• Is the TIME report hatchet–job journalism?



    First read

    Through Facebook, I was able to access a purported and still unauthenticated report in Time magazine on the Duterte administration’s war on drugs.

    Entitled, “The Killing Time: Inside Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s War on Drugs” and bylined by a certain Rishi Iyengar, the report was allegedly published in Time’s August 25 edition.

    I went to the nearest National Book Store branch to get a physical copy of the magazine (we, journalists, should not rely wholly on online postings). But strangely, the article is nowhere to be found in the Time issues now being sold in the NBS outlets in the country. It’s not in the August 29, 2016 issue (the latest), and the August 22, 2016 issue (the previous edition).

    How does Mr. Iyengar’s article qualify as Time journalism if it has not been published? Was it published in Time’s US edition? If so, this country needs certification and proof from Time.

    I googled the name “Rishi Iyengar” to determine whether he or she really exists, is a reporter for Time, or just a pseudonym or disguise. I drew a blank.

    Phony investigative journalism?
    The questions I raise are in every way material because the article in question deals with an issue of great moment to our country and our people today.

    It pretends to be investigative journalism; it took the time to peruse international data and statistics, and it interviewed local people and public officials with possible knowledge about the drug war and the drug killings.

    The article is profusely illustrated with colored pictures, with special emphasis on dead bodies and relatives of victims.

    The article is highly critical of President Duterte’s drug policy, and his conduct of the war on drugs. It calls the drug deaths “extrajudicial killings.”

    It reports: “As the body count soars, some say the real threat to the Philippines is not drugs but the President himself.”

    It then highlights an ominous quote from our President: “We will not stop until the last drug lord … and the last pusher have surrendered or are put either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish.”

    The missing credentials are in a way regrettable, because the article contains some revealing information and statistics, such as:

    1. The Philippines is hardly alone in executing people for drug-related offenses, judicially or otherwise, a characteristic of the region. According to a report last year by drug policy NGO Harm Reduction International, the only countries other than Iran and Saudi Arabia known to have executed drug traffickers since 2010 are all Asian: China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia. Thailand conducted its own war on drugs in 2003 under then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

    2. Based on UN surveys on drugs and crimes, the Philippines is not listed as a place of high crime incidence. There were 232,685 cases of crimes against persons, involving physical injury reported in the Philippines in 2014, for a population of 98 million. By comparison, the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes says there were, in the same year, nearly 375,000 cases of assault in the UK, which, with a population of 64 million, has far fewer people.

    3. The Philippines can be a deadly place, but it is not especially so. According to World Bank data, the Philippine rate of nine intentional homicides per 100,000 people in 2013 makes it only slightly more dangerous than Lithuania (7) or Mongolia (7), and puts it on a par with Russia (9). The US figure is 4.

    4. In the five years from 2010 to 2015, PNP figures show that total murders across the nation’s top 15 cities averaged 1,202 a year. But many more people have already died in the first seven weeks of Duterte’s drug war.
    The article goes on to suggest that the Philippine drug problem may not be as bad as the drug war suggests.
    The writer concludes:

    “In other words, the statistics show what any visitor to the country may easily see: Filipinos are not degenerates, who need to be protected from themselves, but are mostly a nation of decent, sober, law-abiding and God-fearing people. The most revealing Philippine statistic is this: 37% of Filipinos attend church on a weekly basis. Less than 20% of Americans do.

    “Nonetheless, Duterte has succeeded in convincing large numbers of his people that drug use constitutes such an emergency that the very existence of the nation is threatened, and that only his rule can save the Philippines.”

    Sloppy journalism, bogus heroine

    There is a highly critical commentary on this purported Time article that has been posted on Get Real Philippines. It calls the piece “sloppy journalism.” It faults the piece mainly for the following:

    1. In writing a report about Duterte and the war on drugs, the author interviewed mainly Senator Leila de Lima, and not a single frontline administration official.

    The other interviewees of Iyengar were minor government officials such as Chito Gascon, the die-hard yellow CHR head appointed by Noynoy Aquino under whose presidency the drug lords thrived.

    Iyengar makes a virtual heroine of Senator de Lima, by quoting her as saying: “We’re on a slippery slope toward tyranny.” And then he brands as a smear campaign President Duterte’s expose of de Lima’s links to the illegal drugs trade and her sexcapades.

