Opinion & Community

Journos to Du30 communications team: Does your mandate include ‘peddling falsehoods?’

MANILA, Philippines – Journalists on Monday “questioned” and “protested” the government-run Philippine News Agency (PNA)’s publication of two alleged “fake news,” asking the communications team of the Duterte administration if its mandate included spreading lies. 

“We do understand the need for PNA and other state-affiliated outfits to project as strongly as possible the government’s side on current issues and controversies. But does this include peddling falsehoods?” the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) told Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar and the PNA team in a letter. 

“Our concern over the use of PNA to legitimize fake news also stems from the possible implications this poses on the professional reputations and yes, the safety of our many upright colleagues who work for the venerable news agency and continue, despite the challenges they face, to keep it reputable and worthy of people’s trust,” the NUJP added. 

The media organization was pertaining to two similar articles that the PNA uploaded on its website. The first one was titled “95 nations in 3rd UPR convinced no EJKs in PHL,” published on May 15. The second, published on May 20, was titled “PHL’s human rights situation commended at UPR.”

The two articles in question were based on the statements of Department of Interior and Local Government Assistant Secretary Epimaco Densing during a press conference on May 15 in connection with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a mechanism of the United Nations Human Rights Council aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground of each of the 193 members of the UN. 

In the first version of the article, the PNA reported that 95 countries in the UPR were convinced that there were no extra-judicial killings in the country. Meanwhile, the second version said the 95 countries in the UPR instead praised the Philippines for its improved human rights situation.

In the letter, NUJP questioned how Densing’s statements were “reported so uncritically.”

“While we do not question your editorial prerogatives and do understand that you face certain limitations as a government-run news service, we do wonder how Mr. Densing’s comments, which apparently run counter to all other accounts of the positions the participant-countries to the UPR actually registered, could have been reported so uncritically,” the group said.

NUJP also noted the slight rewriting of the second article as an attempt to slightly shift the focus from the first article, which the media group described as “fake.”

“Worse, these were reported not once but twice, with slight rewriting in the second version, as witness below, in an apparent (to our mind) attempt at slightly shifting the focus from that of the first article, which was so obviously – we are sorry but there is no other term applicable – fake from the get-go,” they said.

NUJP then cited the database of UPR recommendations prepared by the non-governmental organization UPR Info in their website, which countered Densing’s statements regarding the positions of the countries as reported by PNA.

The media group also expressed concerns as the first PNA story had already been picked up by fake news sites to smear earlier reports of mainstream media outfits regarding the results of the recent UPR of the Philippines. 

“It has not helped that the first PNA story has already been picked up and exploited by fake news sites, which peddle Densing’s canard to counter the international concern over the current human rights situation in the country and to further smear mainstream media outfits that have reported accurately on the REAL position of the countries that attended the UPR.”

NUJP also said it expected the news agency to answer their inquiries regarding the matter. 

“As a media organization and as citizens of this Republic, we demand and expect an answer from a news agency funded by our taxes and which we, therefore, technically own,” the group said.


Camille Aguinaldo, InterAksyon


Death by press conference

When a combined team of government executives held an inter-agency press conference to familiarize the media and the public on RA-10913 or the Anti Distracted Driving Act, they recklessly assumed that it would be a walk in the park. Most of them did not expect that a simple press conference could turn into a PR Crisis and career ending embarrassment. So what exactly did they do wrong?

Before attempting to conduct a press conference, every government employee or official should be required to read the spiel below before even thinking of holding a press conference without any prior training, exposure or the help of real professionals.

The many press conferences you have witnessed or watched were performed with seeming ease because they were organized and conducted by trained professionals from media and public relations. The panelists therein received coaching and interview training. Please do not attempt to copy them or launch a press conference without proper training as this could lead to extreme embarrassment, resignations or career ending disasters in communication. Just because some people make it look so easy does not mean it is easy.


