Rappler insists on its ‘7,080-killed’ fake news; resorts to ad hominem arguments

IN a panicky tone, the news website Rappler (rappler.com) insisted in an article that the lie it had fabricated, that there were 7,080 drug-related killings since President Duterte assumed power, which it spread around the world, is true. This is despite all the debunking and data the Philippine National Police itself and I have presented.

Rappler’s epic lie—or intentional boo-boo—as I explained in the preceding two columns, involved misinterpreting the PNP’s number of “deaths under investigation or concluded investigation”, 4,525, as all due to the campaign against illegal drugs, when the PNP itself—which after all created that category—says they are not, that it included all kinds of killings, of all motives, from road rage to robbery.

Rappler then added this number to the police’s figure of 2,555 of suspected drug personalities killed in police operations to get the sum of 7,080 – which it claimed was the death toll of President Duterte’s war on illegal drugs from the time he assumed office up to January. The accurate figure would be just a third of that: 2,102 based on my calculation using data from the Philippine Daily Inquirer to 2, 582, according to the latest PNP report.

I had emailed Rappler managing editor Glenda Gloria and the researcher who wrote the piece, Michael Bueza, two weeks before I wrote my exposes on their epic lie, requesting if they could clarify to me how they got the 7,080 figure. They didn’t respond at all, not even a “no-comment” or mind-your-own-business reply.

It is so unfortunate and unfair for our country that Rappler’s 7,080 number has been swallowed uncritically by the European Union Parliament, the Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, USA Today, and by most foreign media, exaggerating by a third the number of those killed in Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs.

AD HOMINEM EXPERTS: Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa (left), managing editor Glenda Gloria (middle): “Tiglao is just an ex-journalist, out to get Rappler.” Do they know whom they’re really working for (right)?

Rappler still insists that the PNP’s number of “deaths under investigation” (or DUI) are all drug-related in its recent article, unimaginatively titled in its ad hominem thrust, “Tiglao’s fake news”.

This is despite the fact that police spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos last March 15 pointed out, in reference to Vice President Leni Robredo’s recent use of the same Rappler figure, that its category of “deaths under investigation” are mostly “regular crimes happening on the street”. (Philippine Daily Inquirer, “PNP disputes Robredo on 7,000 drug-related killings,” March 15).

Rappler tries to wiggle out of its lying quagmire by implying that the PNP changed its reporting system and only “last week apparently clarified that its DUI numbers now cover all crimes.”

This is a total lie, and it is shocking how Rappler can assert such a falsehood when it is so easy to debunk it. Rappler itself reported August 23, 2016 when the PNP first set up that category: “PNP chief Dela Rosa: Not all deaths under investigation drug-related. There are other motives.”

Several other newspapers reported this clarification, among them the following Philippine Star article of December 9, 2016:

“What we are claiming as those recorded as deaths under investigation are not all drug-related. So, these were not part of the war on drugs,” said PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa in a mix of English and Filipino. He said other deaths were just ‘normal’ cases of murder, homicide, riding in tandem and parricide.

Another similar report, in ABS-CBN’s website December 6. 2016:“According to the PNP, ‘deaths under investigation’ are ‘murder cases outside police operations,’ regardless of the motive.”

7,080 not mentioned anymore
Interestingly, in its discussion on DUI, claiming that my expose was wrong, the Rappler article no longer mentions that now infamous “7,080” figure that it spread around the world, probably realizing it is indefensible. Yet, it still insists my expose was wrong, basta. What data does it present for this?

Nothing, it just asks readers to take their word for it: “There are many more unreported deaths in the war on drugs. We know this from the many hours that our news team has been spending on the streets, pounding the graveyard beat in the last 8 months.” Rappler can do that with its lone police reporter?

But that claim certainly sounds familiar.

That’s how Vice President Leni Robredo blackened the Philippines’ image in her message to the UN, citing anonymous sources, telling the world to believe her: “Some told us… We were told…There were reports.”

That the writer or writers of that Rappler post  purportedly debunking my expose aren’t really confident of what they’re writing is obvious in that they can’t even identify themselves, with the article only by-lined by “Rappler.com.” Is the writer the executive editor Maria Ressa? Or is it managing editor Glenda Gloria or the writer of the original epic lie, a researcher, Michael Bueza? Or is the outfit’s Board of Directors?

Rappler had very little arguments to prove its 7,080 as correct. In its its short, sophomoric 340-word post (a fourth of the length of this column), it resorts to ad hominem arguments, referring to me as an “ex-journalist and Arroyo apologist”, obviously implying that I am not a real journalist now. Ad hominem are a sure mark of bad, bad journalism.

“Arroyo apologist”? While I was Presidential Spokesperson and Press Secretary for a few months, I was under President Arroyo, behind the scenes, so to speak, for four years as her Presidential Chief of Staff and Presidential Management Staff Head, and then for five years Ambassador to Greece. But I am astonished why Rappler is still hung up about Arroyo, who stepped down from office seven years ago, and who has been practically cleared of all the trumped-up charges against her?

Ex-journalist? I returned to being a professional, full-time journalist in 2010 after my stint in public service when I started writing a column, first in the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I have written more investigative pieces in my column since then up to today and won more awards for journalistic excellence,  than all of Rappler’s editors and reporters have in all their working lives or could in several lifetimes, combined.

Vintage yellow thinking
Rappler’s argument is really vintage yellow thinking—when criticized, claim that there’s a nefarious motive. “Tiglao is out to get Rappler. And that’s the only explanation for his series of fake news about us.”

Proof that I am not out to get Rappler, which would be news to Rappler staffers: I had not disclosed for three years now, other than its recent foreign funders, the real controlling Filipino owner of Rappler – if he is not fronting for anybody else, that is— who is so secretive, he isn’t even named in its founding or present board of directors. I had talked several times to its main, controlling investor, a friend from college, even advising him that Rappler must be more objective and balanced, rather than being so supportive of past president Aquino to the point of servility.

He says he is just a businessman just trying make money, in this case by setting up Rappler, which would take advantage of the new brave world of the internet. Alas, in this project to make money, unconcerned about what his biased editors publish, he is responsible for the damage his employees do to our country, as in this case of Rappler misleading the world with a spurious exaggerated number of deaths due to the anti-drug campaign.

I can no longer allow that. Now, especially with his outfit’s ad hominems against me and its supreme insult that I am not a journalist, I will certainly relish to have the truth out. That will be for Monday.

To Rappler: maghunos-dili kayo. There is no shame in admitting a mistake: it’s a mark of professional journalism. And this is more about your pride and there’s a nation here we are building.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

How Rappler misled EU, Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, BBC — the world

Stop using that fake news of ‘7,000 summarily executed’

AS Mark Twain put it, a lie can travel around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes.

A section in the European Union Parliament’s resolution last Thursday that interfered with our justice system and condemned the government’s campaign against illegal drugs read: “7,000 drug-related killings by the police and vigilantes have been reported since President Duterte took office on 30 June 2016.”

That 7,000 is the same number Vice President Leni Robredo used in her message last week to the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs to rant against Duterte. It is the same figure that was used in the very critical report on the country by New York-based Human Rights Watch. It is the same figure used again and again by Western media, such as CNN, BBC, Time, and even the New York Times — all citing the Philippine National Police as its source. Even Al-Jazeera and Wikipedia cite this 7,000 number.

That 7,000 figure is false, from a fake news fabricated (or stupidly calculated) by the financially-bleeding news website Rappler (rappler.com) and repeated in Hitlerian fashion by Yellow propagandists that even Western media which are normally fact-check obsessive, have assumed it to be an accurate figure released by the PNP. Rappler has been very much an anti-Duterte news outfit, and is now mostly funded by the American firms North Base Media and Omidyar (whose owner had founded eBay).

The article by Rappler was first posted September 13 and, regularly updated, reads:

“There had been over 7,000 deaths linked to the ‘war on drugs’ – both from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings (including deaths under investigation) from July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017.”

It gave a breakdown of its more precise 7,080 figure, which it claimed was “based on revised PNP data at the end of that period,” as follows:

The Rappler report is so patently wrong, I can only attribute it not to stupidity but to malice. It included 4,525 “deaths under investigation or investigation concluded” as killings related to the ant-drug war – which they aren’t!