    An LP-funded campaign

    There is talk in the grapevine of an orchestrated campaign, being led by former Aquino Budget Secretary Butch Abad and funded by the Liberal Party, to discredit President Duterte and his drug war in the international media and the international community. It will include demonstrations in front of our embassies and consulates abroad.

    Some suspect that the campaign will use again the high-powered US public relations firms that made Aquino look good in spite of his incompetence and blunders. Their task this time will be to demonize Duterte and make foreign investors lose confidence in the country.

    It’s a script that worked before in the fight to bring down Ferdinand Marcos. Rodrigo Duterte will be a different adversary.



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    1. After all is said and done, drugs and corruption are serious problems of any nation and just like the dog’s fleas, it slowly weakens the moral fiber its people and the political will of its officials. What better way to solve them than to meet them head-on. Only one with strong leadership and the vision of what is rightfully to be done can do that.

    2. I think LP is past the planning stage of using a foreign PR firm to discredit Duterte, I believe they are already using one (or maybe more).

    3. jose b. taganahan on

      The Time report is real and the narration of facts are both real and disturbing

    4. Konrad Sandrock on

      While I agree that the reporting by journalists that parachute into the Philippines because they have been ordered to produce headline grabbing stuff or simply because of the “breaking story” is often sloppy, Mr. Rishi Iyengar does actually exist. Put “Rishi Iyengar” into Google and you get
      a) a connection to TIME and
      b) http://www.rishiiyengar.com/.
      c) And from LinkedIN: “Rishi Iyengar Reporter-Writer at Time Magazine India Newspapers Current Reporter-Writer at Time Magazine, Co-Founder and Staff Writer at The 545
      Past Editorial Intern (Opinion) at Newsday Media Group, Reporter and Videographer at NY City Lens, Student at Columbia University Graduate…Education Columbia University – Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University in the City of New York, Fergusson College and
      d) https://www.facebook.com/rishi.iyengar

      He reports out of Hong Kong and I think he is a freelance hack.

    5. Dear Mr. Makabenta:

      Why bother to check whether or not the author is real? Or for that matter that the report appeared at Time, if at all? The alleged article is by itself a secondary source, at best an imagination of a scenario. Nobody understands the deeper cultural setting for instance of the war on drugs except us Filipinos. So we should only listen to ourselves and not to non-Filipinos!

    6. The author suggests, through innuendo, that the article is not an authentic “Time” story. If he had checked the Time magazine web site, he would have found the story posted there. What is significant, also, is that the eyes of the world are now turned on the Philippines…to very critical reviews of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ among other things. Make no mistake, the President’s crudeness, obscenities, mysogyny and womanizing are not winning him many admirers outside the Philippines.

    7. You drew a blank on his name? Here is what I found in a nanosecond:
      Rishi Iyengar

      Reporter-Writer at Time Magazine

      Pune, Maharashtra, India


      Time Magazine,
      The 545

      Newsday Media Group,
      NY City Lens,
      Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

      Columbia University – Graduate School of Journalism


      Time Magazine

      August 2014 – Present (2 years 1 month)

      Co-Founder and Staff Writer

      The 545

      February 2014 – Present (2 years 7 months)

      A single-subject news platform covering the 2014 Indian national elections.


    8. a breath of fresh air…please make sure that U.S., Japan, and European media get this…they..we…all need to know…social media, ie Facebook is blasting us with all sorts of misinformation

    9. The western critics of President Duterte should make a thorough research as to why drugs are spreading in the Philippines. Find out who is the real drug lord responsible for this operation. As per Pres. Duterte the real big drug lord is outside the Philippines and it is China. If you dig deeper in history, you will find that China had a bad experienced with illegal drugs. See the article on Opium War of the 19th century wherein foreign traders (British) were responsible in illegally exporting opium from India to China causing massive addiction to the Chinese citizenry. China tried to stop the entry of the opium but British military power were much more superior hence, China was defeated and Britain was given HongKong and other privileges in China.

      Now the question is – could what happened to China in the 19th century, happen to the Philippines?

