Demeaning human rights



IT is clear that while we might laugh at the people behind Presidential Communications, and cannot even begin to imagine what it has now become given the appointment of un-credentialed, anti-facts Mocha Uson; and while we might scoff at the social media army that are the ka-DDS—Duterte devotees—with an axe to grind against mainstream media, facts, data, and investigative journalism; here we are at a point when a member of the Philippine Congress—a senator at that—can face the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), and declare with a straight face that there is no new spate of killings under the Duterte administration, and that the international attention was all the fault of mainstream media coverage, that bloated the number of dead and equated these killings with the drug war the President holds closest to his heart.

The thing with us having dismissed propaganda and spin to be nothing but—because look at who is spreading it, and how it’s being disseminated! and it’s so not based on facts and reliable information!—is that we didn’t see how in the case of Duterte’s social media army, all it takes is to keep repeating a falsity to make it more and more like the truth. Not the truth, but a truth.

This is not like the time of Daang Matuwid, where critics could hold up additional information, do interviews, report what’s happening on the ground, in order to put into question the data that the three-headed communications office was churning out in infographics and websites. This is not at all about facts versus facts. This is just the loudest voices, the ones that are spent on and promoted, spewing pro-Duterte opinion, and repeating it over and over.

Seems simple enough. Unexpectedly a formidable enough foe of relevant, credible discourse.

Context: media and elections 2016
To put into question the notion of human rights, Duterte’s social media army, as well as his PCOO, started things off by consistently discrediting mainstream media.

Now of course this was easy to do. We were coming from a presidential campaign during which we watched as mainstream media sacrificed relevant information for biased and partisan reporting. Sure, none of these larger media entities categorically declared their loyalty to any or one candidate; but it was clear in terms of coverage which candidates were favored and which ones weren’t, and in many cases the propaganda against certain candidates was happening way before the campaign officially started.

For Duterte, who declared his candidacy last, the coverage he was getting was clearly about his more controversial statements, including that one in May 2015 when he confirmed that he was the Davao Death Squad (Gikan Sa Masa, Para Sa Masa,May24, 2016), as well as that now infamous rape joke delivered during one of his campaign sorties. The killings in Davao took center stage, something that Duterte endorsers —many of whom were celebrities —responded to by highlighting instead how safe they felt on their visits to Davao.

Duterte was the dark horse, the underdog, the lone wolf—and he played that role to the hilt – giving supporters what they wanted, happy as they were with the little they knew of their candidate who had no real platform, but had enough soundbites to tide them over.

Discrediting mainstream media
It was because of how campaign season was handled by much of mainstream media that it became easy for Duterte devotees to go on the offensive against them, and bring media to its knees. We all witnessed the ways in which media played with the public during the campaign, as well as the multifarious ways in which we were bombarded with information, opinion, trivia that were not only skewed in favor of or against a candidate, but which also made no effort at bringing discussions to a deeper level.

Post-elections and with a new President Duterte, it was just too easy to take down mainstream media by putting into question all that it reported, highlighting its biases, talking about intent and collusion among media enterprises and critics, towards discrediting the information being delivered, the events reported on—including, but not limited to, notions of and reports on human rights violations.

Our tendency was to shrug it all off: the comms team of Malacañang is devoid of any credibility, its certified bloggers and social media army only hold as much information as the government is willing to release to the public. How could any of this information be considered as the facts, as the truth? We have journalists on the ground counting the dead, we have police reports, we have investigative stories, pointing to the contrary.

Ah, but we seem to have miscalculated what would matter in the long run—or at least by the end of Duterte’s first year. And here we are confounded by the manner in which media has been discredited all the way to the UN, taking human rights and justice along with it.

Rethinking strategies
Listening to the senator defending the killings that happened in the first year of the Duterte presidency at the UNHRC, it is difficult to deny that all that he said, the way he spun the information, is exactly how Duterte devotees have responded to criticism against and reports on the drug war the past year. This was troll discourse and Duterte propaganda brought to a global stage, with nary the proper data and not much more than the usual soundbites.

To some extent we brought this upon ourselves. Because as we shrugged our shoulders, as we fell silent, as we decidedly ignored propaganda and spin and troll discourse, for whatever reason including our elitist notions of “what matters,” we further enabled this state of affairs, where government can categorically deny any wrongdoing, and even proclaim our nation’s safety, despite and in the face of thousands of deaths on our streets.

Obviously, there is a need to rethink our strategies. If not to just start thinking beyond the black and white, ka-DDS versus Dilawan kind of discourse. Because look at where that has brought us, a year in.


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  1. Statistically, mas marami pa ring audience ang mainstream media kumpara sa social media so the general distrust of Pinoys to mainstream media can be hardly attributed to social media armies.

    I wonder why mainstream journalists find that hard to take in. They’re falling out of relevance because they never realized that being a journalist and being a critic are two different things. People are irked because most mainstream journos became trying-hard critics over the past decade.