The PNP’s regular reports on “victims in cases of deaths under investigation or investigation concluded” refer to all murders and homicides, whether it is the result of road rage, robbery, or deadly love triangles— and not just those related to the anti-illegal drug campaign. Rappler very wrongly and perhaps maliciously  classified these deaths as due to Duterte’s war against illegal  drugs, therefore bloating  three times the number of  people killed in the course of that campaign.

Somebody should be fired at the PNP—or Malacañang’s communications team— for allowing the Rappler lie to go unchallenged for six months, that Western media, and now even the European Union Parliament, have swallowed it hook, line and sinker, and have even disseminated it.

After Rappler’s false report that its 7,080 figure referred to those killed “from legitimate police operations and vigilante-style or unexplained killings,” Robredo and other yellow hacks have since used this figure, for example, in her UN message, as the number of people “killed in summary executions.” This has created a very false picture of a country in which police lined up drug suspects on the wall and shot them dead.

It was only last week that a PNP spokesperson pointed out how terribly wrong that 7,000 figure which Robredo used in her message to the UN narcotics body was. He said that, according to PNP data, there were 2,582 killed in legitimate drug operations so far, not 7,000, and that “deaths under investigation” includes “all crimes happening on the streets.”

Even as I, and the PNP, have pointed out its mistake to Rappler, it has not apologized for its error, nor has it deleted its fake news. Is that responsible journalism?

But do we have any means to check the PNP’s figures, to find out if they are credible?

We have. To the credit of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, hardly a pro-Duterte newspaper, it listed, based on police blotters and the dispatches of their national network of police reporters, killings related to the anti-drug war, from July 1 to February 16, when government officially halted, temporarily, its campaign. The list was detailed, with the names of the victims if available, where they were killed in case of police operations, or if they were found dead, murdered by what the paper termed as “unidentified hit men.”

Based on the PDI’s raw data, we extracted the following:
• There were 2,107 killed in the campaign against illegal drugs from July 1 to February 16, which is even smaller than the PNP’s figure of 2,582, even if the police’s number includes drug-related deaths up to March 15.

• Out of this, 1,137, or 54 percent of the total, were killed in police “buy-bust” and Operation Tokhang* operations, as well as in the course of serving of search or arrest warrants. Some 970, or 40 percent, were found dead – “killed by unknown hit men,” as the PDI described it.

• Other than the 132 killed with such notes on cardboards pinned on the corpses saying, “I am a drug lord”, or a “I am a pusher,” the paper however doesn’t explain how it, or the police, concluded that the other 838 killed were killed as a result of the anti-drug war.

• Some 385, or 18 percent, couldn’t be identified.

Some 2,107 people killed in the anti-drug war in seven and a half months of course is still deplorable, but far from the 7,000 that Rappler and Robredo claim, and certainly gives a new perspective in assessing Duterte’s anti-drug war

Furthermore, the geographical distribution of those killed in the anti-drug war is revealing: 1,131, or 55 percent, of the 2,048 cases in which their location was determined, are only in five cities, known to be havens of the illegal-drug trade: Quezon City, Cebu, Manila, Pasay and Pasig.

It would make very good sense for Duterte to focus his anti-drug war on these five cities. Their mayors though should be taken to task as to why the illegal-drug trade has proliferated so much in their cities: Quezon City’s Herbert Bautista, Cebu City’s Tomas Osmeña, Manila’s Joseph Estrada, and Pasig’s Robert Eusebio. As a former mayor, Duterte I’m sure can have a heart-to-heart talk with these ineffectual mayors.

On the other hand, if Robredo and other human rights champions are really sincere about stopping the summary executions of suspected drug pushers and addicts, they should focus their limited resources on these five cities to expose and prevent human rights abuses.

Rather than just bawl and beg the UN to interfere.

*”Tokhang” is a neologism consisting of the Visayan words toktok (knock) and hangyo (beseech). Operation Operation Tokhang supposedly involves the police knocking on the homes of suspected drug addicts and pushers to ask them to stop their criminal activities. But, the police claims, many of the suspects decided instead to fight the police, resulting in their deaths.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

Robredo lies to world, shames the nation and herself in UN message

I WAS shocked at Vice President Leni Robredo’s video message sent to the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs to be played at its 60th meeting today.

Either this lady is so naïve, or so stupid, that she doesn’t really know the gravity of her message, which I suspect she doesn’t, since she was reading the message, obviously done by a Liberal Party writer, as fast as she could.

She even had the kind of facial expression with a smile that VIPs have when they send congratulatory messages to some group on their celebration – while she was talking of thousands of Filipinos killed. Or she has been totally deluded by the narrative of the Yellow Cult desperate to get foreign help to overthrow President Duterte.

Whichever is the case, Robredo shames the nation by portraying the Philippines as a failed state like Somalia, Eritrea or Liberia where the rule of law has totally broken down, and where the streets are littered with the corpses of the innocent killed by the police. She shames herself as she makes allegations against her own government, based on patently false data.

I found it astonishing that as she spoke she even had the official seal of the Vice President and the Republic. But she was really speaking not as the Vice President but probably as the last of the Yellow Cult leaders.

Robredo smiling as she claims to a UN body that thousands of Filipinos have been summarily executed in Duterte’s anti-drug war. (Screen grab from the video message sent to the UN posted on her official website.)

We should all be outraged over Robredo’s message, and Congress must issue a resolution condemning her, and transmitting this to the UN body. Our ambassador to the UN must protest why the body allowed (if indeed it did, since as of press time I cannot confirm if her video message was played or not) at their meeting such an unfair and biased picture of the country’s campaign against drugs. Isn’t it protocol for such international bodies to play only official messages from countries’ official representatives?

Robredo’s claims
Let’s take up point by point Robredo’s claims in her video.

“We are now looking at some very grim statistics: since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions,” Robredo claimed.

This number is false, a fake news.

This 7,000 figure as the total number of extra-judicial killings that Robredo has disseminated to the world is one maliciously fabricated by a low-level biased or incompetent researcher, and posted by the yellow and lazy editors of the rappler.com newsite on March 13, 2017. This number has been repeated again and again by the Yellow Cult, and even by uninformed media abroad. Rappler even has misled readers by claiming that the “numbers are based on data” from the Philippine National Police.

The number is the sum of the 2,555 which the PNP Directorate for Operations reported as those killed in anti-illegal drugs operations from July 1 to January 24 and the 4,525 total murder cases in the country. The PNP data of course does not distinguish whether these murder cases are police and vigilante killings of those involved in illegal drugs, road-rage murders, or even crimes of passion.

Because of rappler.com people’s odium against Duterte though, it classified  all murders that occurred since he took power in July 1 last year were due to his anti-illegal drugs war.

I will discuss in detail this grand lie of rappler.com in a future column. Suffice it to point out now that a more realistic figure would be one based on “The Kill List” of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, hardly a pro-Duterte newspaper. To their credit as rigorous journalists, the paper listed, based on police blotters and the dispatches of their police reporters, killings related to the anti-drug war, from July 1 to Feb. 16, when government officially halted, temporarily, its campaign.

“The Kill List” (last update of which was on February 16) reported 2,166 killed in the anti-drug war. This includes those killed in police operations as well as by “unknown hitmen”. It does not explain though the criteria by which it listed a person killed by “unknown hitmen” as due to the anti-drug campaign. Indeed, the police has uncovered several instances in which those killed with anti-drug placards pinned on them, actually were executed by criminal, rival gangs themselves.

The 2,166 figure is obviously so different, three times smaller than the 7,000 figure Robredo told the UN body, which would drastically change an assessment of Duterte’s anti-drug war.

‘People told…some told’
Robredo said in her message to the UN body:

“People are told they do not have any right to demand search warrants as they are squatters… Residents are rounded up, women separated from men and those with tattoos have their belongings searched. People are told they don’t have any right to demand search warrants since they are squatters… Some have told us that when there’s a crime they normally go to the police. Now they don’t know where to turn. Our people feel both hopeless and helpless.”

But Robredo doesn’t present any iota of evidence for her claims, not even a single instance of the human rights violations she alleges, not even newspaper reports on these; nor does she refer to any report detailing her accusations.