    10. driggs matabaran on

      Drug lords and their protectors – politicians, generals, judges and other interest groups – making money out of the drugs sold to hapless buyers-users wanted the Philippines to be another Mexico or Columbia. Considering the current realities on drugs menace in this country after the intensive effort of the Duterte administration that exposed it, we are so close of becoming a narco-state where government leaders, military, police, prosecutors, investigators and judges are subservient to the interests of drug lords. National and local politicians in the past just do lip service in addressing the problems of drugs, some even helped the illegal drugs industry to flourish in our respective communities resulting to more crimes and death of innocent victims. Every thinking citizen desiring to live in a safe and peaceful neighborhood should support the effort of the President and his officials. They may commit lapses in pursuing this goal. What is important is the sincere and decisive effort of this government to put an end the drug problem in this country…

    11. Thanks for bringing it up. I also read it in one of local newspaper. And so, please Mr. Makabenta, media people and or entities have a lot to things to do to help out this “war on drugs”. Another concern, why is it almost in a daily basis every newspaper, TV news, radios–all their talking is this “war on drugs” and the associated killings that are taken place, without mentioning any positive side of it. Why are there no “documentary” shown about this illegal activities in PHL is going and its proliferation, where in fact CI tv station already shown all over Asia and the whole world (where international TV CI programming been shown) have at least 30 minutes airing, even interviewing people (operatives, NBI, PDEA) and apprehension are being shown. Your right with your question, (being an ordinary reader) me too has the same. I know drug syndicates have money and the clout all over the different sectors of Phil. way of life. This is real war and at times it is worst than terrorism.

    12. The author suggests, through innuendo, that the article is not an authentic “Time” story. If he had checked the Time magazine web site, he would have found the story posted there. What is significant, also, is that the eyes of the world are now turned on the Philippines…to very critical reviews of President Duterte’s ‘war on drugs,’ among other things. Make no mistake, the President’s crudeness, obscenities, mysogyny and womanizing are not winning him many admirers outside the Philippines.

      • with all due respect, mr. purdue, the 16 million filipinos who voted duterte to become president didn’t vote him so he can get admirers outside of our country. we voted him to right the wrongs the past administrations has done, more specifically, the noynoy aquino administration.

        our president maybe uncouth. he may not be “presidentiable” in the eyes of the elite nor is he as eloquent as some may want our president to be. but those are not important to us. what’s important to us, mr. purdue, is that he is doing best to win this country back from obscurity, from the cudgels of the oligarchy and from the slavery of the drug lords.

      • Your reply just sums up everything what we ordinary Filipinos feel what we are up against: A lala land -residng/yellow/oligarch/perhaps druglord funded mouthpiece like you.

      • What is significant is that the president has the backing of his citizens, the military and the congress.He may not be winning the war on traditional media but he’s winning the war on social media and the media of the masses, i.e., the tabloids.

      • Online. The point of the author is tha there is a proliferation of online frauds. Check out with the actual physical paper bought in a famous counter of magazines. The author is weary of online scams.

      • well, prez duterte is not a real fan to any outsider. they can say whatever they want but it doesn’t matter to him, anyway. he is more focus on what he feels is right given the present situation in this country. long before he was elected prez he already told everyone his plans. he now walks the talk. he is what he is. the same guy that submit himself to the people, and the people chose him…if the world is now focusing on ph, which i surely doubt, i would assume that this world has been sleeping too much. it appears that it does not know what is going on on this planet long before prez digong even considered himself a viable candidate for ph presidency. do i have to enumerate them one by one? come on!

        kudos to the author!

      • You can say that again! We the Filipinos all over the world bears the brunt of the crudeness and foulmouthed President and the 16 million keyboard warriors who spout the same crudeness as Pres. Duterte.

        I wish that President Duterte can just do his job without any drama.

      • And make no mistake Mr. Purdue that 16.6 M Filipinos voted him into office because of the promise of change and a government of transparency, integrity and honesty – which characteristics brutally eluded us in the six years of the previous administration. As a nation we have our own failures and misgivings and idiosyncracies – but not the will to lose hope and courage. Our president is crude, obscene, mysogynistic, a womanizer – does he, as our nation’s leader, have a monopoly of these? How many heads of states have fallen from grace because of crimes while in office? How many heads of state involved themselves in illicit sexual affairs while at the same time managing to maintain a clean image? Accusers, look at your backyard. Ad what do you say of merciless rub-outs of actors in the illegal but supremely profitable illicit drug trade happening in other countries e.g. Mexico

    13. Foreign media will take anyones side which will sell in public, meaning that there are media which prints report or news articles that they know what people with somewhat obscure liberal point-of-view would want to hear, these are the kind of people who needs to hear their own thought from another source, the ones that are likely to spread their brand of egotistical lies.