*      *      *

Every time I handle the Communications Module at the Development Academy of the Philippines, I point out to students of Public Management that the worst mistakes they commit is to presume that they know better, they know what best to do, assume that they have all the answers and to lose sight of who their customers are and what “They” want.

In the case of RA-10913 launch, the inter-agency panelists were preoccupied with launching RA-10913 on the date while pushing back the fact that the pre-requisite public information campaign had not fully been complied with. The fact that many people from different walks of life or status were ignorant, ill-informed or confused about the law, is the first indication that little or no public consultation was done even among experts or motoring journalists. By prioritizing launch date over the public information campaign, the panelists missed out on an opportunity to know in advance how the public would react to the Anti-Distracted Driving Act. If the info campaign had been prioritized, the panelists would have known what questions needed answering and would have had all the answers and clarifications at their fingertips.

Had the panelists studied their customers, they would have realized that habits are not changed after one press conference and it is even harder to ask people to give up things that are valuable or convenient for them.

In terms of talking points, the major sin the panelists committed was to throw in what amounts to “additives & extenders.”

The point of the press conference was to officially announce that RA-10913 was in  effect. The worst thing the panelists did was to venture into the realm of “rosaries, line of sight, air-con vents and what constitutes parts of the dash board.” To make matters worse they even cited pre-existing rules and circulars that also prohibit accessories inside a vehicle. If there were pre-existing laws equal to the provisions of RA-10913, why didn’t they enforce them in the past and now want to do everything through the new law over night?

At a press conference, you limit and simplify things. Too many talking points and debates belong in Congress and the Courts not at a press conference.

*      *      *

When conducting a press conference, you limit the number of speakers. Just because the law calls for inter-agency participation does not mean everyone should talk. A press conference fails when there are too many talking heads because someone will always grab the spotlight and make the rest look like accessories if not mute idiots. With some advance coaching, the panelists would have been told to pre-empt or anticipate all the questions by going over them and having an answer before their presentation. I always tell my students that in a press conference you are playing the last 2 minutes of a game because that’s all you will ever get on radio or TV. So take all the shots, present all the information and you will know you did a good job when there are very few questions after you have spoken. In fact, one of the best way to avoid a grilling by the media is to give them information overload.

Once the Q&A portion is over and assuming you did your job well, there should be no more “seconds” or separate sessions outside the conference area. It was the ambush or secondary Q&A sessions regarding the Anti-Distracted Driving Act that produced a lot of problems for the DOTr and members of the panel. Instead of being the one dishing out the information overload, it was the panelist who ended up being “over-exposed.”  Clearly, people in government have much to learn. Perhaps they should consider enrolling or requesting for training at the DAP in Tagaytay because press conferences can be hazardous for your career.

*      *      *

The threat to impeach Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales simply because she is against Janet Lim Napoles becoming a state witness is equivalent to giving guilty Congressmen a “Stay Out of Jail” card and the chance to become Replacement Assassins tasked to take down Carpio-Morales. I suppose that members of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption suspect Ombudsman Carpio-Morales of being a blocking force against the full investigation of the DAP-PDAF scam because PNoy appointed her to her position.

Nonetheless politics and suspicion should not blind the VACC or any of us for that matter to the fact that many of the suspects, accused or beneficiary from the DAP-PDAF fund scam are in Congress and have the numbers to impeach Ombudsman Carpio-Morales. As they say don’t let the foxes into the chicken coop.

I don’t know if the Supreme Court can step in on this one, but everyone involved should simply ask the Supreme Court on their interpretation of the law and whether or not Janet Lim Napoles qualifies to be a State Witness or not. Let Carpio-Morales defend her position in court and not in the cesspool of politics where it’s all about publicity but not necessarily the letter and spirit of law.

*      *      *

(The Philippine Star)


Senators to Duterte: Why tolerate China's war threat?

Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV asks why the Philippines is rejecting the European Union's supposed interference, but allowing China to make threats.