“People told… some have told… they…our people…” Are these real people, or are these just Liberal Party propagandists?

It gets worse though. Robredo in her message to the UN body made it appear that the rule of law in our country has so totally broken down that victims of human rights violations are given no recourse:

“Around 500 cases have been filed at the Commission on Human Rights, recommended to the Department of Justice for the filing of cases. So far, seven months into the administration’s drug war, no information has been filed,” she claimed.

This is a lie. I was told by insiders that there are no such “500 cases” filed regarding human rights violations in the course of Duterte’s administration at the commission, which continues to be led by Robredo’s Liberal Party colleague Jose Gascon. This is simply because the commission has never even bothered to list and count such complaints. The 500 figure is clearly one pulled out of the air by Robredo’s speech writer.

Not a case filed
But even if there were such cases filed, I was told, the CHR has not filed at the justice department a single case of human rights violations against the police related to the anti-drug war. “CHR attorneys appear on television complaining about this and that, but they haven’t even filed a single case,” a source said.

If no charges have been filed against the police and the Duterte administration, it is the fault of the CHR, led by Robredo’s comrade, a Liberal Party official. There have been three complaints of extra-judicial killings related to the anti-drug war under Duterte’s watch, none though because of the CHR’s efforts.

Robredo even shockingly draws from some mafia novel by claiming that the police have had a policy of arresting a suspect’s wife or other relatives if he can’t be found, even calling it, in her attempt to get her lie to land on sensationalist tabloid front pages, the “palit-ulo scheme”.

If there were really such a scheme, anti-Duterte newspapers like the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star as well as the dozens of tabloids hungry for sensationalist scoops would have reported it long ago. But they haven’t.

An administration spokesman, however, claimed that Robredo must have mistaken it for a police practice of letting an arrested suspect go free, or accused only of lighter charges, in exchange for squealing on a suspect in the higher rungs of the drug syndicates.

There has been no unprincipled and noisy, or even blissfully imbecilic Vice President as Robredo who has been demonizing an incumbent President, and portraying the country as such a horrible place.

Resign as VP
Leading opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. was told in 1968 by his scheming Liberal Party colleagues that there were reports of two dozen Muslim trainees summarily executed by their Army superiors in Corregidor, which they had even dubbed to sensationalize it as the “Jabidah Massacre”,

Aquino however investigated the claim himself, and even went to Jolo where he found the alleged victims alive and kicking, astonished at the “massacre reports”. Even on exile in the US, Aquino didn’t portray the Philippines as having become a horrible place under Marcos, but focused on the country’s need for democracy. Neither did his widow Cory try to portray Marcos as a cold-blooded killer.

Then Vice President Gloria Arroyo, even after she resigned from President Estrada’s Cabinet in October 2000, wasn’t vitriolic at all in criticizing him, and openly asked for his resignation only after it was clear that he had lost the people’s mandate.

Those opposing Duterte’s regime have all the right to accuse him of this or that, even on just the flimsiest basis. But Robredo can’t as Vice President, since when she does that, she is representing the people, and I’m sure most Filipinos do not support her hate of Duterte.

If she thinks she is morally required to protest, then she should do real work in gathering real data r to back her allegations, rather than rely on fake news by such biased outfits as rappler.com.

If she wants to continue ranting against Duterte, she has to resign as Vice President, and send the messages like that she sent to the UN as one by a Liberal Party official.

If this is the kind of leader the Liberal Party thinks they can impose on this nation, they should give up all hope and should dissolve the party immediately, so its ambitious members can pursue their dreams using the vehicle of other more credible parties.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

LTO records show Aquino never bought or sold a Porsche

Was it a ‘gift’ like Duterte’s Mercedes, which he kept?
REMEMBER the Porsche 911 Carrera that former President Benigno Aquino III, just months into his presidency, claimed he bought for P5 million, and that he used the money he got when he sold his BMW?

Remember how because of the furor over such display of opulence, he claimed to have sold it six months later for exactly the same price, that I had asked in my columns that Aquino and the Land Transportation Office (headed by his old Tarlac friend the late Virginia Torres) release the car’s deed of sale and registration to prove that it was not a gift from a Chinese-Filipino tycoon?

Remember how I had bet in my column of March 18, 2014 that Aquino would never let a Freedom of Information Act pass—even if it was one of his campaign promises in 2010—as long as he was President, or the press would demand that he disclose the deeds of sale and LTO registrations for his purchase and sale of his BMW?

Six years in power, and different versions of FOI bills filed, the Congress which Aquino controlled—so tightly he ordered the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and it was done in just five months— never did pass such a bill.

His successor, President Duterte, simply signed an executive order requiring government agencies to release any information they have, subject to certain restrictions such as national security and people’s right to privacy under the Constitution.

So, I thought I would invoke Duterte’s order to find out how serious it was. I went straight to, that is, wrote LTO head Edgar Galvante—a former police general known for his integrity and efficiency—and asked for the deeds of sale and registration papers of the Porsche Aquino had bought and sold.

Galvante’s reply and that of his staff: LTO records, which are in a computerized database, do not show Aquino having a Porsche 911, nor a BMW he said he sold to buy the new sports car.

LTO records show that the only cars under his name are a 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser he registered in June 30, 2003 and a 2016 Ford Explorer registered June 15, 2016, two weeks before he stepped down as President.

One of the many internet memes in 2011 on Aquino’s “purchase” of a luxury car.

I wondered, maybe the LTO data base would no longer report somebody as an owner of a car if he had sold it later. The LTO staff replied: “It will be recorded on our database if Mr. Aquino transferred the ownership of vehicles under his name.”

The only possible conclusions from these are obviously as follows:

First, the LTO staff is misinformed, and its data base would not be able to report information on a person buying a car and then selling it later.

Second, Aquino was lying. He never bought a Porsche nor did he sell it. It was a gift from a Chinese-Filipino tycoon, as had been the rumors during that time.

If that were the case, Aquino violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices law, which deems criminal the acceptance by a government official of such an expensive gift. The law defines such a gift as those from a person “other than a member of the public officer’s immediate family, in behalf of himself or of any member of his family or relative within the fourth civil degree, either by consanguinity or affinity, even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity like Christmas, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive.”

Aquino of course could easily prove that he did buy and sell a Porsche: He can just release to the public copies of the LTO registrations of his Porsche, and, please, the deeds of sale. I’m still suspicious that it was a gift to him by a Chinese-Filipino tycoon whose business boomed during his regime.

That tycoons would be so bold as to give a President such expensive gifts was of course demonstrated by Duterte’s disclosure he was recently given a Mercedes-Benz, which he ordered impounded at the Presidential Security Group headquarters until it could be disposed of.

He could have just kept it secret, and when discovered by the press—as was the case with Aquino and his Porsche in 2011—he could have said he bought it with funds raised by selling his old car. Duterte didn’t and even publicly announced the gift.

Duterte said he is happy with the 1988 pickup he has been using ever since he became mayor of Davao City.

What a different President this is, although I’ve heard rumors that while he definitely is not into cars, he likes watches.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

Is the Senate afraid of exposing that foreigners now control 74% of Smart?

WHAT kind of Senate do we have now, which in the past several decades, had proven to be the Republic’s last bastion of nationalism—as when it rebuffed in 1991 the pressures of the then very popular President Cory Aquino to retain the US military bases here?

Now some senators are falling over each other in their rush to give a foreign-owned telecom company, Smart Communications, almost everything it wants in a franchise. This includes exemption from all local taxes and the repeal of the requirement for it to list 30 percent of its shares in the stock market.

Even if public listing was a specific requirement of the franchise it got it in 1992, Smart has refused to do so for the last 25 years. Talk of regulatory capture: the Securities and Exchange Commission did nothing to enforce that requirement.

When Smart Communications was given its first franchise in 1992, helped by President Ramos then in order to pose competition to the then monopoly Philippine Long Distance Telephone’s (PLDT) Piltel, it was 100-percent Filipino-owned.

Twenty-five years later and needing its franchise renewed for another quarter of a century by this month, Smart is now majority-owned by foreigners, because it had become a 100-percent subsidiary of PLDT. That this telecom mammoth has become 74 percent-owned by foreign companies, is due to a great extent to deposed President Joseph Estrada who facilitated the foreigners’ takeover of it in 1998.