      Take for one moment how a self-professed assassin would tell her story (of course she will receive remuneration for her effort to speak in front of media), to reveal publicly that she was commissioned by the ‘police’ to rub out criminals (identified) on the street, but is now seeking protection due to fear of threat on her life not because of fear from legitimate police officers, but by the very individual or individuals who paid for her services. The news correspondent took the word ‘police’ and twisted it around to mean or to have a blanket coverage as in exagerating the crime as done by the whole Philippine police force. Meanwhile, leaving aside the fact that it is widely known by Filipinos that in previous administrations, there exist rogue members of the police force who are members of crime syndicate and added to this are public officials who are protectors of drug syndicate.

      Now, just because Duterte had been vocal from the start about eradicating drugs in our society, a promise which is a linch-pin during his campaign, which most Filipinos agree on when they voted for him, does not mean he is to be faulted for the death of these criminals. Rather to examine the whole issue on war against drugs which had meted death of these individuals, is to see where it is coming from, these death in all probability could be the handywork of none other those rogue police and public official who would not want to be identified for fear of being incarcerated.

      End of the day readers should be able to screen out nuances being spread about by some ‘media’ who would publish articles which only provide readers what they usually want to hear, just because it serves their purpose.

    14. Jhonny Agustin on

      “The way I see it there are 2 groups that are seemingly working independently of each other (but who knows in our criminal state?) :

      a.) the crime syndicates that have symbiotic relationships amongst each other.

      b.) the political opposition with civic sectors in its pockets operating here and overseas, to bring down Du30.

      The sooner for them the better. They won’t let him finish his term. They tell the gullible that he is a mass murderer, not the drug syndicates. They say anarchy is setting in on their say-so. They’re branding him as the berdugo responsible for extra-judicial killings without any empirical evidence.

      They want him to fail in his anti-crime and corruption campaigns to make things right and restore law and order for the people long deprived of fairness and peace.

      They will succeed if we dont confront them and push them out of the way. They are the problem we need to solve permanently.” Rafael Alunan III

      This comment from FB account of former DILG Secretary Alunan justify the ongoing realization of “an orchestrated campaign” to put down President Rodrigo Deterte.

    15. Cynicbuthopeful on

      Apo Marcos, Erap and Dutere are obviously not saints, nor they ever claimed to be one. They have their glaring character flaws like all the Presidents this country ever had. These three though have one thing in common – they defied and rattled the status quo.

      I for one believe Leni was “made to win” precisely because the economic elite of this country and their foreign partners are not comfortable with Duterte whose foreign policy – to my untrained mind – is anchored on what is good for the majority of the people and not what favor “the masters.”

      The mindset of the people behind in booting out Marcos and Erap, now on overdrive to do the same with Duterte reminds me of that 1970s science fiction movie – Logan’s Run. The rest of us can and must stay outside of their gilded and domed-existence (ala’ Glorietta?), to labor for the crumbles they are willing to toss our way.

    16. Leodegardo Pruna on

      What else can we do with the minority who have only themselves to satisfy. We do understand what they feel but we all had to go through the good and bad times in different degrees. P-Noy and his LPs, HYATT 10, and KKKs should stop the noise because during their times they failed to do what they were supposed to do but satisfy themselves. Ms. Loida Nicolas who seems to pour a lot of her energy in steering the minority group should reexamine her position. She is just being used by people without knowing it. God bless the Philippines.

    17. I have already read an article written by this author in a leading Manila news outlet and I find his narrative discussion of his topic a very responsible and highly respectable analysis of the burning issues of the day and his flawless argument to reinforce a credible truth is excellent. We need more of his kind to honestly supply our readers with unsullied perception of what is truly happening on the ground and not just like some of those bogus writers who prostituted their writing profession with some hidden agenda as they were part of a covert plan to destabilize the administration of our beloved President Digong whose only obsession is to leave a legacy of good and clean government after his 6-year term expires. Not like the past administration of BS Aquino where he promised to resolve the deadly Maguindanao massacre during his term but he ended his term accomplishing nothing but a nation in disarray with problem on illegal drugs shooting “off the roofs.”