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Mischievous minds at work

July 10, 2019 - Wednesday 4:07 AM by Jimmy Laking

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That a sector of the Manila-based media establishments obviously is out to embarrass the Duterte administration has long been a given. 

From Day 1 of President Duterte’s presidency, this sector has thrown every muck imaginable against Duterte’s administration. 

His statements were often quoted out of context or deliberately twisted to put Digong on the spotlight. The more evil he is made to appear, the better.

They were most vociferous when the numbers of bodies piled up at the peak of the war on drugs. Lately, they found further fodder and ammunition when a Chinese trawler rammed a Filipino fishing boat in the South China Sea, portraying it an assault on Philippine sovereignty and parodying Digong’s take on the issue as a maritime accident.

Conversely, this sector of the Philippine media conveniently left out the fact that similar incidents involving Philippine fishing boats happened in the past under several Presidents. That Malaysia has time and again sunk foreign fishing vessels (mostly Chinese and some carrying the Philippine flag) prowling its territorial waters without raising an international alarm. And that Argentina recently deliberately sank a Chinese commercial boat fishing in its waters without raising ruckus.

A comparison of how two Manila broadsheets treated the news on July 8 illustrates my point. As its top news, the Manila Times had this headline: Wipe out IS, Duterte orders military, police. 

Its No. 2 story is something Metro Manilans can relate to: Angat Dam may hit below critical anew. Its top regional story: Dinagat Island board member gunned down.

In contrast, the PDI treated the Dinagat killing as top news. Other than the information that the casualty was politically independent, the story was shot through with holes. Nowhere in the story was there allusion as to why the killing was so “extraordinary” as to deserve its top billing. The story named a police source alright but failed to ask or probably deleted any theories the police had that could have led to the victim’s killing. 

The story mentioned that his being No.1 board member “might” provoke some people. Exactly how his lofty rating would provoke some people was not explained. What kind of people are being alluded to? Government officials? Business persons? Men in uniform? The NPA?

The only explanation, to my understanding, as to why it was headlined was plain and simple: to spite the administration by creating the impression that killings are a dime a dozen.

Nice try. But will PDI headline a follow-up story if the eventual motive has to do with something more personal?

But the strangest thing of it all is despite what seemed a systematic attack on the President via media, the government’s information arms are not up to the task of putting or depicting the President in a positive light. 

The only explanation I could find is that they are not up to the task.

In 2017, Ateneo de Davao University political science dean Prof. Ramon Beleno III said one problem that the Duterte administration has been facing is the apparent gap between the President and his communications department.

He indicated that the communications department has been unable to project Duterte’s actions and policies vis-à-vis his long-term promise to effect institutional change.

That observation, methinks, still stands true today.