WHO HE? Do the senators even know that Indonesian Anthoni Salim is the biggest single stockholder of PLDT and therefore of its subsidiary, Smart, to which they’re giving a 25-year franchise? Did they even ask him to appear in Congress to argue why Smart should be given that permit to operate for a quarter of a century?

PLDT’s—and therefore Smart’s—controlling, and biggest single shareholder is the Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim, with 26 percent of PLDT through his Hong Kong-based, First Pacific Co. Ltd. The second biggest, with 20 percent, is Japan’s state-owned Nippon Telegraph and Telegraph (NTT), the world’s largest telecoms firm.* (PLDT Chairman Manuel Pangilinan only has .01% shares in the firm.)

First Pacific and NTT announce–boast—these figures to the world in their annual reports and websites. Yet PLDT reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission that its foreign ownership is just 17 percent.

Such dominant foreign ownership has allowed Smart, through PLDT, to siphon out of the country about $1 billion in profits so far, most of this to the Indonesian and Japanese owners.

Drastically changed

Isn’t the fact that Smart has drastically changed from being a Filipino company to a foreign one important in evaluating whether the Senate should give Smart a 25-year franchise, especially since this is really in violation of Constitution’s 40 percent limit on foreign capital in public utilities?

We are the only country in Asia whose telecom industry—a strategic sector that exploits our natural resources—is controlled by foreigners. Isn’t our Senate wondering why that is so, and how it has and will affect our economic development?

Isn’t it ironic that Congress probed Perfecto Yasay, Jr.’s citizenship to eventually reject his appointment by President Duterte as his foreign secretary, when it refuses to examine the “citizenship”—i.e. whether it is or is not a Filipino-controlled firm —of Smart, which controls half of the country’s mobile telephone system?

Never mind the House of Representatives, or such a congressman as Reynaldo Umali, a Liberal Party stalwart and a former Bureau of Customs commissioner who has been, for some reason, Smart’s champion in this Congress and the past. We understand the ways of the world. But the Senate, purportedly the Republic’s bastion of integrity, consisting, as they say, of 24 independent republics?

Yet our senators seem to be either so awed or afraid of Smart that they didn’t even summon its biggest stockholder, the Indonesian Salim (who has never even stepped on Philippine soil), to tell the Senate in person why it should give his firm a new franchise. Even his top executive Manuel V. Pangilinan didn’t bother to appear at the Senate. Instead, only minor executives, the highest being the chief financial officer, appeared before the Senate.

Aren’t the senators insulted by that? Did they even summon oppositors to giving Smart a 25-year franchises, or Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio Carpio who has pointed out in court decisions that PLDT has made a mockery of our Constitution?

Are our senators so terrified of Smart to find out who really owns it?

Aren’t the senators even curious that PLDT, which owns Smart 100 percent, has such mysterious firms as shareholders such as Metro Pacific Investments Limited, Larouge B.V., Intalink B.V., and Semilion Enterprises – two of which are incorporated in offshore financial centers known for their very secretive corporate laws.

Not even curious?

Are the senators not even curious that at the top of the corporate layering ownership scheme that leads to PLDT is an obscure firm, Pilipinas Enterprise Management Corp. (PEMC) whose stockholders are Pangilinan, Meralco executive Alfred Panlilio, PLDT officers Rene Bañez and Lourdes Chan, and Maynilad president Victorico Vargas?

Aren’t the senators curious that the market value of these five Salim executives’ indirect shares in PLDT and in the other major Salim firm Metro Pacific Investment Corp., through their PEMC holdings amount to a P3 billion for Chan and Bañez, P7 billion for Panlilio and Vargas, and P9 billion for Pangilinan? Their dividends from PLDT and MPIC because of their shares in PEMC in the past ten years could amount to from P6 billion to P12 billion.** This would put them in any listing of the country’s billionaires, but strangely, they’re not, they are still working their butts off at Salim’s firms.

Senator Ralph Recto, a grandson of the great nationalist Claro M. Recto, appears to be even awed by the foreign-owned Smart, telling this writer and senators in Senate hearings that they have no choice but to give the company its franchise, since “it has 60 million subscribers.”

What? That is clearly a simplistic too-big-to-fail justification, one that borders on capitulation to economic blackmail. One doesn’t have to be too smart to see that what the Senate can do, is to allow the firm to operate, while government finally investigates why it, as well as PLDT, has been allowed, starting from Estrada’s time, to operate a public utility even if more than 40 percent of its common stocks are owned by foreigners, in violation of the Constitution. If it cannot comply with the constitutional provision, the State not only can, but also must order it to sell the necessary shares to Filipinos.

PLDT of course had resorted to an artifice, the issuance of cheap, ”voting preferred shares” to its pension fund worth just P150 million, in order for it to claim that Filipinos are its main stockholders. But this is microscopic amount when compared to foreigners’ holdings of common stocks worth P218 billion. The Senate is not bound to such artifice in granting a franchise, which is a privilege, and not a right of a foreign firm.

Recto even defended Smart’s lobbying that it be exempted from listing its shares by claiming that if the firm is required to do so, PLDT’s stock prices would possibly go down. This is absurd and Recto should just look at another firm in the telecoms industry, Globe Telecoms, a listed firm whose mother firm is Ayala Corp., another listed firm.

Why has Smart refused to list 30 percent of its shares? Obviously because this would dilute the 46 percent shares of the Indonesian and Japanese controlling owners of the company to just 32 percent, weakening its presently tight control of this member of the telecoms duopoly.

Recto as well as Senator Miguel Zubiri even try to appear to be champions of “the general public” which they claim own more than 50 percent of PLDT, through the stock market.

So misleading

This is so misleading, and perhaps even dishonest of them.While about 50 percent of PLDT’s stocks are technically registered for sale and purchase at the stock market, foreigners through mutual funds and investment firms have been holding 28 percent of the firm’s shares. Only 12 percent are held by Filipino investors in the stock market. Even the tycoon John Gokongwei’s shares—which he has kept as his permanent stake in PLDT—has his 8 percent classified as stock market investments. Only less than 1 percent really of PLDT’s stocks are actively traded daily in the stock market.

It was only Senator Risa Hontiveros who demonstrated nationalism—perhaps independence or intelligence—by requesting the committee on public utilities headed by ex-US citizen Senator Grace Poe to ask Smart to report on the ultimate ownership of several Salim-controlled firms that are the biggest controlling companies of Smart’s mother company PLDT.

Hontiveros though will be given the runaround by Smart, which will inform the Senate that those firms have nothing to do with Smart. This is accurate, but I don’t think Smart will volunteer to disclose that these firms control its mother firm PLDT through an intricate network of corporate layers intended to hide from the public the fact that it is foreign-owned.

The franchise the Senate will give Smart Communications will last for 25 years, until the year 2042! That’s for a generation for chrisakes, halfway through which all of the current senators will no longer be in the Senate.

The Senate will be scandalously derelict in its duty if does not look into Smart’s ownership, and blindly give away a 25-year franchise to a foreign-owned telecom firm that not only has near-monopoly power in our strategic telecom industry but exploits our natural resource, the country’s radio spectrum.

* Details of this are in my book Colossal Deception: How Foreigners Control Our Telecoms Sector, available in most bookstores and at Amazon.com.

* Details in my MT column “Closet billionaires… or corporate dummies?”, June 21, 2015.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

An epic travesty of justice and the Ombudsman office

FORMER President Benigno Aquino III and his budget secretary Florencio Abad’s Disbursement Acceleration Program scheme involving P177 billion of taxpayers’ money from 2011 to 2013 was the most brazen hijacking of government funds ever in our history, something no previous administration had ever done or even dared to do.

Yet Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales cleared Aquino of any wrongdoing, and slapped Abad with a ridiculous fine of three months’ salary, finding him guilty only of “simple misconduct” for “usurpation of legislative powers.”

Abad took over an exclusive power of the Congress, the second of the three branches of government, to allocate the use of taxpayers’ money, and Morales fines him the equivalent of three months of his salary? Morales, in the Ombudsman’s press statement, even claims that the DAP funds involved P72 billion, when even the budget department in 2013 disclosed that the amount was P177 billion.

