At 9:57 p.m. on September 14, 2018, Rappler had this banner story:
On eve of Ompong landfall, Bong Go invites Cagayan officials to Palace tour
The subtitle was less subtle:
Cagayan Vice Governor Boy Vargas and several mayors, vice mayors, and provincial board members enjoy a visit to the Palace as their province is under Storm Signal No 4
The story goes on to virtually accuse Go of bringing the officials on a junket to Malacañang, all while citing only “two independent sources.”
Let’s break down the story and point out what’s wrong with it.
First the heading. Rappler writes that Go invited the Cagayan officials “on (the) eve of Ompong landfall,” meaning the invitation was supposedly extended on September 14. The article makes it appear that Go asked the officials to come to Malacañang knowing full well that a calamity was about to strike. (In fact, according to Go, the visit had been scheduled well ahead of time, before typhoon Ompong was even spotted.)
Second, Rappler makes it appear the officials went to Malacañang on a junket, solely for the purpose of having a tour. In the story, author Pia Ranada writes that the officials also met with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea but she couldn’t get any specifics because, well, the ES did not respond when asked (presumably by phone).
Now on to the story itself. The first sentence goes:
A day before Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) was set to make landfall in their province, Cagayan’s vice governor, some mayors, vice mayors, and provincial board members were being given a tour of Malacañang.
Again, the insinuation is that the trip was nothing but a junket, an ill-timed one given the expected arrival of the typhoon.
They were invited there by no less than Special Assistant to the President Bong Go, according to two independent sources.
Ranada chooses to cite “two independent sources” when further down the story she says she was able to get a reply from Go himself.
Photos taken on Friday, September 14, and shared with Rappler showed them touring and taking selfies in Malacañang’s Presidential Museum and Library. Also with them was former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, who hails from Cagayan.
Wouldn’t you be taking selfies if you were in Malacañang?
The group even met Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea after a lunch prepared for them. Rappler asked Medialdea about the visit at 11:30 am on Friday but he did not respond.
That’s one of the hazards of reporting on a beat that’s no longer yours.
Let’s skip the list of officials and go to the next sentence:
Go himself never got to meet with the officials, however. But he confirmed to Rappler that such a visit was set to take place that day and that Medialdea was scheduled to meet them. He was evasive when asked if the meeting with Cagayan officials was in his schedule.
Again, Ranada had direct contact with Go, who confirmed that the visit had been scheduled. Why she did not ask him how long ago it had been set is beyond me. Or maybe she did ask but failed to write it in the story. (In a statement after the Rappler story came out, Go said the visit had been scheduled “weeks ago.”)
As to Go being “evasive,” that’s a loaded word should not be used in a news article if it is not accompanied by proof. For all we know that is just Ranada’s interpretation of Go’s response; she should have included the quote from Go to show he was indeed being “evasive.”
The officials were told there would be a meet-and-greet with Go but this was canceled at the last minute as he supposedly had to quickly fly to Davao City.
No source is cited for this assertion. The use of the term “meet-and-greet” makes it appear that the officials were there solely to meet Go — insinuating that it was a political maneuver on the Secretary’s part.
The Cagayan local chiefs enjoyed their Malacañang trip as their province was placed under Storm Signal No. 4 due to Ompong. Because of the reported strength of the typhoon, President Rodrigo Duterte himself led a command conference on Thursday to make sure government disaster response operations were running smoothly.
Why did Ranada choose to use the word “enjoyed” instead of simply saying “The Cagayan local chiefs went ahead with their Malacañang trip…”?
We can skip the next three sentences which deal with the strength of the typhoon and go to the last two:
Go is said to have plans to run for senator in 2019. President Rodrigo Duterte himself announced this on September 7.
The presidential aide has been active in recent months meeting with local government officials all over the country, honoring speaking engagements, and distributing assistance to those affected by calamities.
So that’s the whole point of the story. It is a virtual accusation that Go was campaigning with the Cagayan officials even in the face of a calamity that was about to hit their area. Ranada missed two questions:
1) How long ago was the visit set up?
2) What was the purpose of the visit? A tour of the Malacañang Museum is standard in such visits, but was there something else the officials were there for?
These, in fact, were answered by Go himself in this statement, who compared the Rappler report with a more balanced one posted by the Inquirer:
I would like to commend/compliment the reporter of PDI for writing about what really transpired when the Cagayan Province officials went to Malacañang last Friday. If one would compare the said article with that which was posted on the fake news website called Rappler, the latter reeks of malice and evil intention. The PDI story on the said visit clearly indicated why the officials visited the Palace.
And I would like to reiterate, and this is for those who think they can just malign us in government by using their deceptive style of writing same as that of Rappler, that I was in Davao City when the officials met with ES Medialdea. I was in Davao with the President, monitoring the typhoon. In fact, we advised the officials 3 days earlier not to proceed with their visit as the typhoon was already coming, but they went ahead since the said visit has been scheduled already. They also said that they have concerns and problems about their province that they would want to discuss with us, so ES Medialdea accommodated them. For Rappler to say that I invited them to a Palace tour on the eve of the typhoon’s landfall clearly shows the intent of the story, and that is to inflame and infuriate the reading public.
Instead of giving the correct information, this spurious news website has chosen to disseminate false and bogus news. I suggest they write stories that are in accordance with facts.
Sana magsulat na lang si Pia at ang Rappler tungkol sa bagyo para naman makatulong sila sa mga kababayan natin, para malaman ng mga followers nila kung ano na ang nangyayari sa mga lugar na apektado ng bagyo.