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Monday, January 22, 2018

Today It’s Rappler, Tomorrow It’s You

A classic case of a government-instigated press clampdown.
Yesterday, a Monday, seemed to be a “slow news day” until a shocking news caught the entire country by surprise.
No, it is not the unexpected and forced resignation of Commission on Higher Education (CHED) chair Patricia Licuanan. Licuanan, appointed by former president Noynoy “PNoy” Aquino and whose term of office will supposedly end on July of this year, cut short her chairmanship of CHED after receiving a call from Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last weekend asking her to quit apparently upon orders from President Rodrigo Dutere.
The news that shocked the nation yesterday is the decision of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to shutdown online news agency Rappler.
In a decision ordering the revocation of Rappler’s license to operate, SEC ruled that the agency is “liable for violating the constitutional and statutory Foreign Equity Restrictions in Mass Media enforceable through rules and laws within the mandate of the Commission.” The said restriction requires 100 percent Filipino ownership of mass media.
However, despite the adverse decision, Rappler remained defiant and said that it will continue bringing the news, “holding the powerful to account for their actions and decisions, calling attention to government lapses that disempower the disadvantaged.”
“We will hold the line,” Rappler added.
For now, we will not attempt to discuss the complex legal technicalities of the issues involved because, for sure, Rappler will not take the SEC decision sitting down and will use all available remedies to question the ruling. It has fifteen days from receipt of the decision to elevate the case to the Court of Appeals (CA).
What is worthy to mention here is the real reason why the government of Duterte is hell-bent on silencing Rappler which has published articles highly critical of the administration.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are directly putting the blame on this latest attack on the constitutional right to free press and freedom of expression to the president himself and his minions.
Malacanang cannot claim that the administration has nothing to do with the SEC decision as it was the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) who asked as early as December 2016 the official corporate regulator to investigate Rappler and Rappler Holdings Corporation for possible violation of the constitutional provision on foreign ownership.
Moreover, Duterte has publicly denounced Rappler on numerous occasions for being American-owned.
Sociologist Herbie Docena was absolutely correct about the motive behind the shutting down of Rappler.
“Because it is one of the remaining media organizations that asks the questions that Duterte does not want asked, report the news that Duterte does not want reported, and air the views that Duterte would rather suppress.”
Docena's Post
“In short: because it is one of the few remaining obstacles that stand in the way of Duterte’s gradually emerging dictatorial regime,” Docena quipped.
We couldn’t agree more.
In our previous article, we lamented how the constitution and the rule of law had died in 2017. We cited the political persecution of Sen Leila de Lima and other opposition figures and the harassment and repression of the heads of independent constitutional institutions.
Rappler’s clampdown is just another Marcosian way of the Duterte despotic regime to stifle dissent, kill intelligent and democratic debate, discourse and exchange of ideas and install a one-man rule.
“The shutdown of Rappler is a win for fake news, and a loss for dissenting voices and free speech,” opposition senator Bam Aquino said.
This recent phenomenon reminded us of the famous Martin Niemoller quote.
Niemoller's post
Lawyer, acclaimed international debater and social media influencer Jesus Falcis made a witty, spot-on adaptation of the Niemoller quote, to wit:
Faclis' post
We are undeniably under attack. The Filipino people, our institutions, our values, our rights and freedoms.
Without even noticing it, we will just wake up one day with balls and chains.
Today it’s Rappler. Tomorrow it can be anyone from us. Speak up, speak out.