Aquino was cleared, according to Morales, because the alleged crime was committed when he was President, and therefore immune from prosecution. But President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wasn’t, so she suffered five years of incarceration, on clearly trumped-up charges that she has now been cleared of?

Morales’ decision will go down in history as an epic travesty of justice and of the Office of the Ombudsman.

HER FAVORITE PRESIDENT: Left, Aquino having Morales, instead of the Chief Justice, administer his oath of office; middle, falsely claiming Corona had $10 million in dollar accounts in the impeachment trial; and right, outrage against the Ombudsman.

On the flimsy excuse that these were “savings”—which they weren’t as such “savings” were declared even before the middle of the year in which the budgeted amounts were supposed to be spent—Aquino and Abad illegally channeled funds allocated by two Congresses for the following two main purposes, with the others being merely a smokescreen:

Bribe money
First, P6.5 billion were used to bribe the Senate to convict the late Chief Justice Renato Corona on the flimsiest of impeachment charges—his non-inclusion in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of his dollar accounts, which after all are covered by bank secrecy laws. (The penalty of such inaccurate SALN was to require a government official to file a new, more accurate one.)

From his Day 1 in office, Aquino wanted Corona out since he was appointed by Arroyo, and even publicly insulted him by refusing to be sworn into office, as has been the tradition, by the Chief Justice. Instead, Aquino took his oath of office with Morales, who was then an associate justice, and who, as Ombudsman seven years later, clears him of malversation charges.

The DAP funds given to the senators —as exposed even by those who received them, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla—were released in P50 million and P100 million tranches purportedly for the senators’ chosen projects, immediately before and after the May 29, 2012, Corona impeachment vote.

One of the newspaper headlines on DAP funds being used as bribe money in Corona impeachment trial.

Aquino and Abad had calculated, correctly, that the very extraordinary request to the senators—to impeach and remove from office for the first time in our history as a republic a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court— required extraordinary funds over and above the pork barrel funds. This was the DAP.

Aquino got to remove Corona, and put in as Chief Justice the most inexperienced of the justices he had appointed in 2011—his college buddy Ma. Lourdes Sereno, whom the nation will have to suffer until 2030.

Ombudsman Morales even played a key role in Corona’s removal. Although the Senate court did not ask her for any help, on her own she went and got the Anti Money Laundering Council executive director Vicente Aquino to release to her data on Corona’s dollar accounts.

In an obviously well-planned script, she then claimed at the Senate trial that the accounts showed that Corona had $10 million in dollar deposits. She deviously counted transactions as Corona’s bank balances, which in reality totaled only $1million. Her false testimony roused such public outrage that 20 senators voted to remove the Chief Justice from office.

Money for 2013 elections
Second, Aquino used P14 billion to buy support for his Yellow Party candidates in the 2013 elections by channeling these funds to projects in their bastions. These funds were released two months before the 2013 elections. These even included P1 billion in infrastructure funds to his home province Tarlac, one of the most overbuilt provinces in the country.

Some P10 billion, according to budget department documents, were given to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and its leaders, purportedly for a “Comprehensive Peace and Development” package. In reality, the funds were used to bribe ARMM as well as Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders for them to support Aquino’s peace deal with the MILF, which he thought would win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Morales also claimed that “the adoption of the DAP was motivated by a good purpose, to spur economic growth and boost the national economy.” That Morales would even claim this shows her total subservience to Aquino, who had made that preposterous claim. Ten billion pesos to ARMM and MILF leaders, given in P1 million checks, and P1 billion in infrastructure funds for Tarlac, and such expense boosted the national economy?

Obviously, Morales didn’t even try to verify Aquino’s claim, but swallowed it entirely. The World Bank realized that its economists were fooled initially by Abad on this claim. Its July 2012 update pointed out that in the first place, the DAP meant only “mere realignment of funds”; secondly, that the DAP amounts were “minuscule (at less than 0.01 percentage points) relative to the size of the economy” and therefore couldn’t have stimulated economic growth.

Morales shames her post as Ombudsman and the nation itself by her utter subservience to Aquino in allowing him to evade justice.

Did she or her prosecutors even summon Aquino and Abad to give their side on the DAP complaint? No. Did she investigate how DAP funds were used, for example the moneys given to ARMM officials in P1 million checks? No. Did she get the complainants to expound on their allegations that Aquino and Abad committed the crime of technical malversation for each of the 3,000 budget releases they made which were not authorized by Congress? No.

For all her arrogance and self-righteousness, Morales has been nothing but Aquino’s attack dog who helped take out Aquino’s enemies— among them Chief Justice Corona, and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile, the first two of whom may well have had a shot at the presidency or vice presidency at the time.

And when that task was finished, she assumed the role of Aquino’s lapdog, allowing him to escape justice.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

Yellow lunacy: A serial killer* will provoke outrage vs Duterte?

I AM starting to think that because of his obsession to take down President Duterte, which he calculates would be his big feat that would catapult him to the presidency someday, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and his Yellow allies have lost touch with reality.

Trillanes has become so deluded that his plot would succeed that he believes that the accusations against Duterte by an admitted serial* murderer, ex-police sergeant Arthur Lascañas whom he brought to the Senate, would spark so much outrage against the President, that he would be toppled soon.

Indeed, Trillanes has never really cured himself of such fantasies that he could lead revolutions. This was obvious in his two stupidities during President Arroyo’s time, when he thought his takeover of  Makati hotels (Oakwood in 2003 and Manila Peninsula in 2007) would spark EDSA-type of revolutions. (In both cases, his gang quickly surrendered at first sight of armored personnel carriers approaching to crush them. )

In his TV interview with a rabidly anti-Duterte talk show host after the Senate hearing, Trillanes claimed that Lascañas’ accusations would lead to the President’s ouster through impeachment in just two months.

In his wishful, yet handicapped, thinking, Trillanes thinks he can replicate what happened to President Estrada in 2000, against whom public outrage built up after his friend and accomplice in graft, Ilocos Sur Governor Chavit Singson, exposed the details of his corruption involving jueteng and the tobacco taxes.

The attempt at creating an Erap scenario was indeed obvious to Senator J.V. Ejercito who remarked in jest during the Senate hearing that he felt a sense of déjà vu, in that the same cast of characters—the FLAG lawyers—that helped oust his father in 2000 have suddenly emerged.

A KILLER’S STARE: Left, Lascañas; right, apparently, his patron, Trillanes.

Indeed, why would a group of lawyers dedicated to providing free legal service to the poor and the oppressed suddenly devote their resources to help a professional assassin who had earned millions of pesos from murdering people? Are they thinking it is another episode for them to help oust a President for the second time? Or has past President Benigno Aquino III managed to convince them to join the plot through FLAG member Alex Padilla, who was his peace negotiator with the communists and his Philhealth president?

‘Spiritual renewal’
How on earth could Trillanes and the Yellow Cult think that Lascañas could damage severely Duterte’s popularity and political base, that he could inspire other members of the alleged Davao Death Squad to come out and not only bolster his accusation but even add to it?

But who in his right mind would believe that Lascañas had, as he claimed, a “spiritual renewal” that prodded him “to clean his conscience” and expose Duterte’s complicity in the killings in Davao when he was mayor?  The  Senate hearing in which he declared under oath the President’s innocence was in October last year  was after his religious encounter in 2015!  His tale of the Devil appearing to him—whether in a dream or in his waking hours he wasn’t clear—was so obviously, a work of bad fiction.

The more credible, and obvious explanation would be that he turned against Duterte, probably because of money, when the President could not or would not help him in four business deals he was involved in that required government support.

The biggest of these was a franchise in the Cavite and Batangas provinces—known to be lucrative areas for jueteng—for his Davao cronies to operate a so-called Small Town Lottery, which the PCSO authorizes but which has been used as cover for the illegal, popular numbers game.

Why am I so presumptuous as to claim that he turned against Duterte probably because of money? Because this is a person who has, by his own admission under oath, killed at least 200 human beings since 1989 – for money, the biggest loot of which, according to him, was his group’s murder of notorious broadcaster Jun Pala for P3 million. Do you think he would testify against the President just to “clear his conscience”?