MANILA, Philippines – Minority Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV questioned anew President Rodrigo Duterte's seemingly "inconsistent" foreign policy, following China's threat of war over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) dispute.

Aquino, who said the threat is "troublesome," urged the Duterte administration to explain its confusing "independent" foreign policy.

"Nakakabahala talaga 'yun na isang head of state nagsabi na baka gyerahin tayo, that's very troublesome," the senator told reporters in an interview on Monday, May 22.

(It is really worrisome that a head of state would threaten us with war, that's very troublesome.)

Aquino pointed out it was contradictory that the Philippine government is rejecting aid from the European Union (EU) for its supposed interference, while letting China make threats.

"'Yung threat of war, gusto natin linawin kasi 'di po 'yun pangkaraniwan. We need to be consistent with our foreign policy. Meron tayong hini-hindian kasi ayaw natin 'yung hirit sa atin regarding human rights pero 'yung iba tatanggapin natin, may threat ng gyera. Parang 'di talaga siya consistent," the senator said.

(We want to clarify the threat of war because that is out of the ordinary. We need to be consistent with our foreign policy. We are refusing aid because of criticism on the human rights situation here, yet we accept war threats from other countries. That really seems inconsistent.)

Last September, Aquino filed a Senate resolution calling for a Senate probe into Duterte's "conflicting" foreign policy, but the inquiry has yet to be scheduled. At the time, then-senator Alan Peter Cayetano – a staunch Duterte ally and now Foreign Secretary – was committee chairman.

Aquino reiterated there is a need to clarify the Philippine government's foreign policy, as it affects jobs, sovereignty, and national security.

It was under former president Benigno Aquino III, the senator's cousin, when the Philippines lodged a protest against China over their maritime dispute. Duterte, in contrast, has taken a friendly stance toward the Asian giant.

Bring issue to UN, file diplomatic protest

Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also expressed concern over China's threat, echoing Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio's call to bring the issue before the United Nations.

"To threaten us with war, especially 'yung disparity ng military might ng power ng China compared to ours, medyo malaking threat 'yan," Lacson said. (To threaten us with war, especially considering the disparity between China's military might and ours, that's a major threat.)

The Philippines, he also said, has basis to pursue another case against China.

"Justice Carpio is right. Dapat i-bring up ito sa attention ng UN (We should bring this to the UN's attention). After all, China is a member. Member pa nga siya ng Security Council, 'di ba? So dapat i-pursue natin dahil 'di maganda 'yan (China is even a member of the Security Council, right? So we should pursue a case because making threats isn't good)," Lacson said.

"Friendship should be based on goodwill. Pero where can you find goodwill kung may threat of going to war in case na ang claims i-pursue natin (But where can you find goodwill if there is a threat of going to war if we pursue our claims), to explore based on what we believe is ours?" he added.

Drilon, meanwhile, said the Duterte administration should not take Chinese President Xi Jinping's words lightly.

"The Chinese President's threat is a gross violation of the United Nations' Charter. Article 2, Section 4 of the UN Charter states that 'all members shall refrain in their institutional relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity of any State, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purpose of the United Nations,'" said Drilon.

"We should stand up to China. We should not allow our country to be bullied and threatened," he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan also supports Aquino's call for a Senate inquiry, as he earlier urged Cayetano to file a diplomatic protest against China for its actions.

"The hearing should tackle not only this issue, but also the details of the $24-billion loans and investments recently sealed with China, as well as the Duterte administration's decision to reject aid from the EU," Pangilinan had said.

But Cayetano, in an interview on Monday, downplayed the incident, saying there is mutual respect between Duterte and Xi. He also said the context of the two leaders' conversation was "conflict resolution."

Duterte earlier disclosed that Xi warned there would be war if the Philippines pushes through with its plan to drill oil in the Reed Bank off the West Philippine Sea.

The Reed Bank, also known as Recto Bank, is internationally recognized as part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), but China claims it as part of its territory. – Rap



Aguirre reiterates De Lima cannot attend Senate sessions

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reiterated on Monday that Senator Leila De Lima is barred from attending Senate sessions due to her incarceration over illegal drug trading charges.