REKLAMO ANG MGA LP DAHIL SA UST AWARD NI MOCHA USON' #KanTalk with Thinking Pinoy and Sass Sasot

Jover Laurio and her former call centre employer may have violated Australian privacy laws

According to the latest Western media feature, “popular” Filipino blogger Jover Laurio worked for an Australian call centre before her rise to “fame” as blogger and “thought leader” of the Philippine Opposition. This is particularly relevant to me as Laurio had some time ago used information she had somehow obtained about my private residence and even telephone number to issue threats against me. Indeed, the information seems to have been shared with many of her followers and allies in social media as the information was presented to me as part of veiled threats many times over the years.
It is likely that the call centre Laurio works for serves Australian incumbent telecommunications company Telstra. I recall that some of the threats she and her cohorts addressed to me made reference to telephone bills. If this is the case, Telstra should investigate whether Australian privacy laws had been violated both by Laurio and her former employer in the course of obtaining and distributing my private information.
Australian Privacy Principle (APP) 6 of the Australian Privacy Act 1988 prohibits an entity from “using or disclosing personal information for a purpose other than the purpose for which it was collected, unless the individual consents, the individual would reasonably expect their personal information to be used for the secondary purpose, or another prescribed exception applies.” Furthermore, APP 8 stipulates…
If an APP entity is to disclose personal information to an overseas recipient, APP 8 requires it to take reasonable steps to ensure the recipient does not breach the APPs. This usually requires the APP entity to impose contractual obligations on the recipient.
Relevantly, if the overseas recipient does breach the APPs, the Privacy Act imposes liability on the APP entity that made the overseas disclosure.
Jover Laurio may be in possession of information about some people that could have been acquired through illegal means.
This means there is opportunity to investigate possible breaches of privacy from Australia as a business entity based in Australia that had transmitted private information of its Australian clients to an overseas subsidiary or contractor — such as, in this case, a call centre operator to which it outsourced some of its operations — could be held liable for said breach.
Much had already been written with regard to the hypocrisy surrounding the way the Philippine Opposition had propped up Laurio as a “hero” in a so-called fight against an imagined tyrannical Philippine government. The fact is, however, even though much had been written about Laurio herself, there is scant material to be found about the actual content that she publsihes on her much-vauntedPinoy Ako Blog (PAB) itself — except for one noted blogger, Katrina Stuart Santiago, who actually took the time to mount a critical evaluation of Laurio’s work on PAB. In her piece, State of blogging, microblogging, media #crisis, Stuart-Santiago writes how “anyone who even spends time reading through Laurio’s site would find that she employs exactly the same tools, the same tone, the same kabastusan [crassness] that we find offensive in the DDS microblogs and fake news-propaganda sites.” She goes further to write about Laurio’s intellectual dishonesty on exhibit in her work published on PAB…
Laurio has entries that are but a series of questions dripping with malice and insinuations that are based on unnamed sources; she calls out Duterte officials and ends by saying versions of: “Sana hindi po ito totoo …” or “Kung mali ako …” Both these strategies are used by Duterte propagandists. These are no different from Asec Mocha using the world “allegedly” when she used to make her baseless accusations (she’s been very careful to keep from doing that of late), and ending her criticism of Liberal Party Senators, or mainstream media, with “Nagtatanong lang po!”
And on Laurio’s being the foremost celebrated Resibo Queen (a reference to the screencaps she uses as “proof” for her “fact checks” in her “fight” against “fake news”), Stuart Santiago is dismissive…
Laurio does not hyperlink to her sources — something that RJ Nieto (one of her favorite nemesis) actually takes seriously — and I’ve caught her often enough leaching off other Facebook pages’ content and passing the content off as her own. She then gets comments like “ang talas talaga ng mata mo Pab!” Yet the same information was posted on the Facebook page of We Are Collective days before she even put it on her blog.
It is quite rich that no less than the New York Times would toe the Philippine Liberal Party line by featuring her as a “hero” on their illustrious pages and website. Laurio, like her idol Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is a fake hero. Their prowess with playing the Victim Card no longer fools Filipinos. Unfortunately, they had succeeded at fooling the editors of the New York Times. For its part, the Times seems to have succumbed to the temptation presented by a juicy story without applying basic journalistic rigour, like taking into account alternative sources on the matter of Laurio’s new-found public profile. This latest piece is notable for an absence of the points of view of supporters of the incumbent Duterte government. Now that is being a hypocrite.

About benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.


