Duterte’s 21 foreign trips should be applauded, not ‘rapplered’



THE online-only news site Rappler, funded by Americans and controlled by a mining and property tycoon, has done it again, this time claiming that President Duterte’s “costly” foreign trips reflect his exorbitant lifestyle.

This news site ignored, among other explanations, that the higher P387 million expenses is due to one simple reason. This President has had 21 voyages abroad in his first 12 months in office in order to quickly expand the country’s global network of supporters and to repair the damage done by his predecessor to our relations with China.

Duterte has had the most such trips among the past five Presidents. Benigno Aquino 3rd in same time frame had 11 foreign trips, his mother, 5. (See table.)

Rappler has demonstrated its anti-Duterte bias through a propaganda trick it has invented that I’d call rapplering. which I bet it will do again and again : Distort data to exaggerate things to paint the Duterte regime black.

Rappler did it last year with devastating consequences for the country’s image when it distorted police data to report that Duterte’s war against illegal drugs had resulted in 7,080 summary executions as of September 2016 (See my column “How Rappler misled EU, Human Rights Watch, CNN, Time, BBC — the world.”)

While that figure has been totally debunked—it included all other murders the police was investigating—Rappler has not corrected it, and similarly biased Western media have used it to extrapolate that such executions total more than 10,000 by February.

This time, the news site boasts to have done an investigative-journalism piece by claiming that Duterte’s foreign trips “cost thrice more than predecessors”.

The lede of the piece immediately reveals its intent:

“President Rodrigo Duterte projects himself as a man of simple tastes, almost allergic to extravagance and unnecessary expenses. Yet Malacañang records show he spent about triple what his predecessors spent on foreign travels during his first year in power.” The article repeats this false message clothed in doubtful figures: “Duterte’s exorbitant spending contradicts his projected image of a thrifty and practical President.”

President Duterte meeting with China’s and Russia’s leaders: Rappler claimed these to be “exorbitant”.

The article is classic “rapplering”.

Rappler claims its data were all from “Malacañang records” obtained through the Freedom from Information system ordered by Duterte. However, it was only the figures on Duterte’s trips that were acquired from Malacañang, and therefore accurate government info.

Rappler’s figures on the cost of foreign trips of Aquino and Arroyo are based on a single article in 2014 by the pro-Aquino Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) intended to show that Aquino was more frugal than his predecessor Arroyo—as well as other “media reports” it didn’t identify.

The PDI in turn cited “information from the Commission on Audit”, yet it didn’t report exactly what COA document this was. The COA doesn’t have any report on the actual cost of foreign travels of each president.

The PDI article in fact pointed out: “Inquirer.net has yet to receive the data requested from the COA in order to compare the expenses of past administrations. Comparison of travel expenses of each President will be the subject of another article.” There never was any such second article.

Rappler therefore may be comparing a report by the Duterte’s accountants meticulously counting every peso spent on his trips to comply with the FOI system, with reports by the past administrations’ media people understating the cost of presidential trips, and they were able to do this since there wasn’t any FOI during those times.

The big trick in counting costs for “foreign trips” – and I know as I have worked in Malacañang and this is the reason that as a journalist I never dealt with issues of costs of foreign trips – is that expenses for such foreign trips, except for plane fares and hotel accommodations, could be classified, depending on the accountants’ whim, with other items under the President’s or other department secretaries’ budgets.

For all we know, the Arroyo and Aquino administrations may have counted only costs of airfare and hotel accommodations, while an overeager accountant of the Duterte government counted all expenses to the last centavo when the President and his party were abroad, such as communication, restaurant bills, and office supplies.

While providing details on Duterte’s expenses, Rappler reported only the total expenses as claimed by past administrations, with no classification as to how much were spent, for instance, on airfare and hotels and other expense.

The more accurate assessment of the cost of Presidents’ foreign trips would be based on the item in the government’s Congress-made budget labelled “local/foreign missions and state visits”. As shown in the accompanying table, this amounted to P225 to P255 million for each year from 2010 to 2013.