De Lima has formally asked Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III to support her bid to be granted furlough by the Muntinlupa City Regional Trial Court so that she could cast her vote on “crucial landmark legislations."

Asked if the Department of Justice (DOJ) would still file an opposition in the event the Senate backs De Lima’s plea, Aguirre said in a text message: "Of course! Our position is contrary to her request."

Aguirre earlier said some rights and privileges are suspended when one is incarcerated, including the right to attend legislative sessions, citing  the cases of former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

The three former senators are facing plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam.

De Lima, however, stressed in her letter to Pimentel that she remains a senator and that she is just a "mere detention prisoner in full possession of political and civil rights."

She said prisoners were allowed to register as voters and vote in recent elections and that the Sandiganbayan had granted the plea of some detained senators to attend birthday celebrations.

"I do not think it is too much for the Senate to ask the court in charge of my detention to grant such consideration, especially since it is not merely to go to a birthday party or for any personal reasons, but to attend to matters of legislation and sovereign representation," De Lima said.

De Lima is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame over allegations of complicity in the illegal drug trade inside the New Bilibid Prison during her term as justice secretary in exchange for poll campaign funds.  Virgil Lopez/RSJ, GMA News


NBI probes killing of Caloocan prosecutor

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has dispatched a team to look into the shooting of a government prosecutor outside his house in Caloocan City Monday morning.

Caloocan City Prosecutor Diosdado Azarcon was shot three times in the head outside his house along Capas St., Barangay 63, while on his way to work.

An initial police report said six people on board 3 Mio motorcycles with no plates were involved. All were wearing face masks.

Azarcon is the fourth prosecutor attacked since October 2016 last year.

Last February, Surigao City Prosecutor Manuel Navarro Tesioma was shot outside his house. Early this year, Quezon City Prosecutor Noel Mingoa was shot at closed range while outside a restaurant along Commonwealth Avenue.

In October last year, Mati City Prosecutor Rolando Acide was shot to death outside Mati City Hall of Justice.

By:  -


Melindo wrests crown in shocking 1st round KO

Milan Melindo, not known as a power-puncher, knocked out the iron-chinned Japanese Akira Yaegashi in the first round last night to crown himself the new International Boxing Federation (IBF) light-flyweight king before a stunned crowd at the Ariake Coliseum in Tokyo.

Melindo sent Yaegashi to the floor midway through the opening canto with a perfect left hook and followed it up with the same blow moments later for the second knockdown.

Instead of retreating, Yaegashi opted to slug it out with Melindo after the second knockdown and paid dearly as the highly-skilled Filipino landed a left-right that put the Japanese down for the third time.

Referee Eddie Hernandez of the US didn’t bother to count and stepped in at 2:45 of the round, making Melindo the fourth reigning Filipino world champion after Manny Pacquiao, Jerwin Ancajas and ALA Boxing stablemate Donnie Nietes.

The victory raised Melindo’s win-loss card to 36-2 with 13 KOs, while Yaegashi’s eye-popping loss saw his mark drop to 25-6 with 13 KOs.

The crowd at the venue sat and watched in silence when Hernandez called a halt to the scheduled 12-rounder while Team Melindo erupted in cheers.

It was Melindo’s third crack at the world title following losses to Mexicans Juan Francisco Estrada in 2013 and Javier Mendoza in 2015.

It could not yet be determined when Melindo is going to make the first defense of the newly-won IBF 108-lb title although ALA Boxing chief Michael Aldeguer is expected to be at the forefront of staging it in the country with Manila or Cebu as candidate sites.

The shot at Yaegashi’s title was mandatory, meaning the Japanese camp doesn’t have an option or a right to promote Melindo’s next fight.


