Media’s word choice and the government’s war on drugs


Before government communicators lay the blame again on the media, foreign or local, it should be clearly understood and remembered by all that it was not the media that triggered all the talk about killings in President Duterte’s war on drugs.

We find it important to say this in view of the Malacanang uproar over the front- page banner story of the Paris daily, Liberation, in its October 7th issue, which depicted and labeled President Rodrigo Duterte as a “serial killer president” in light of his drug war.

This is France‘s first real notice of the Duterte presidency. Liberation is a major French newspaper; it was founded by no less than the celebrated philosopher and writer, Jean Paul-Sartre.

The newspaper took note that the Duterte anti-drug campaign has left more than 3,000 people dead. Written by Arnaud Vaulerin, the four-page article also touched on Duterte’s expletive-laced tirades against US President Barack Obama and Pope Francis, and his comments referencing the mass murder of Jews under Adolf Hitler’s command and his alleged ties to a hit squad in Davao City.

The object of Malacanang’s protest is, of course, the jolting “serial killer” charge.

If the government and Palace communications now have their hands full grappling with this challenge, they should honestly acknowledge that it is the result of President Duterte’s oft-repeated vow to kill drug suspects (drug lords, users and pushers) to the last man and woman. Without the 3,000 body count and the ever-increasing casualties daily, Liberation‘s blast would not hold any water.

The question that must really be faced by the government is why it is increasingly confronted by quandaries like this.

If you say something a hundred times or more, you shouldn‘t blame people or the media, foreign or local, for taking you at your word.

That’s how public communications is supposed to work.

That’s also how the boy who cried “wolf” was upended when the beast suddenly turned up.

The fable from Aesop’s treasury tells the story of a shepherd boy, who watched a flock of sheep near a village, and who brought out the villagers three or four times by crying out, “Wolf! Wolf!” When his neighbors came to help him, he laughed at them for their pains.

The time came when the wolf did turn up. When the shepherd boy shouted for help, nobody came or paid any heed to his cries. The wolf at his leisure destroyed the whole flock.

The moral lesson is: there is no believing a liar, even when he speaks the truth.

The government’s “serial killer” problem appears to be the reverse of the fable.

President Duterte from the beginning of his presidency told the truth that he would conduct a bloody war against drugs. Now that the deed is coming to pass, the world and the media are aghast to find our President “bloodthirsty.”

The government’s defense against this, as exemplified by presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, is to claim that the drug killings have been made necessary by the serious drug menace. The killings are being done legally and with regularity and with full public approval.

The only problem with that is, you are not going to win an argument with the French (they who originated “liberte, equalite, fraternite”) with this kind of specious argumentation.

Flora Lewis, in her book, Europe, says, France is a country where “the intellectuals reign.”


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  1. Koko Celebredo on

    Haha nice article for the French. Well you are probably right about the French being intellectuals but that does not mean it is right.

    You yourself points your finger to the President that it is his fault. But before its his fault, it is the fault of the media of not spilling the news of killings in the past administration due to drugs.

    You have not done your job to help your people. Now the president does the dirty work because of your incompetence, then as guilty as you are ~ started pointing fingers.

  2. Yonkers, New York
    11 October 2016

    History is full of instances where malignant despots or dictators routinely attack the Free Press for reporting clearly and truthfully what they do which are wrong, corrupt, tyrannical or inimical to the interests of the people they are supposed to govern.

    That is true now of Little Tyrant Rodrigo Duterte’s animus toward the country’s FREE and COURAGEOUS PRESS. And that is true likewise of his avuncular attitude toward any criticism levelled at him by the world’s Free Press, such as the French newspaper “LIBERATION” which, recently characterizes Duterte as a “SERIAL KILLER.” Time magazine recently put him on its cover and called him “The Punisher.”

    That characterization, in fact, is an euphemism because the truth is that Duterte is not only a “serial killer,” he qualifies as a MASS MURDERER, having murdered over-3,000 of his own people as of now. He vows that his goal is to murder 3 million of them, in the process comparing himself to Adolf Hitler who murdered 6 million Jews.

    He can go ahead and do his best to achieve that ghastly goal. But there is no way he can muzzle the Philippines FREE AND COURAGEOUS PRESS, except possibly if he murders all of its reporters, columnists and publishers. That a vicious and psychotic Little Tyrant can try to do.


  3. that is why terrorist on their soil have bloody unleashed their fury of impunity … that is the essence of their so called democracy …. everybody has the right to kill in their society … their MORAL message is let them kill and kill and be killed…. they were killed in the name of God due to Blasphemy… here in the Philippines they are killed in the name of DRUGS …. serial killer of Drug Addicts and Drug Pushers as they say …. it is more important for them to protect Criminals than innocent civilians … they will not acknowledge this but their actions speaks louder than written or spoken words …

  4. It is the nature of Duterte to scare all of us. Nobody can stop .this guy. He likes to see and hear his voice in TV. unless somebody stops him, we will be listening his voice full of anger and emotion for the next 6 years barring the strength of our economy. Once a typhoon hit our country which is 100 per cent will happen, no nation will help our countrymen in their time of need. It is like the shepherd boy and the wolf.