Watching Lascañas on TV in the Senate hearing sent shivers down my spine.

Even if just on TV, this is the first time I’ve watched a murderer, who killed at least 200 human beings by himself or with others. I thought serial killers like Hannibal Lecter and the Zodiac murderer in movies could never exist in real life. Yet Lascañas killed even more people than Lecter or the Zodiac killer!

Asked by Senator Grace Poe how many people he has killed, he said “about 200 maybe even 300,” without batting an eyelash, and showing no remorse at all in any way, like eyes getting misty. By his own admission. he says he even ordered his two brothers killed, and he doesn’t even say if Duterte or his superior ordered it. By my count from his testimony, he alleged only about 20 of his “kills” to have been under Duterte’s direct orders to him and his group. What were the reasons for killing the other 180 people? He himself admitted that his group of killers later became paid assassins.

Enjoy killing?
Senator Sonny Angara asked him, shocking people in the Senate hall: “Masarap bang pumatay?”, which could be loosely translated as “Do you enjoy killing people?” Most listeners would have expected him to just say something like, “No, but it was my job.”

Instead he answered in the affirmative, even revealing that one of his motives, aside from money, would be that it boosted his ego. “A policeman known to have killed and is a killer gets respect, even by his superiors, who consider him a Class A policeman,” he testified without batting an eyelash.

How many murderers in the world—excluding those who undertook genocides and soldiers in war — in the modern period have been reported to have killed at least 200 people? Wikipedia reports only two: A Colombian accused of killing 300 people, mostly street children in the 1990s and another Latin American dubbed “Monster of the Andes” accused of killing over 300 young women in the 1970s.

Lascañas is a monster that has no place in our society at all,  Yet  Trillanes  brought and the Yellow Cult brought him to the halls of Senate, to boast over nationwide TV  there that he killed over 200 people—and has gotten away with it. He even managed to get his P3 million government pension, which has been denied in many cases to state employees found to have violated some  minor regulation, such as failure to liquidate a few thousand pesos.

Senator Manny Pacquiao moved, but withdrew, a motion to cite Lascañas in contempt for admitting to have lied to the Senate in 2015. A more responsible Senate would instead have passed a resolution condemning Lascañas as as serial killer, and asked in the strongest possible terms the police and the justice department to prosecute and throw him into the worst prison in the country.

Yet, Trillanes, the Yellow Cult, and unnamed “priests” thought this monster, who has really committed crimes against humanity,  would inspire a revolution to topple Duterte? What were they thinking?

*(Is Lascañas a mass or a serial killer? An article in the prestigious Psychology Today magazine explains: “A mass murderer kills at least four people in a single incident and in a specific location, while a serial killer tends to keep killing over a period of days or weeks, and at different locales. The magazine however noted: “As more research was devoted to serial murder, some experts reserved the definition exclusively for sexually compelled offenders, while others included nonsexual goals such as financial gain.” That would put Lascañas who explained the huge income he got from his kills, as a serial killer.)

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

7,080 ‘EJKs’ and so much outrage; only three cases with details?

To journalists and NGOs: Get the who, where, what, how!
THERE have been an alleged 7,080 extra-judicial killings (EJKs) committed under President Duterte’s administration, and even purportedly under his direction.

What is astonishing is this. The Liberal Party, the Aquinos and Cojuangcos, Senator Leila de Lima, the CBCP, US billionaire Loida Nicolas, Vice President Leni Robredo—all of which have made this their biggest issue against Duterte—as well as NGOs such as the Human Rights Watch, the Free Legal Assistance Group, and the failed-institution PCIJ have huge resources amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos, which they can even combine.

Yet they can’t even present to us a single case of such EJKs—the names of the police killers, who they received orders from, the names of those killed, where the killing took place, that is, the usual, the normal information one needs to prove a fact.

Details on only three EJKs have been uncovered so far (listed below) but no thanks to these people and groups.

Instead, they have uncovered details on alleged EJKs that occurred in the late 1980s, more than 28 years ago in Davao City—virtually impossible to prove by this time—of course with the purported mastermind being the mayor then, Duterte.

DRAMATIC PHOTO IN HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH REPORT: Pulitzer Prize-worthy photo? Notice the drizzling rain? The camera’s filter tint? But what’s the name of the policeman, of those who were involved in the operation?

Senator Antonio Trillanes III, the Philippine political world’s character assassin par excellence (remember his project vs. Jojo Binay?), FLAG, and even the PCIJ have devoted their resources to exposing EJKs in Davao City 28 years ago, instead of those that occurred just within the past three months. (An easier investigation would be the Hacienda Luisita massacre in November 2014, in which seven striking workers were killed.)

Not surprising
That is of course not surprising, if one concludes that these groups aren’t really champions of justice, but merely want to use the issue to take down Duterte as soon as possible.

A recent article in a US magazine even glorified “night-shift” reporters in police beats. “A lot of the world learned about the carnage…is due largely to the night-shift reporters,” the article said.

But why can’t these police reporters provide us with the who-why-where-what-how of EJKs they’ve photographed, which after all are the info basic journalism courses say they should get?

A photographer in that article was quoted:

“Things picked up the first week of July. By the second week, we were going to many raids, ‘buy-bust’ operations. The police would always tell us the alleged drug dealer was dealing with undercover policemen and he shot it out. We were getting maybe three deaths a night … and then mid-July it intensified. It became 12 a night, sometimes more.

“I did a tally every night: the ‘legitimate’ ones, which we call the buy-bust, the drug raids [by the police]. And then you have the deaths that’s under investigation, the ones done supposedly by the death squads, these are the persons whose hands and feet were bound, [their]heads wrapped in packing tape. I don’t have my personal list now. When I hit 2,000, I stopped counting.”

He witnessed 2,000 operations, and let’s assume a third of that resulted in EJKs by police, in which the they claimed that the suspects fought back, and they had to shoot to kill, so this would be about 600 killings.

Yet the photographer didn’t bother to get details on these EJKs, info that could be used to file charges against the killers? Among such info: Exactly who were the policemen involved, who their team leader was, who was the overall commander of what police precinct? What are the names of those killed, what kind of weapons they supposed to have tried to fire, and where the alleged EJK killing occurred. He just wanted his photograph, composed with the best angle and even using filters to make it more dramatic.

Or is it the fault of the editors of these photographers, who didn’t bug them to get details on each EJK?

Not their jobs
But of course, photographers could say that that is not their job, which is just to take photos. Even if people are getting killed in front of their eyes by law enforcers?

Or maybe it is still another reflection of the massive failure of the Philippine press, whose members have been aping their broadcast colleagues who pursue only images—as sensational as possible—rather than facts.

At the very least, if these journalists were doing their jobs, maybe we can shame the police who would as a consequence hesitate undertaking more EJKs. For instance, we could have a tally that “Tondo Police Precinct No. XX under precinct commander so-and-so and his Police Officers A, B, and C have killed 20 alleged drug addicts in buy-bust operations in January. ”

What we have now are anonymous police killers — even if they can be identified — with the face of Duterte looming. Or is this precisely the propaganda strategy?

The recent report by the US Human Rights Watch—sensationally titled “License to Kill”— boasted that it investigated 24 incidents, resulting in 32 deaths involving Philippine National Police personnel between October 2016 and January 2017. The report gave the names of the victims and details on how they were killed.

But the report doesn’t give the names of the policemen involved and their units which means that even if the government decides to prosecute these cases, the Human Rights Watch report would be useless.

If that NGO were really concerned about the plight of Filipinos, it would have submitted to the justice department or the Ombudsman’s Military and Other Law Enforcement Office their case studies, complete with the names of the killer-policemen.

Even during martial law, when the press was closed down, the religious NGO “Task Force Detainees” meticulously compiled thousands of cases of arrests and killings, with the names of the victims, and sometimes the names of the military units involved. (Never mind if an Amnesty International report would later on conclude that 85 percent of the cases involved those either with the NPA or with communist party fronts.)

Why can’t these people and groups shouting to high heavens against EJKs with all their resources do similar investigative work in this day and age when we have the freest media, so that they can help the poor people get justice for their loved ones?