House panel wants impeachment complaints lacking in form immediately junked

MANILA, Philippines – The House justice panel unanimously approved its committee report explaining lawmakers’ reasons for junking the impeachment complaint filed against President Rodrigo Duterte by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano. 

The voting on Monday, May 22, lasted only a little over 11 minutes. Last week, lawmakers deemed the complaint sufficient in form but insufficient in substance after 4 hours. (READ: House committee junks Duterte impeachment complaint)

The panel argued Alejano’s lack of direct personal knowledge of his accusations made them reject the impeachment complaint.

The panel also recommended the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings be amended to “explicitly allow” the dismissal of impeachment complaint based on insufficiency in form.

Currently, impeachment complaints must undergo two tests in the committee level – sufficiency in form and sufficiency in substance. The panel can only decide whether or not to junk an impeachment complaint after assessing its sufficiency in substance.

“Finally, the Committee on Justice recommends that the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House of Representatives be amended to explicitly allow the dismissal of impeachment complaints based on insufficiency in form,” said the report.

According to the committee report, Alejano testified under oath saying he had “personal knowledge” of his allegations against Duterte. 

These include the President’s alleged involvement in the Davao Death Squad, the ongoing bloody war against drugs, the hiring of “ghost” employees when Duterte was still Davao City mayor, his supposed unexplained wealth, and the President’s approach in dealing with the maritime dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

But Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas grilled Alejano and made the latter admit he merely based his accusations on online sources, newspaper reports, and other intelligence materials.

This was anot acceptable to the justice committee members. 

“However, the members of the committee stated that the term ‘personal knowledge’ as used in the Verification refers to knowledge or information that are derived from one’s own perception, and that knowledge derived from secondary sources do not constitute ‘personal knowledge’ and are therefore considered hearsay,” said the committee report. 

Alejano also admitted his lawyer prepared Annexes A to F of the complaint, but the documents did not contain his lawyer’s signature. 

The justice committee voted 41-1-0 to say the impeachment complaint was sufficient in form, “despite some defects, based on liberality and in the interest of substantial justice.”

The impeachment complaint, however, was no longer deemed sufficient in substance by all 42 legislators present during the hearing last week.

This is because Section 4, Rule III of the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings states an impeachment complaint is sufficient in form if:

  • There is a recital of facts
  • The recital of facts constitutes the offense charged which are determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee

Duterte enjoys a strong legislative shield in the House, where he counts at least 267 out of 292 lawmakers as his allies.

A total of 121 lawmakers are also members of the President's party, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali, justice committee chairman, is also a PDP-Laban member. – Rappler.com


Philippine minister starts damage control after Duterte's China war remark


Talks last week between leaders of China and the Philippines were frank and friendly, with no threats or bullying, Manila's foreign minister said on Monday, after his president said he was warned of war if he drills for oil in the South China Sea.

MANILA: Talks last week between leaders of China and the Philippines were frank and friendly, with no threats or bullying, Manila's foreign minister said on Monday, after his president said he was warned of war if he drills for oil in the South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano would not disclose more details of the Beijing meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and China counterpart Xi Jinping, but said they had the kind of relationship in which they could openly discuss preventing maritime conflict.

The notoriously outspoken Duterte said during a televised speech on Friday that Xi warned him there would be war if he tried to explore for oil in a stretch of the sea that both countries claim. China has yet to respond to Duterte revealing contents of the meeting.

"The conversation was very frank. There was mutual respect, there was mutual trust," Cayetano told reporters.

"The context was not threatening each other, that we will go to war. The context is how do we stabilise the region and how do we prevent conflict."

The maverick Duterte has faced criticism at home for refusing to push China to comply with an award last year by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which ruled largely in favour of the Philippines.

It also said the Philippines had a sovereign right to access offshore oil and gas fields in its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), including the Reed Bank.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to sovereignty in the South China Sea, a vital conduit for trade and a hotbed of territorial squabbling that has stoked nationalist fervour in some countries.