However, Aquino doubled his travel budget to P551, starting in 2014, until its last budget, in 2016. This belies PDI and Rappler’s reports that Aquino had been frugal in his spending during his foreign trips: Why would he order his budget for trips doubled? The amount allotted for foreign trips in Duterte’s first budget, for 2017, was reduced a bit to P472 million, well within the claimed P387 million costs of his foreign trips in 12 months.

Rather than nitpicking on how much Duterte may have spent in his trips abroad, we should admire that this former mayor of what is really a frontier city has hit the ground running in visiting nearly two dozen countries in order to enhance our diplomatic ties abroad and to strengthen our role in multilateral bodies such as Asean, Apec and the East Asia Summit. His predecessor Aquino visited only 11 countries in his first year in office. I myself had not thought that Duterte with his clumsy, Bisayan English and ill-tailored suits would have the confidence to meet with world leaders.

Duterte had moved fast to thaw the very icy diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the world’s second biggest economy, China, that emerged as a result of Aquino and his American-boy foreign secretary Albert del Rosario’s suit against China over the Spratlys dispute. That was the first ever such suit against that emerging superpower despite its territorial disputes with over 20 countries. I’m totally convinced that Duterte’s quick reversal of Aquino’s American-inspired anti-China policy and moves will be one of his biggest accomplishments as president.

In a span of just a year, Duterte has managed to steer the country away from its century-old subservience to the US, drawing us closer to the two superpowers closer to us, China and the Russian Federation. I don’t think any other President could have, or would have done, that.

I suspect the Rappler reporter who wrote critically over Duterte’s trips has never travelled abroad. If she did, she would have an inkling that foreign trips on government time aren’t as romantic as tourist vacations shown in TV advertisements. Foreign government trips are the most hectic and tiring part of any President’s job. When I was presidential chief of staff during Arroyo’s administration, I selfishly begged off from further joining her trips after the fourth, sick of the sight of airports and of the smell of airplane food. I am certainly not suprised that after 21 trips abroad, Duterte has taken time off to rest and re-charge.

For a 72-year-old grandfather like Duterte, who is so tied to his Davao home and to his own bed, foreign trips would be a real struggle. Yet this American-funded, tycoon-controlled news site claims his foreign trips demonstrate his exorbitant lifestyle.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao
Twitter: @bobitiglao


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  1. The way you are Going Mr President, and the good you are doing for the Country, I don’t think the Lord my God who put you there will allow harm to become you. His hand will keep you safe for the sake of the Filipino people, carry on Mr President our hope and salvation.

  2. National Public Radio is attacking Duterte again today and making D5 the heroine 6.21.17 (US date). What are they up to? Very bias news and commentary. Is Rappler an extension of NPR?

  3. Marion Plaza on

    Thank you so much Manila TImes for having such good criticism on rappler’s one-sided/biased report on Duterte’s flight expenses. I actually feel like I’m going to explode as i read their report. It’s so biased and have no neutrality on it! The report doesn’t contain any information on the positive outcomes of the Duterte’s foreign trips. My god. Rappler should be closed down for such report. Not professional, creating wrong perception, and misleading the public.

  4. Luzy Canilao on

    Rappler is again sabotaging the Filipino nation by firing point-blank at President Duterte’s cost of foreign travels, albeit miserably missing the main point, substance and importance of those travels. Rappler is not only deliberately spreading fake news but it is bad news by itself aimed at government destabilization as well. Rappler is evil personified. Good news is . . . truth and goodness will win and will prevail over our beloved land. God is blessing President Duterte, his team and the Filipino masses who rely on his sincerity, good works and wisdom.

    “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Rom. 8:31

  5. Thank you very much, Mr. Tiglao! :-)

    A simple cost-benefit analysis (CBA) would tear down the “rapplering” article, and with your figures the CBA is now even easier to do…. The Rappler Sorority really needs to go to grad school, or even business courses.

