HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE – Rappler, Philstar errata just the surface of rotten biased coverage

HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE – Rappler, Philstar errata just the surface of rotten biased coverage

- in Opinion
Face News! Image from BBC

Both Rappler and the Philippine Star have published errata to their recent coverage of the House of Representatives. Both stories similarly twisted the words of House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to attack him and destabilize the country.

The stories said that he called news about personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages “fake news”, thus leading the reader to be outraged at such a blase treatment of the obviously struggling healthcare system. How could he say such a thing! Of course the administration would willfully shut their eyes to the truth!

But see, the thing is this: Rappler and the Philippine Star lied to the public.

What Speaker Cayetano actually said is that fake news circulating right now on alleged PPE shortages would confuse donors. He is warning the public to stay vigilant against opportunistic individuals who would take advantage of people’s good will. Intentional misinformation would misdirect critical resources and cost our public health.

Here’s the exact quote, so you readers can decide for yourselves what he said:

“Alam niyo po, ‘yung mga nagkakalat ng fake news na nagsasabing kulang ng PPEs or personal protective equipment sa isang lugar, kawawa ‘yung totoong kulang. Hinda na tuloy malaman nung iba kung saan magbibigay.”

Any literate person can see that Rappler and Philippine Star outright lied to the public.

A mistake on this scale, especially in this time of crisis when lives are at risk and unity is essential, should have heavier consequences than a quick Facebook status and deleting some articles. The damage done to the reputation of the House of Representatives by these deliberate manipulations of people’s trust cannot be undone just because they posted a quick sorry, my bad.

We do not accept their erratum. It’s not even an apology. They are not acknowledging that they lied. Don’t let them shrug this off like it’s no big deal.

But of course, what were we to expect? These same “journalists” have made their career out of consciously, insidiously twisting the words of administration officials. Almost everyday, they misquote, post click bait headlines, and exaggerate the negatives on everything the Duterte administration has done.

Just another recent issue that pops into this writer’s mind is how mainstream media, particularly Rappler, casually caused public panic and anger by their misreporting of a statement by DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire. They were quick to hone in on Vergeire’s admittedly poor choice of words to say that mass testing is not needed. But they’d be damned to put the same emphasis on the rest of her statement which said that we are not conducting mass testing in the Philippines like they are in South Korea because our health infrastructure is not as robust as theirs, we lack kits, and we need to focus our attention now on protecting the most vulnerable while we are waiting for further resources to arrive.

“In other countries, though, it has been done like in South Korea. They did mass testing. Pero ito po ay mayroon silang… well-capable ang kanilang health systems at may capacity for that. Sa ngayon po, hindi pa naman natin nakikitang kailangan nating gawin itong mass testing na ito,” Vergeire said.

A huge part of the reason why we don’t need to conduct mass testing is because President Duterte took decisive action to flatten the curve with the pronouncement of the enhanced community quarantine. The gripes critics had about the vulnerability of no-work, no-pay employees and benefits to indigents and frontline workers? Mostly addressed in the Bayanihan Act.

Let’s also not forget that President Duterte’s “terrible” administration has passed the Universal Health Care Act. This would objectively, across the board increase the access to healthcare for every Filipino. Before the pandemic, we were seeing zero balance government hospital stays become the norm. And now they want to pretend like President Duterte, the evil dictator he surely is, doesn’t care about public health.

I challenge anyone reading this to imagine what the country would be like if this pandemic broke out during any other administration. I encourage you to write out that scenario and leave it in the comments.

Anyway, I digress. Back to these fake news outlets.

What they are doing is a systematic destabilization of the government. It is willful neglect of their duties as “journalists”. It’s a devil-be-damned pursuit of self-interest.

But then their supporters will say that we’re no better, right? We call Robredo, Hontiveros, Lacson, Trillanes, and anyone else an idiot. We use the word stupid freely.

What do we do here on Mindanation and Mindavote, you might ask, that makes us immune to the same criticism we give out? Well first off, we don’t pretend to be unbiased. From the name of our community alone, you should know that we are a community that proudly and loudly supports President Duterte. We have no obligation to provide fair and equal coverage to candidates of all political parties because we’re an independent outfit. We do this because we want to. We believe in providing a voice to the 16 million voters who finally have a national stage.

Second and more importantly: we are under no pretense that we are a news outlet. We don’t have the authority or responsibility to be unbiased.

When we call someone stupid, we say it outright. You can never accuse us of hiding our agenda while pretending to be non-partisan.

You can accuse mainstream media of it though.

PhilStar is a mainstream media outfit. Rappler is pretending to be one. They are touting themselves as members of the free press. One would think that for these corporations to be worthy of the recognition they are afforded by the national government, they would hold themselves to a higher standard than us bloggers. One would think that they would at least try to give our democracy a voice in mainstream media, instead of just shoving their own opinions down the throats of their readers.

When we post, it is an opinion. If mainstream media doesn’t agree with it, they call us fake news. But we’re not the news so that is ridiculous. However, when they post, it is assumed to be factual because they (even Rappler), have been granted recognition by our government for their service of informing our citizenry. Their job is to report what they see to the public, especially what they see as actions which could hurt our nation. It is not their job to perteptuslly lie to supplant the public’s thought process with their own, just because they think this is what is right. That’s not a free press, that’s a totalitarian media regime.

If they cannot perform their duties without sounding like tabloids, they should just turn in their press badges and exclusively work through Facebook comment boxes.

This is an interesting comparison to the supposed victory that anti-admin fanatics are patting themselves on the back over. They think that their angry Facebook statuses saying that they’re oh so scared because President Duterte is obviously seeking to put the country under Martial Law with these special powers (omg see I told you he’s evil omg) – they think that this is the sole reason that the proposed Bayanihan bill has passed into law with multiple more safeguards than were originally proposed.

While the participation of an informed and passionate citizenry is critical to the survival of our American-outsourced democracy, don’t sell our government so short to think that the checks and balances simply don’t exist because you don’t agree with the overwhelming pro-admin members of Congress. The legislative process was created on the idea that the bill proposed is not the bill that would pass into law. Critics are conveniently glossing over the fact that our Representatives and members of the Senate (except Hontiveros, she’s stupid) worked well into the early hours of the morning, debating and revising and collaborating, all to pass a version of the bill that would satisfy the needs of the country at this crucial moment in our history. They honed the bill because it is their job and that process is what makes us a democratic republic. They did not say “OH shit they’re onto us” and hurriedly covered their tracks, tucking away their plans for national domination like cartoon villains.

If you have so little faith in our national government, say so outright. Don’t twist the truth to turn people against the tool that serves them.

The real failure in our system of checks and balances is the sad state of our free press. Rappler and PhilStar and the rest make little to no effort whatsoever to responsibly deliver information to the people. They wield unlimited power to destroy our democracy. They are unchallenged when they replace the will of the people with their own agenda. Where is the process that went into these pieces? Why are they not taking their jobs seriously?

We need to hold these mainstream media outlets responsible. We need to demand that they pay for their mistakes. Anyone can see that what they are accused of is not being critics of the administration. Don’t be so shallow with your argument. This is about the abuse of power by Philippine media companies. No matter how many international hearts they win with their biased (duh) retelling of their role, they cannot paint themselves as the hero to the Filipino public who are witness to their systematic abuses of power. We will hold them accountable.

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