I WAS happy to see Ninez Cacho Olivares’ Daily Tribune reborn (again)—this time with a much cleaner and far more attractive format, and some new writers (like UST Law Dean Nilo Divina) in addition to Ninez, who remains a columnist after giving up the paper’s control to Willie Fernandez, the new publisher and president. Despite my being a devoted critic of the President, I was not disappointed to see the paper take a pro-administration stance without any false pretenses. A government, particularly one under siege, deserves to have its own press supporters, and there is no shame in trying to defend with apparent conviction what one correctly or incorrrectly believes deserves some firm defense.
We need to engage in serious and principled debate on fundamental issues, and should welcome every effort, no matter how modest, to contribute to it. An openly pro-DU30 paper is needed as much as an openly anti-DU30 one, if we want to promote a lively debate. But whatever side one takes, one must decide that one’s newspaper is either privately owned or public. Readers will be confused if a privately owned newspaper is heavily ornamented with regular opinion columns bylined by government functionaries who are not even known to be writers.
Community without secrets
The newspaper community is a gossipy community, and before long everyone gets to know whether a particular official is the bona fide writer of a column that appears under his or her name, whether it be presidential spokesman Harry Roque, presidential special assistant and photobomber Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, or presidential social media activist and sexy dancer Mocha Uson.
After reading Bong Go’s front-page, first-person piece (“Genuine public service continues”), and his page 5 column (Going forward: “Promoting mental health for all Filipinos”), one has to wonder where he gets all the energy to write all this stuff, and still pose for all those photos without which the newspapers seem to have difficulty coming out.
Questions about the authenticity of the authorship of a public official’s columns are bound to spill over to the integrity of everything else the paper writes about. This, I think, has already happened to the Trib’s July 2, 2018 issue, which talks about DU30’s first two years in office. If you had just landed from the moon or Mars and did not know what’s been happening on the ground the last two years, you would probably frame that front page for your great great grandchildren’s future reference. The stuff was well-written, handsomely laid out, and read as a superb campaign piece. But it was unmitigated propaganda, ill-disguised as interpretive news.
“DU3O rides high on political will,” said the banner headline. Then your propaganda ride began:
“President Rodrigo Duterte’s strong political will is credited by many for his long list of accomplishments as he marked (sic) his second year in office,” the story said. In that short opening sentence, the paper was able to portray DU30’s authoritarian tendencies as a display of “strong political will,” and his long list of unfulfilled electoral promises as a “long list of accomplishments.”
As a presidential candidate, DU30 promised to end almost all the problems you could name — from drug addiction to various other crimes, corruption, China’s aggressive reclamation of Philippine-claimed islands and islets on the Spratlys, communist and Moro insurgency, oppressive contractualization of workers, human rights abuses, the daily traffic nightmare, the constantly breaking down MRT, the endless lines of commuters waiting on the sidewalks every day, etc. — within months, if not weeks or days. He even promised to jet-ski to the Spratlys and plant the Philippine flag on one of the islands that have been reclaimed and fortified by the Chinese.
Long list of achievements?
None of these promises were ever fulfilled, except for his promise to be harsh, and to wage a brutal campaign on drugs, which has resulted in the undocumented killing of thousands of drug suspects and a formal accusation against him of crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court at the Hague. DU30’s best response has been to verbally abuse everyone who ever said anything about the drug killings, including former US President Barack Obama, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and others, and to withdraw the Philippine membership from the Statute of Rome on the ICC, like the African state of Burundi, in order to escape the jurisdiction of the court. However, this withdrawal takes effect on March 14, 2019 yet, and DU30 could still be prosecuted well before that.
Because of DU30’s refusal to assert the nation’s rights over areas within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines lost (temporarily, we hope) certain territories to China, after he set aside the July 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague upholding the nation’s sovereign rights over those areas, and he failed to jet-ski to the Spratlys as promised. Then China started landing its military transport planes on the fortified islands, where it has by now installed cruise missiles.