If they can’t do it themselves, they can fund some sort of “Task Force EJKs” staffed with experienced journalists and lawyers to investigate each and every EJK and file cases in court.

That would be a disincentive to killer-cops, who would worry that their higher-ups could very well decide to abandon them if there are cases filed against them.

Why haven’t they done this obvious thing to be done, if they were really against EJKs? In a word, hypocrisy.

They really don’t care about stopping EJKs, but are just using this issue to demonize this President, or in the case of some reporters, to portray themselves as excellent investigative journalists or great news photographers with the Pulitzer in sight.

For instance, the PCIJ has been devoting resources on the EJK allegations of a police sergeant Arthur Lascañas against Duterte when he was Davao city mayor, rather than investigating just one recent case of an EJK. But of course the latter requires tedious investigative work, and hardly sensational.

The only three cases of EJKs—one didn’t succeed—on which we have details, and which appear to be moving through the legal system are as follows:

The killing of Albuera mayor and suspected drug lord Rolando Espinosa last November in his prison cell in Baybay City, by a team of the Philippine National Police’s Region 8 Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, allegedly as he shot at the police who were serving a search warrant on him in his jail cell.

The kidnapping and attempted murder in February in Calaca, Batangas of Amante Valdos, a suspected drug suspect, by Police Officer 3 Abmar Mohammed.

The attempted murder in August last year of Efren Morillo, when he refused to confess he was a drug dealer, allegedly by Senior Police Inspector Emil Garcia, PO3 Allan Formilliza, PO1 James Aggarao, and PO1 Melchor Navisaga, all of Quezon City Police Station No. 6 in Batasan Hills.

Those people and groups protesting to high heavens about EJKs under Duterte had nothing to do in bringing these cases to light. The Espinosa killing was uncovered by a Senate committee, which prompted the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate it and file charges. The second case was pursued by the suspected cop-killer’s colleagues themselves in the Las Piñas police force. The third was investigated by the Ombudsman’s Military and Other Law Enforcement Office.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

Trillanes, using PCIJ, taking us for fools with Lascañas’ obviously fake journal

THE Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism asked media outlets the other day to publish what it claimed was retired Police Officer 3 Arturo Lascañas’ “journal” exposing the “bloody exploits of the Davao Death Squad” and then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s complicity in the group’s murders.

I find it so sad that the PCIJ—which I helped found in 1989, based on my research on such institutions in the United States during my fellowship at Harvard’s Nieman Foundation—has not only drastically deteriorated in terms of journalistic excellence. It’s become plain dumb or gullible, that it has become putty in the hands of the machiavellian Senator Antonio Trillanes III, who I think cooked up this rubbish black propaganda.

Trillanes cleverly managed to put the PCIJ brand on his “journal” hoax to give it credibility, and the PCIJ naively obliged. Yet it is neither an investigative piece that is the result of painstaking research, but merely the dissemination of a fake document from a single, biased source. Nor is it even journalism as we know it, as it didn’t even subject the “journal” to some textual analysis or even interview Lascañas to test him if he really wrote it, as journalists simply doing their job would.

For the sake of the country and our profession, the PCIJ should now stop degrading the term “investigative journalism”. It is so scandalous that a once prestigious institution that helped develop journalistic excellence in this country doesn’t seem to realize that because of its journalistic sloppiness, it has spread canards against the President of the Republic. Maybe Duterte indeed is a mass murderer. But unlike politicians like Trillanes who cavalierly spread lies to advance their agenda, journalists have to prove accusations with facts through real investigative journalism, not by disseminating a fake document from a very dubious source. What PCIJ has submitted for newspapers to publish is nothing but the worst kind of fake news.

IN FLAWLESS PROSE: Maybe he is just so well read that he can use a novel’s title Divine Trap, as well as such words as “Waterloo”, “bloodletting” and “regime” in his “journal”.

The PCIJ says only three pages were shown to it out of 70 pages. Why would Lascañas do that? So that it won’t be just a one-day story. Because by releasing the fake document on an installment basis, Trillanes or De Lima hope that, in Hitlerian fashion, the repetition of the lie for many days would make it seem true.

Or perhaps the hoax’s brains is really Senator Leila de Lima, considering that one PCIJ board member is Jose Manuel Diokno—yes, one of her lawyers whose legal services for her aren’t certainly pro bono, although he and two colleagues have portrayed themselves as Free Legal Assistance Group attorneys helping a persecuted person, just like during the martial law days.

Of all people, it is journalists, especially veteran editors like PCIJ executive director Malou Mangahas, who could in just one swift reading conclude that Lascañas’ handwritten “journal” was fake, that it was as impossible for him to write it as it is miraculous for a newbie Filipino reporter on his first day of coverage to file a scoop, written in flawless prose that absolutely no editing is required.

Mangahas is not unfamiliar with textual analysis to determine the author of a written work. She and her colleagues at the PCIJ helped detonate in 1993 the bombshell that a Supreme Court justice wasn’t really the author of his decision defending the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) that was adopted by the entire tribunal, but the company’s lawyer. (The justice resigned in disgrace.)
Police Officer 3
Lascañas’ rank is Police Officer 3, or in the military, a master sergeant, a non-commissioned officer. His work experience other than being a policeman was almost entirely as a bodyguard, and by his admission a contract killer. In the Senate hearings last year (in which he backed President Duterte), the senators interrogated him not in English but in Filipino.

I bet a year’s salary that he got his degree from some very bad, diploma-mill school in Mindanao. I bet two-years’ salary he has not taken a course in European history, nor even that he has read a novel in the English language.

Then how the hell could he have authored not only in error-free English, but using terms (which I italicize below) which aren’t even in the regular, working vocabulary of most Ateneo, UP and La Salle college graduates as well as many journalists today:

“Mayor RRD’s entry into the Presidential derby 2016 could be a Divine Trap. It could lead him to his political Waterloo,” Lascañas supposedly wrote in this “journal”.

“Presidential derby” has been very rarely used in the Philippines, I have never used it even if I’ve written so many columns and articles in my career on presidential races. It was the past generation of editors— i.e., of the pre-martial law period—who were fond of mimicking the older American newspapers’ frequent use of it, because the US Kentucky Derby – the Formula One of horse races – was a vivid metaphor for presidential candidates racing to the finish line.

Tell me, dear reader, have you ever read an article or column in local newspapers using the term “Waterloo”? The term is a favorite in Europe because Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo was such a decisive event in European history. It’s seldom used in America and certainly not in Asia as we don’t really appreciate how towering a figure Napoleon was.

But Lascañas uses the term, as if he were very familiar with it.

The big giveaway in just that one sentence in that “journal” is the phrase “Divine Trap”, which I bet not one of my readers has ever heard of. It is from a not-too-successful novel titled Divina Insidia – The Divine Trap, published in 2014.

It generated some interest for a while in Europe as it was written by a Belgian banker Pascal Roussel at the European Investment Bank in Luxemburg. It expounds a conspiracy theory that 12 oligarchic families control all the banks, including central banks in the world, and readers expected an insiders’ view of how banks get to amass tons of money, especially at the time when the memory of how New York banks created the financial crisis in 2008 to 2009 was still fresh.

The “Divine Trap” was those oligarchs’ modus throughout modern history of ruining economies that countries begged them for loans, which trapped them into a debt quagmire. Whoever wrote Lascañas’ journal probably had just read the novel, and was enamored by the term “Divine Trap.”

Marcos regime
There are several other words the fake journal uses that gives it away as being written by somebody else other than a sergeant-turned-contract-killer from the boondocks.

The “journal” reads (my itals):

“Mr. Moreno [of whom he was a bodyguard]was the owner of Liberty Telecommunications Co. he was the business partner of Gen. Fabian Ver, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during the Marcos regime.

Why would a sergeant prefer the harder-to-write-and-pronounce word “Telecommunications”, when Moreno’s company was really Liberty Communications? “Telecommunications” is a modern term usually used only by the intelligentsia – and lawyers.

Only two types of Filipinos ever use the term “Marcos regime”: academics and those who were in the anti-Marcos movement, especially communists. For the latter, “regime” has the connotation of being dictatorial, and indeed, the Communist Party had popularized the term “US-Marcos regime”, rather than ”US-Marcos Administration”, which doesn’t sound as nefarious.