  2. “Because look at where that has brought us, a year in.”

    We have become a people loving our country more than political personalities, conscious of an identity that will never sell their soul to foreigners who insist on political correctness.

    It’ s the year of patriotic fire and being truly, authentically Filipino loving their own.

  3. Neither Duterte nor Mocha Uson discredited mainstream media. Mainstream media discredited itself and keeps discrediting itself everyday by publishing fake and twisted news and views just like yours Miss Santiago. Netizens expose fake news all the time on social media but you do not notice this, do you? Many years ago when majority of journalists were still honest, an error exposed by readers would promptly be corrected with the corresponding apology by the paper. Nowadays most corrupt mainstream media people are so arrogant that they just ignore it when their lies are exposed. They seem to expect the masses to just take their word and believe it every time. I have news for you Madam, you have fooled us too many times and we are disgusted with the likes of you!

  4. One would take Rizal’s parallelism on the ‘ills of society’ as likened to deadly body ‘cancer’ cells in our national state of things. The normal cells has already been overtaken over by bad cells, nutrition or surgery is no longer an option, where doctors instead resort to anti biotics, chemo theraphy and pain killers solutions (patient’s preference may differ: he simply rest his case to God, take drugs for relief or asks for a ‘coup de grace’ shot to shorten his earthly agony – by the way, I am not a doctor). Imagine our country to have all three branches of the government (executive, legislative and judiciary) virtually grounded to a halt. Now we have a doctor’s cure-all prescription, ‘kill, kill, kill’. Duterte said, ‘my god, I hate drugs’, I have a mandate to do it because ‘I love this country’. It was like Marcos fortifying his strongman rule, ‘any body who walks like communist, by god, he is a communist’, arrest him for democracy’s sake! We all know he impressed America for 20 years until their deal was ‘cut and cut’ cleaned in 1986.

    It is time the so called ‘Fourth Estate’ must do its job all the more. Stick to journalistic facts where competing history revisionism, persuasive trolling, facts distortion and other misinformation works abound.

  5. When the CHR past and present bring up the issue of landmines used by the NPA is when they are fair and equal in the work they are paid to do.

    I say bravo to our giving up European Union grants that have strings attached. As Cuba used to say “Sin quota pero sin amo”.

  6. The government’s response has more truth in it than the mainstream media’s accusations, specifically the New York Times and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. When the mainstream media leveled its charges against the Philippine government, it intentionally did not offer any proof because it did not have any. Its figures were crafted out of the clouds and made to appear true by citing reports of other lazy mainstream media practitioners who did not even try to personally verify what they were reporting. Gone were the days when members of the mainstream media were venerable because of truthful reporting. Now they just bank on their past glory days without lifting even a finger to make their reports more believable.

  7. arnel amador on

    there are three types of people. which i’ve encountered through the passage of my limited time. i called them: 1) ignorant, which i define as people like me who knew that we do not know everything on this planet. 2) idiots, who always presumed they know everything yet it’s otherwise. 3) stupid, are those who believe on number two.

    now, in this country, the phenomenom called DU30 became a symbol wherein people reached a point that stupidity must come to an end. do you honestly believe that 8 out 10 pinoy who believes on digong are stupids, and you people in media knew better than them beacuse of that privileged circle you belong? medyo napasobra yata…hindi lahat nang sinsabi natin ay pwedeng lunukin ma’am.

    i read MT because of the few sensible writers here, especially those deeply researched article and opinion. hindi yun naisip lang pagkagising sa umaga at silakbo ng pikon…

  8. Amnata Pundit on

    Foe of relevant, credible discourse? The problem is that that for you that discourse must be one where the predicates are laid down by a westernized, liberal progressive, pro-imperialist, anti-natiomalist and therefore anti-Duterte and pro-yellow mindset. How many western leaders have been charged before the ICC for the millions of victims of their bombs, napalm, agent orange which are just some of the favorite tools that they use in their relentless drive to spread democracy around the world? Demeaning human rights? Human rights is a political weapon used by the West against their enemies. No Israeli or Saudi Arabian leader has been dragged to the ICC even if they are two of the leading lights among human rights violators, yet the West uses human rights against us when we too belong to the western orbit. This should tell you a lot about how they really regard our country. Discrediting mainstream media? By spreading lies, demonstrating bias and inconsistency and practicing the opposite of what they preach in real journalism, they discredited themselves. The hypocrisy is so transparent even the supposedly low IQ masses can see through it and that is why the Duterte bashers are being elbowed out of social media because it is the medium of the masses. Rethinking strategy? If the intent is to spread the truth, all that we have to do is to just stick to the facts, like the fact that everybody knows somebody who is involved in drugs, which means that the drug scourge has reached pandemic proportions. But I forget, some are real reporters like Bobby Tiglao, others are only opinion writers.