The Real Threats to Press Freedom in the Philippines

With the revoking of Rappler’s license to operate as a business, “opposition” were hopping mad about it being a dictatorship move and suppression of freedom of speech. But those are not what happened. What happened is that one of the real threats to press freedom and freedom of expression was brought to account. I’m not sure why not being allowed to operate as a business is a threat to freedom, as Rappler can always operate as a blog. Being a business does not necessarily give legitimacy or credibility. But even news agencies and media companies can be threats to freedom all over the world because of two things.
Image by © John Lund/Stephanie Roeser/Blend Images/Corbis
1. Irresponsibility and Incompetence in Journalism
Not too long ago, an ironic moment was Rappler itself hosting a forum with some journalists giving talks. Several of them said an even greater threat than media killings is irresponsible journalism. Rappler seemed to have dismissed their guests’ advice.
One of those mistakes was claiming that the attack on Resorts World Manila last 2017 was by the terrorist group Daesh (more popularly known as ISIS). It later turned out that the culprit was just one man, a civil servant disgruntled by gambling losses at the hotel. It has been said that people who were trapped in the hotel got wind of the rumor that it was an ISIS attack and panicked, contributing to their being more easily killed. This would place responsibility for causing unnecessary panic on Rappler’s shoulders.
We can learn from some media mistakes abroad as well. Among them was media (both traditional and Internet) getting suspects wrong – and thus, inconveniencing or harming innocent people. An example as cited in my source for this part of the article was how media kept on reporting and naming suspects of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, only that none of them were the ones later found guilty – the Tsarnaev brothers. After the 2001 Antrax attacks (when anthrax pathogens were spread through infected letters mailed to people), a New York Times columnist identified a researcher named Steven Hatfill as the possible culprit. Hatfill filed a defamation suit, and FBI investigations cleared him of the crime.
Another related issue is when media goes in bed with political sides, or partisanship. Rappler is thought to have been doing this with Aquino-aligned vested interests since since its start. But before that, American journalists and writers were employed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.) as spies and shills. This is revealed by Watergate reporter Carl Berntstein and inJoel Whitney’s Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers.
On another thing. As I mentioned before, one issue with journalism is the concept of gatekeepers. Editors have to pick news to feature and throw the rest to the cutting room floor. The original reason is that news broadcasts have limited time to air. These days, however, there’s reason to suspect that selection is done with deliberate picking of the more sensational items. I am reminded of Dick Stolley’s rules for People Magazine. As a business, the magazine doesn’t have to really care about people, but just sells copies, using the sensationalization based on Stolley’s rules.
Another good example, as I mentioned before, was the Filipinos bar fracas. This was raised by a Philippine Star article, the author of which claimed that the Filipinos chocolate bar composition of being “brown ouside, white inside” was an insult to Filipinos. So local politicians decided to ride on this and attack the Spanish chocolate company, and we know how that foolishness turned out.
Let’s also use an infamous photo example from abroad. Anyone recall Brian Walski? He was the photographer who edited a photo in Iraq that totally changed the context, for the reason that it would “look better.” It ran on the paper he was working for, but the editors later learned about the photomanipulation. That cost him his job. It might bring to mind the recent “Pieta” photo by Raffy Lerma in the Inquirer, which isn’t photomanipulated, but it doesn’t stick to just reporting the facts, and instead gives it unnecessary dramatization that tries to influence the reader – a no-no for journalistic ethics.
Original two photos above, photomanipulated version is the big one
Because of these mistakes and betrayals by members of the press, people are getting distrustful of mainstream media, and would rather trust “direct channels” like the Internet. They don’t even bother to check if what they see on the Internet is true or not. To them, anything but mainstream news is more trustworthy. Fake news spreads easily because mainstream media, wittingly or unwittingly, aids in making people want it.
2. Who Owns Media
The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Media Ownership Monitor both mentioned that a major threat to free expression in the Philippines is the nature of media ownership. Most of the owners are politicians or politically-aligned big businesses. This would undermine the press’s role as truthseekers or defenders of freedom of speech, and the press instead becomes a tool to serve vested interest agendas.
Not only do will the journalists’ output be highly biased or slanted, but they can also be used to attack people. Journalists have been responsible not just for mistakes, but for deliberate actions of trying to ruin people and mislead readers. For example, Rappler reporters and allies behaved more like shills than reporters. On the side, I also suspect that the old urban legends (such as the Bongbong Marcos we see now actually being a clone, Agapito Flores inventing the fluorescent lamp, a Filipino inventing the moon buggy, etc.) were sideline projects of journalists in those days.
Quite true, no matter who says it
Indeed, one of the points made in many books these days about journalism (such as Robert Atschull’s Agents of Power and Gadi Wolfsfeld’s Making Sense of Media and Politics) is that most media companies are owned by businesses with questionable agendas. Omidyar Network’s involvement in Ukraine and other attempts to destabilize governments has been widely discussedand can’t just be shaken off as “fake news.” But it is only the tip of the iceberg.
This is why the discussion of “control” in the Philippine Depositary Receipts of Rappler is important. The nature of that control, if it could only be known, would likely reflect self-interest at the cost of truth and true respect for others (aside from violating the law). But even without foreign aid, there are Filipinos would stop at nothing to be dictators over the country, while painting those who counter them as the “evil ones,” using the media.
The real threats to journalism in the Philippines are not from outside, but within. Journalism is not an industry free of corruption; it is rife with such, which even Singaporean figure Lee Kuan Yew mentioned. Indeed, the real threat to press freedom is the abuse of it, and demonstrating to people that you don’t deserve it. We readers should hold media companies to account and challenge them to do shape up. Of course, in the end, people will believe what they want, and the important thing about real freedom of expression is that it allows even individuals to differ from what the established organizations report.

