,” Duterte said.

“In the meantime, I set it aside. But I said remember my caveat that I will bring it up…When? When they shall have dug the minerals and the riches of the bowels of the sea. Bakit ako makipag-away ngayon [Why will I pick a fight today]?” he added.

Duterte is referring to the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that favored the Philippines over China. The tribunal ruled that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights over areas within its so-called nine-dash line, which covers practically the entire South China Sea.

China has refused to recognize the ruling, calling it “a mere piece of paper.”

‘Free to enter’

The President also said that he had allowed the Chinese “innocent passage” in the disputed territories.

“You are free to enter, just inform the Navy, inform the Foreign Affairs secretary,” Duterte told the Chinese.

The Defense department earlier this month bared that Chinese survey ships were seen last year at Benham Rise, an undersea region that forms part of the Philippines’ extended continental shelf east of Luzon, and is not a disputed area.

The President backtracked on his campaign statement that he would go to the disputed islands on a jet ski and wave the Philippine flag to dramatize the country’s claim to the islands.

During the 2016 presidential debates, Duterte said he would ask the Philippine Navy to bring him to the boundary of the Kalayaan (Spratly) Islands so he could “ride a jet ski while bringing the Philippine flag.”

“Why do you have to go there and look for a friction? A friction could cause explosion?… There is always the unchanging rule for that. I’m not bright but I’m a lawyer, the reality is miscalculation,” he said.
Published in News
Thursday, 23 March 2017 10:10

A grand game of chess

CHESS is a mind game of strategy between protagonists that involves tactical moves and counter-moves. And the winner purportedly is the one who thinks ahead by several moves.

The Duterte presidency has been involved in an exciting game of chess of late pitted against several players – akin to an exhibition tournament where the grandmaster simultaneously clashes against several amateurs. But in this political chess, it is not simply an exhibition; and the adversaries are not of lesser caliber; and the spectators are left guessing as to the next moves of the combatants.

Several recent moves may be part of a larger scheme to throw him off balance and could be a concerted effort towards an eventual checkmate. Ponder upon the following: the re-emergence of Arthur Lascañas as a perjured prime witness against the Deegong accusing him as the patron of the Davao Death Squad (DDS); the recent video clips released by VP Leni Robredo in the international media on the DU30-authored extra-judicial killings (EJK); and now the first impeachment complaint against Duterte by the Magdalo party-list representative Gary Alejano, all within the space of one month. One can’t help but conclude that this could be part of the “destabilization” directed against the DU30 administration.

As a flashback, the Magdalo group, led by an active Navy officer mutinied against the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in that infamous Oakwood episode of 2003; the same officer Antonio Trillanes is now a senator of the land and the bete noire of the Deegong. And they are at it again, throwing rocks at the DU30’s ship of state, hoping and waiting for it to sink.

And now the minority partisans of this deadly political chess game are drawn into the fray once again taking sides; the fanatical Red and Blues defending the status quo and the Yellows relishing the role of the opposition. The moves and counter moves are currently fought in social media and in the halls of Congress – deflecting attention from the all-important task of good governance. The greater segment of the citizenry, we, mere onlookers, no doubt could be the biggest losers.

PRRD could be his own worst enemy here if he continues to be waylaid by these irritants – for indeed, they are. I have no doubt in the President’s sincerity to do good for the national constituency as he did well with the local community as a city mayor. In fact, Gina Lopez, the beleaguered environment secretary has described Duterte as “the real thing”. His economic programs as enunciated by his economic team are laudable, but it needs his personal attention. His election promise to usher in a new governance paradigm, rejecting the defective unitary form of government through a shift to a parliamentary-federal form will need the revision of the 1987 Constitution. This is his other priority and he needs to stay in focus.

But let us examine closely his current predicament and see if these are really worth his being derailed from his chosen path. First, he has barely warmed his seat in office and an impeachment complaint has been filed. But what will it take for this to prosper in the lower house; just another numbers game and the endorsement of the leadership. He has the backing of his super-majority – and its leadership in his pocket. There is no way impeachment will succeed.

Second, the noisy opposition is mulling over the possibility of filing cases in the International Criminal Court for crimes committed during his stint as a city mayor and on human rights violations. PRRD need not concern himself with his own defense. He has a thousand lawyers who can carry the burden of litigation if ever it will come to that; not to mention that the Lascañas and Matobato confessions, perjured witnesses all, are being used to make these cases against him. Legal luminaries doubt these will prosper at all.

Third, VP Robredo’s rant at a United Nations commission may bring her sympathy internationally and girl scout points but bluster does not get an international criminal trial going. PRRD need not concern himself with the fall-out if any, and social media is heavily on his side.

Clearly, Trillanes, a major instigator along with the Magdalo group and the disgruntled LP congressmen and senators who lost juicy committee chairmanships are doing everything to “destabilize” this administration. Even then, this is expected and par for the course. The Deegong from the very start of his regime has attracted controversy and in fact has in some bizarre way, sought it. These are merely bumps on the road and he will survive them. As the saying goes, “…what doesn’t kill him can only make him stronger”.

The Deegong—with 80 percent of the people’s approval; the political support of his elected super-majority; and the near-subservience of a bureaucracy long inured to patronage—has the singular ability to lead this country where he said he would: out of the clutches of corruption and poverty towards the promise of real “pagbabago”. He simply needs to keep his eyes “on the ball” as it were.

To paraphrase Michelle Obama: “If they take the low road, we go high”. It is high time for the President to do the same. Though somewhat aberrant, we are still living under the precepts of democracy, where criticisms and controversies may arise at any time.

What would really take PRRD to face these head-on? Perhaps it is time for a game changer. Buckle down and work diligently towards the fulfillment of his electoral promises; become less ambiguous on his responses to questions given by the media; and simply stay on message.

Simply put, still be the Deegong without the expletives!
Published in LML Polettiques
THE Philippines and Thailand have resolved to revive a 23-year-old tourism cooperation agreement during the official visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Bangkok.

“Philippines’ tourism program may yet gain an added boost with this concrete commitment for tourism cooperation with Thailand as a result of President Duterte’s fruitful official visit in Bangkok this week,” Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo said in a statement.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Chan and President Duterte stood witnesses as Teo and her counterpart,Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports chief Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, signed the Implementing Program of Tourism Cooperation 2017-2022 at the Santi Maitri Building of the Government House of Thailand.

The implementing program is rooted in a memorandum of agreement on tourism cooperation signed in Manila between the Philippines and Thailand on March 24, 1993.

Thailand joins China, Cambodia and Turkey as the Philippines’ partners in tourism cooperation agreements forged within just nine months of the Duterte administration.

The agreement stipulates, among others, that the two countries shall actively encourage their respective local travel agents to develop a joint promotional program that would market both the Philippines and Thailand destinations in one tour package.

“There is so much we can learn from Thailand in terms of tourism development strategies,” Teo said.

Manila-based travel and tour operators who accompanied Teo said the shared tourism program could strengthen the awareness of the international and Thai markets about Philippine destinations.

In 2016, visitor arrivals from Thailand grew by 8.8 percent, reaching 47,913. Thailand accounts for 10 percent of tourist arrivals from Asean.

Under the agreement, officials and staff of both participants will visit each country to build their capacity in the areas of tourism development, administration and finance, human resource, marketing and promotions and standards and regulations.

Teo said this development would also encourage tourism educational institutes in both countries to cooperate on exchanging technical materials, sending experts to give lectures and providing information on the opportunities for tourism-related training.
Published in News
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