"I will not contradict the president's words. I am just telling you...my interpretation: there was no bullying or pushing around, it was not a threat," Cayetano added.

"It was more the threat of conflict will always be there if we don't have dialogue."

A Philippine Supreme Court judge on Saturday urged the government to file another international arbitration case over the alleged Chinese threat, and also lodge a complaint with the United Nations.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said failure to do that would mean Duterte would be "selling us out" and forfeiting sovereignty to secure Chinese loans and investments needed for his ambitious US$180 billion infrastructure programme.

Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella on Monday said the Philippines was "very clear that we are not giving up our claim of sovereignty and sovereign rights."

(Reporting by Martin Petty and Karen Lema; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

Source: Reuters


Duterte heads to Russia in blow to US

President Rodrigo Duterte flies to Russia on Monday to meet his hero, seek arms and steer his nation’s foreign policy course further away from longtime ally the United States.

The five-day trip will cement a dramatic improvement in ties between the two nations since Duterte came to power last year and began unraveling the Philippines’ decades-long alliances with the United States, which he accuses of hypocrisy and bullying.

Duterte will on Thursday meet Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he has described as his “favorite hero” and proclaimed a personal bond because of mutual passions such as guns and hunting.

Duterte said on Friday one of the top priorities of his trip was to secure Russian precision-guided bombs to use on Islamic militants in the southern Philippines.

“If they can spare us with the precision guided (bombs),” Duterte said when discussing the purpose of his trip.

“We have so many smart bombs but not as accurate.”

Duterte’s seeking of weapons from Russia comes as he dials down cooperation with the United States, the Philippines’ former colonial ruler that has for decades been its most important military ally and protector.

He has scaled down the number and scope of annual military exercises with the US, barred Filipino forces from joint patrols in the disputed South China Sea, and called for the withdrawal of American troops from the Philippines.

The shift occurred as China has become more assertive in challenging US might in the region by expanding its presence in the South China Sea, which it claims almost in its entirety.

Despite China’s expansionism extending into areas of the sea claimed by the Philippines, Duterte has been determined to pivot his nation’s foreign policy away from the United States in favor of Beijing and Moscow.

This has partly been due to China and Russia supporting or at least not criticizing his controversial war on drugs, which has left thousands of people dead and led to warnings by rights groups that Duterte may be orchestrating a crime against humanity.

Duterte has railed against the United States, particularly when Barack Obama was president, for criticizing the drug war.


‘Ideological flow’

On a state visit to China last year, Duterte announced the Philippines’ “separation” from the United States.

“I’ve realigned myself in your ideological flow and maybe I will also go to Russia to talk to Putin and tell him that there are three of us against the world — China, Philippines and Russia. It’s the only way,” he said in Beijing.

Duterte, who describes himself as a socialist, and Putin first met on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific summit in Peru last November.

“Historically, I have been identified with the Western world. It was good until it lasted. And of late, I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations,” Duterte told Putin then.

Since then, two Russian Navy flotillas have visited Manila.

“The Russians are with me, I shall not be afraid,” Duterte said while touring the Russian Navy’s guided missile cruiser Varyag during a port visit to Manila last month.

The Philippines and Russia established diplomatic ties 41 years ago but, until Duterte took office, relations remained relatively low key.

This was partly due to the Philippines’ alliance with the United States.

Philippine-Russian trade last year totaled just $226 million, according to government data. Philippine-US trade was worth more than $18 billion last year.

Relations remain at the “nascent stage”, but this will change, assistant Philippine foreign secretary Maria Cleofe Natividad told reporters in a briefing on Duterte’s trip to Russia.

“We consider this visit as a landmark that will send a strong message of the Philippines’ commitment to seek new partnerships and strengthen relations with non-traditional partners,” she said.

Duterte visiting Moscow will be a “propaganda victory for Putin and a soft-power coup for Russia,” Richard Javad Heydarian, a foreign policy analyst in Manila, told AFP.

“It will be their way of poking the eye of America.”


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