DU30 has since allowed Chinese military planes to use Philippine air space and to land in Davao, at least twice. In the first instance, the Chinese military plane reportedly unloaded 25 crates, said to contain electronic surveillance equipment, and more than 120 Chinese “technicians” who billeted themselves in a hotel in Davao. The second time, the Chinese military plane reportedly refueled en route home after taking part in an airborne exercise in New Zealand.
On the day DU30’s propagandists were giving him a rave review for his supposedly spectacular performance during the past two years, his proposed peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF collapsed; the world-famous Boracay island resort was pronounced a “cesspool” and shut down for six months; a tax reform law intended to help salaried employees pay lower taxes was blamed for an unmitigated round of consumer price increases; inflation rose to a five-year high of 4.6 percent; an influx of Chinese “workers” supposedly associated with some Chinese infrastructure projects that shunned the use of Filipino labor raised the specter of an oncoming Chinese with the prepositioning of Chinese manpower; the peso plunged P53.14 to the US dollar; and DU30’s unprovoked attack on God and the Catholic Church united the various churches, and non-Church elements alike, except perhaps the Iglesia ni Cristo whose executive minister he had earlier appointed special envoy for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Joma Sison’s forecast
Irony of ironies, while DU30’s latest propaganda medium pronounced him popular still, the CPP founding chairman Jose Maria Sison, with whom he has been trying to play an on-again — and off again — game of peace talks, predicted his inevitable and imminent fall. Many people, who have no sympathy for the CPP-NPA-NDF analysis and opinion found this particular analysis objective and convincing. Aside from the standard communist condemnation of the “US-DU30 regime,” which should be replaced with “China-DU30 regime,” Sison’s statement could have been written by any non-communist militant. It said:
“In less than two years, DU30 has become isolated domestically and internationally. Thus, there is high probability that DU30 will not be able to complete his six-year term of office and will be forced out of Malacañang by way of a surge in anti-fascist protest actions or some other means.
“Far weaker than the Marcos dictatorship, the US-DU30 regime [this should be replaced with China-DU3O regime]will likely be ousted in a short period of time. Every day, the clamor for his ouster grows loud and reverberates across the country. In his drive to accelerate his bureaucratic capitalist plunder and establish his autocratic rule, his regime has exercised hostile moves that subjected the Filipino people to deepening crisis and oppression.
“(The implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion , the war on drugs, anti-tambay (loiterer) operations and counter-insurgency operations had antagonized society.)
“His regime has attacked the people at almost every level possible. He has alienated himself from the Filipino people, not only with his killing campaign, but also with his corruption in government contracts for infrastructure projects, his refusal to heed the demand of workers for wage increases and to end contractualization, his use of police force to suppress workers strikes, his contempt for millions of homeless people and threats of violence against them, his indifference to the plight of hundreds of thousands of jeepney drivers, his narcissism and misogyny, his bigotry against the religious, his war of destruction in Marawi and the continuing military offensives against the Moro people to seize control and establish dominance over the Bangsamoro, and so on.
“(The sellout of Philippine territory to China in the West Philippine Sea has angered Filipinos.)
“DU30 is hated by the Philippine people for pulling down the country’s national dignity to the lowest level amid the saber-rattling of the world’s military giants in the country’s maritime territory and claimed areas.
“DU30 allowed China to build military facilities within Philippine territory. [Portion referring to US military presence deleted.]”
“With every exercise of absolute power, he invites hostility and incites more people to resist his heightening autocratic rule and plans to impose nationwide martial law and establish a fascist dictatorship. In the face of all these, the Filipino people are increasingly determined to push for DU30’s resignation or removal at the soonest possible time.”
Sison’s real meaning
Until Sison released this statement, not many could imagine the CPP-NPA-NDF talking of the inevitable and imminent collapse of the DU30 government. In fact, both DU30 and the CPP-NPA-NDF have given us reason to believe they were working hand-in-glove to formalize a full-fledged coalition government. Does this mean the CPP-NPA-NDF has decided to join the popular forces against a failed president, or is Sison trying to tell DU30 that his fall is unavoidable and imminent unless he cements his dictatorship with the communists?
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