  6. It is good Mr. Tiglao clarified here a better comparison and contrast between presidential travels because we the general readership cannot easilly distinguish between pure and skewed journalism. Much was said of former presidents Aroyo and Aguino. What about that of former president Fidel ‘Viayahe’ Ramos?

  7. Whenever I see a headline that is being reported by Rappler, I don’t read it. It’s just garbage and their articles are the perfect epitome of crab mentality. The only news site I read are Manila Times and RT News. Well-researched and fair.

  8. Someone’s got to stop this Rappler from its black propaganda again and again. It has always created intrigue and malice to its reports. Better close it out

  9. I do agree in this column not only the veracity of details but the honest reflection of pointing the true measure. Comparing to Maria Rezza and Rigoberto Tiglao is classifying a diamond and steel. in terms of credibility. A paid journalist used their prowess to sell their hone skills while a pure journalist balanced the article and leave the answer to the reader. Maria Rezza works as CNN correspondece , she or he was tapped to become a marine class joirnalist to attack any person dictated by her secret boss. It is apparent that Rappler is in guise as a mouthpiece of US if not CIA to localize and traumatize whoever seconded by MSM to make it appear sensational. This is all because Digong had shifted from colonnial lapdog of America to free lance and sovereign practice to rule the country. America is well known to sabotage any leader that go against their exceptional attitude. Perhaps the sting of US have died out that US had created more enemy than friends.American hegemony to the Philippines was shot out by Digong and we can expect more of the US manipulation in all sides to kick Digong out of power. This is so sad that American is using our own people to create chaos politically and militarily. I believe Mindanao crisis is the creation of US masked in multi layered clandestine covert disguises to make it appeared ISIS incursion which they have created innthe middle east.

  10. I think what many fail to see is that all of these trips were essential to begin to turn the nation around. And, in particular, to turn Mindanao around. What do I see as the result of these trips?

    I see an expanded international market opening to Filipino produce and goods. That should help our wobbly agricultural and industrial sectors a great deal.

    I see large infusions of foreign capital to build infrastructure and lay the foundations for a stronger economic engine.

    I see improved economic, political, and military collaboration between the ASEAN countries. I’m hoping to see ASEAN rival the EC before I pass from this earth.

    I see the Philippines emerging as an international pivot point that redefines foreign relations in the region. America remains part of the picture, but no longer dominates. The ASEAN world is building bridges to China, Russia, and retaining the old ties to the US and EC. That seems a better formula for long-term peace than old Cold War alliances and politics.

    All of these international initiatives are also helping to drive internal reform. If Marawi is any indication, I see an increasingly smart and professional government responding to the challenges of threats and the needs of its people. The government has a way to go yet, but it is not being caught flat-footed like when Yolanda hit.

    Most importantly, these international efforts are the real cornerstones for peace in Mindanao. Listen to the military, they are the first to tell you that the war on terror cannot be won with guns alone. In the long run, one of the essentials for peace is improving the economic, political and social systems on Mindanao.

    Perhaps, some of the elite just don’t like some country boy from Mindanao leading the charge into the next century. But that’s too bad. Maybe they should watch Mr. Smith goes to Washington if it ever plays on television.

    • you absolutely nailed it Sir, I totally agree with you. I fervently hope others will be enlightened so we can all unite for the good of this country.

    • “help our wobbly agricultural and industrial sectors a great deal.”
      Corrupt officials are the reason for that. AND all the plastic rice flowing in from China.

      “foreign capital to build infrastructure”
      I’ll believe it when I see it, again you can bet 90% of those funds are going into someones pockets.

      “cornerstones for peace in Mindanao.”
      HOW many years we have been fighting them. What do we have to show for that? LOTS of body bags.

    • Brilliant comment about Mr. Tiglao’s article – everything on point regarding the good results that came out of the President’s travels, countering the petty criticisms by Rappler. Rappler’s penchant for writing all things negative about this administration sometimes borders on the absurd.

  11. Rappler is just too jealous that mocha has more audience than them. they’d do anything to attract traffic to their deteriorating website.