About ChinoF

I stick with this blog because I believe, as my cohorts do, that many things Filipino embrace as part of their culture keep their society backward. And blogging freely to show that in a truly decent society, with true freedom of speech, even nobodies have a voice.


Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is a FAKE VICTIM because she is a crime SUSPECT

It would seem, indeed, that Rappler was “targetted” by the Philippine government when it was singled out for shut down through action channeled via the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on charges of accepting foreign funds in exchange for some degree of control. Some “journalists” have incorporated that notion into the “assault on free speech” screeching fits Filipinos are being subject to today. Even more curious, they also see the question of Who might be next? as further reason to be outraged.
Perhaps it is high time that our so-called “journalists” are reminded of an important character trait that underpins excellentjournalism. That character trait is curiosity. A true journalist would be curious about who else is in violation of constitutional bars against foreign ownership. That some of the Philippines’ most revered “journalists” prefer to be outraged than curious is, indeed, a disturbing thing. If Filipinos are subject to a media industry populated by people who are paralysed by outrage and not motivated by curiosity, then the country is in real trouble, indeed.
It is very likely that Rappler CEO Maria Ressa felt reasonably safe violating the law because she sees others doing the same. That’s pretty much how the Philippines works, after all. Everybody breaks the law with impunity. Consequences are meted outselectively. Unfortunately for Ressa, Rappler was selected this time. But, see, just because you were picked out amongst all the crooks to be the regulator’s flavour of the month does not in anyway reduce your culpability for any of your unlawful acts.
On that principle, it is easy to see just how baldly hypocritical this whole “activist” movement around “free speech” is. You’d think that a truly progressive activist movement would advocate justice. Instead, they are, themselves, being selective about mounting their outrage campaigns. The bigger activist cause begging to be given attention is the cause for applying the force of the law across everyone subject to it. The revelation that Rappler had been violating the law with impunity for years should have been a wakeup call to investigate the entire industry.
Instead, Filipinos’ so-called “activist” chose to go down the lazy path by rallying around a fake victim.
Maria Ressa is a fake victim. In reality, she is a crime suspect. She is CEO of a company found to be in violation of the law. The real victims here are her company’s employees — people who had been delivering their end of the deal to their employer all these years. In exchange, their employer –their CEO — betrayed their trust and the trust of the state.
Filipino activists should break free of the paradigm that “free speech” is in danger in the Philippines. It is not. That idea was spun by a desperate suspected crook frantically covering up years of management negligence.

About benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.