Ordinary people like Lascañas instead would use the terms “government” (gubyerno) or administration (adminstrasyon). Why is “Marcos regime” used  in that ‘journal’? I suspect it was written by one of the FLAG lawyers, who were all anti-Marcos activists.

The “journal” reads:

“Sooner or later, he would become the most hated political figure in Philippine history, based on his personality, character, and temper. He is a physically, mentally and spiritually disturbed person. He is for flesh, blood and power, no matter what… If ever he will win the Presidency and apply into the whole country the Davao formula of bloodletting on the promise of peace and order… he will lead the country into hell and deceptively perpetuate himself to lifetime in power. And the rest is lethal history… Only God has the sole dominion of human life.”

POLICE SERGEANT LASCAÑAS WOULD SHAME US WRITERS? A brilliant diarist with not a single word changed or crossed out in his ‘journal’?

I’ve been an editor for two decades, and that is one flowing prose if ever there was one, the kind that normally requires much work by good editors before it emerges in that form, even if it sounds like Trillanes’ articulation of his wishful thinking.

Do you really think a police sergeant could ever write such soaring prose and according to Lascañas, in his mere “journal”? Could he have used the rather precise and vivid terms, hardly used even by columnists like “bloodletting,” “temper”, “disturbed person”, “dominion”?

Carried away
Whoever wrote it obviously got carried away as a fiction writer would, forgetting that his knowledge of the English language—probably because he was a lawyer, and a reader—would be lightyears away from that of a police sergeant in Mindanao

They’re taking us for fools. As shown in the attached facsimile of the “journal,” it is even written totally impeccably, with not one word changed or crossed out, as any diary writer or even any writer of any kind of work would know is impossible to do. Only one word was misspelled, “brodcaster”.

Rather than written by Lascañas in 2015, it was obviously just recently written, copied by the perjurer from some work given him. What for?

Because everyone assumes that “sworn affidavits” are usually written and edited by a lawyer, who merely asks the affidavit-writer to sign. Because Lascañas gave an entirely different affidavit and testimony last year, nobody really believes his new affidavit.

On the other hand, handwritten papers give the impression that these were written with all honesty, as a diary would be – or a last will and testament would be.

If I were Lascañas, I would be very worried though. One of these days, in his usual arrogance, Trillanes would make a speech in the Senate, and claim that the “journal” was really Lascañas’ last testament, and therefore should be taken as gospel truth.

For all the trouble of writing such a fake journal, and making it extremely worthwhile for Lascañas to make a 180-degree turn in his testimony, I’m convinced that there is a well-financed plot to topple Duterte. And the plotters seem to be so desperate and so much in a rush to become so clumsy as in this fake “journal”.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns

Was EDSA useless for the Filipino masses?

EVERY February, we commemorate the 1986 People Power Revolution, which has been portrayed by the victors as a morality tale of a martyr’s widow leading the people to overthrow the Dark Lord.

Indeed, the morality tale was so powerful that it inspired peoples elsewhere under the yoke of dictatorships to break their own shackles.

Just a year after the EDSA uprising, huge people’s rallies challenged South Korea’s strongman, Chun Doo-hwa, which eventually led to democratic reforms, among them the direct election of the President. Chile’ strongman Augusto Pinochet called for a referendum in 1988, triggering events that eventually led to his fall in 1989.

Poland’s “Solidarity” movement gained momentum after 1986, with Lech Walesa assuming power in 1989. In his visit to Manila in 1995, Walesa said: “Your peaceful People Power Revolution was an inspiration to us for our own revolution.”

From then on, it was a democratic domino effect: Poland’s people power revolution, the Singing Revolutions in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the Baltic states in 1989, the East German democracy movement that eventually tore down the Berlin Wall; and Czechoslovakia’s “Velvet Revolution” — which all contributed to the demise of a powerful totalitarian state. Even South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was inspired by our people power revolution.

But did it matter to us? Did it change the lives of tens of millions of Filipinos trapped in poverty? Or was it useless for most of the poor?

The chart accompanying this article says it all. The chart tracks the gross domestic product per capita (or per person)—a rough measure of the average income of the people in a particular country—at constant 2010 US dollars, in order to account for inflation in each country.

GROSS DOMESTIC PRODUCT PER CAPITA: People Power didn’t lift much our economy.

Twenty-eight years after EDSA, our major competitors in Asean—Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia—have overtaken us. Malaysia’s GDP per capita of $10.878 is a four times our $2,640; Thailand’s $5,775 is twice.

We have the lowest GDP per capita now, at $2,640. We used to have, in 1972, the second highest, after Malaysia

Our GDP per capita of $2,640 in 2015 was roughly that of South Korea in 1974 ($2,.692) and Malaysia in 1976 ($2,691). That means we’re behind South Korea and Malaysia by four decades. In 1972, we had the second biggest GDP per capita, after Korea.

It’s as depressing when we look at the poverty data (see table.) Malaysia and Thailand have nearly miraculously reduced their poverty incidences (measured as as the percentage of population living below $2 per day) to single rates since the 1980s, 2 percent for the former and 4 percent for the latter. No wonder that in the past several years Filipino domestic workers have been leaving our country to serve the Malaysian rich.

After nearly three decades, we’ve reduced our poverty incidence only by 15 percentage points and we seem to be stuck in the 40-percent levels.

These statistics however could never capture the tragedy and horror of poverty, of children living miserable lives and dying of diseases that have been wiped out it in developed countries, of men and women wasting away in some slum shack, just waiting for death.

So, what happened that we’re so left behind that pessimists even think that Vietnam, nearly destroyed by the world’s most powerful nation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, could soon overtake us?

In a nutshell: Nothing much happened
The EDSA Revolution restored the power of our oligarchs, and the country’s oligarchic structure created by colonial powers, and of course, its ideological superstructure, Spanish Catholicism.

The religious spin given to the Revolution—the Virgin Mary was claimed to have willed it—even strengthened the backward, medieval version of Hispanic Catholicism that partly explains the backwardness of nearly all nations that that had been colonized by the Iberian colonialists. No wonder we have been unable to undertake even the weakest program for population control, making us the Asian country with the fastest-growing population—of mostly poor people.

The cronies and big-business supporters of the dictator, years after EDSA, regained their seats in politics, business and even media. Even such a prime architect of martial law’s economic structure—Marcos’ Finance Secretary Cesar Virata—was given recently no less by our premier state university, the University of the Philippines, the honor of having its business school named after him, oblivious of the fact that Philippine business collapsed from 1983 to 1985 when he was the dictator’s Prime Minister.

The heroine of EDSA basically restored the pre-martial law Constitution, and therefore the country’s political and economic structure, except for its provisions making one-man rule very difficult.

Weak state, strong elite
Our state since 1986 has been a weak one, standing not for the nation as a whole but only for the strong elites that control it. In crucial junctures—for instance the recapture of the Meralco monopoly by the oligarchic Lopez clan right after EDSA or the skirting of land reform through “corporatization” of the hacienda as Aquino’s clan did until the Supreme stopped it—the elites get what they want, at the expense of changing our social structures so our country would be more productive.

Some even say that it would have been probably better if EDSA were a violent bloody revolution.

In such a scenario, the oligarchs would have been wiped out, or the horror of a bloody revolution would have been such a catharsis that would force serious nation-building. This after all was the case in the French Revolution, America’s Civil War, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency and its ethnic strife that led to the rise of Singapore and Malaysia, and Thailand’s bloody extermination of its communists.

Is that such a cruel thought? Maybe, but then how many millions of Filipinos have died or will die of hunger and diseases or lived or would live miserable lives because we haven’t forged a strong nation and a strong state?

The fact that strong states—based on a country’s strong sense of nationalism built practically on the blood of its people—results in faster economic growth is worrying. If that were the case, Vietnam, with its strong state and 3 million its people killed in the war, would soon be overtaking us. Take a look again at the chart, and it’s obvious something is so deeply wrong with us.

It’s the sad, sad reality of this moment in history we’ve celebrated as a glorious episode. EDSA just didn’t improve much the lives of most Filipinos. We have got to move on and change things, and in our lifetimes.

Filed under: Manila Times Columns