MADRID, SPAIN: Our editorial department forwarded to me a few days ago an email from a reader who introduced himself as an American journalist based in Washington DC. The sender asked me to put my document on the alleged Goldberg “blueprint” online, “which would help outside observers (meaning him) to examine it.”
This journalist was referring to my story, “US ex-envoy plotting Duterte fall – source,” published on the front page of The Manila Times on December 27, 2016.
The story was based on my interview with a highly placed source who alleged that former United States Ambassador Philip Goldberg left behind not just a legacy of fractured relations between the two countries but a “blueprint to undermine Duterte,” a strategic recommendation ostensibly to the State Department for the ultimate removal of President Rodrigo Duterte from office. The Manila Times received a copy of the document from the source. It gave a timetable of one-and-a-half years.
Sought for confirmation, the US State Department, through Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, denied that Goldberg had written a blueprint to oust Duterte, noting that aid programs and defense cooperation between Manila and Washington were proof of American commitment to build Philippine institutions.
The American journalist went on to say that it was his “understanding that the document came from Ambassador Zhao at the Chinese embassy in Manila, so naturally questions arise about it’s (sic) origin and authenticity.” He accused The Manila Times of favoring the Chinese on the issue of the West Philippine Sea, and this writer as being politically biased in favor of the Chinese.
He closed by saying that he wanted to portray me accurately and, hence, his question whether or not my doctorate was earned.
His email deserves a response.
On the last matter: Yes, my doctorate was earned from the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). I took its equivalency program for my DBA. I wrote a thesis entitled “Can The Manila Times be restored to its former glory?” and successfully defended it.
Before my DBA, I spent some two years of college in Letran; dropped out and enrolled in De La Salle University for my BSBA; dropped again after just a trimester and after an extended hiatus, finally finished my BS in Journalism at the Lyceum of the Philippines. I then took up my MBA in Letran College and graduated top of the class (benemeritus or magna cum laude) with a weighted average of 96.4 percent.
Enough of my bonafides. Now, to the issue at hand.
I have no beef against the Americans. Fact is, I owe the US government a lot. During the heady days of the EDSA revolution, the US Embassy in Manila offered to send my children to the United States so that “I could move more freely,” to quote the head of the Non-immigrant Visa Branch of the embassy who met with me at the Café Ilang-Ilang of the Manila Hotel.
And that’s how my children – Dante Francis (Klink), Anna Marie and Michael Alexander – came to study in the United States. Klink and Michael returned to the Philippines after spending many years in the US. Anna Marie married an American and decided to permanently reside there.
My story published
For the record, I am uneasy at the manner this American journalist phrased his statements. First, he asked me to put online my document so that he could examine its authenticity. In the same breath, he said it is his “understanding” that the document came from Chinese Ambassador Zhao and, therefore, its integrity was suspect.
It would seem he had already made up his mind as to the identity of my source even before he could talk to or hear from me. I have, therefore, decided not to dignify his request and his “understanding” of my source with neither a denial nor a confirmation. I will let him wallow in his own fantasy. More importantly, he should know that I couldn’t share my document online (meaning with him) so that its authenticity could be verified. I want to assure him that I would not have published my story based on it in the first place if I had not done my job of vetting the credibility of my source. Besides, he knows only too well that we, as journalists, are bound by the ethics of journalism: protect the identity of our source though the heavens may fall.
This American journalist also said he was fully aware of my “much publicized connection with pro-Chinese political figures in Manila like Lucio Tan and Michael (sic) and Gloria Arroyo, who originated the joint project with the Chinese on the South China Sea that President Duterte now wants back on track.”
I did not know until today that I had “close connections to the pro-Chinese political figures in the Philippines like Lucio Tan” and that it is highly publicized. For the record, I am not; never been. I know Dr. Tan personally and dealt with him in the past, and I have high respect for the man but I am not even sure if he would recognize me if he saw me again. As to the other pro-Chinese political figures this American was referring to, I could not even hazard a guess if I tried to identify them.
On my close ties with the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, well, that’s a given. Unless you were from Mars, you wouldn’t know that I was her publicist from 1993 until 2002 when I left Malacanang as P1-a-year Senior Presidential Consultant for Public Relations.
Later in December of 2005, I accepted her offer to head the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) as its chairman with Cabinet rank. As CFO chair, I led the successful lobby with the United States government to allow the conduct of the examination of the NCLEX (National Commission for the Licensure Examination) in the Philippines. NCLEX is a United States government’s must-pass requirement for foreign nurses who want to work in the US.
The sender also accused the “opinion pages” of The Manila Times as tilted in favor of the “Chinese position on the South China Sea,” and that he is inclined to portray my “political views in that context.”
I am half-Chinese. My mother was a Filipina who, too, had Chinese blood in her veins; she, being a descendant of Jose Tionquiao, the first mayor of the town of Las Pinas when it was gerrymandered from Paranaque. But that doesn’t mean that my political views were shaped by my blood or that of my forebears. I find this assessment of this American journalist condescending and insulting, which could only come from someone who still thinks that non-whites are inferior to the Americans. Just because I have Chinese blood in me doesn’t follow that I will toe the Chinese line on the West Philippine sea issue.
The opinion pages of The Manila Times do not favor the Chinese or the Americans or any country or race for that matter. We try to bring accuracy, balance and objectivity into our editorials. We may be wrong occasionally, but we try to make it up to our readers.
For whatever it is worth, The Manila Times is perhaps the only broadsheet that is truly independent. We are the only daily that does not have investors other than the Ang family, my family. We don’t have businessmen–big, medium or small–or even politicians behind us. We try to strive on our own. And we intend to keep it that way for as long as we could afford it for the sake of our editorial independence. And that’s the only way we could serve our readers faithfully. No spin; just the facts.
As to that American investigative journalist in Washington DC, I hope he would agree with me that a journalist worth his salt would avoid becoming the story himself. The story should be that which is written by the journalist and not about the journalist himself. Is he trying to pull the alleged Goldberg document issue away from the limelight by having me – who I am, my bonafides – as “the story” instead?
My unsolicited advice is for him to demonstrate a modicum of respect for his counterparts in this benighted, Third World country and not to treat other journalists like they were born yesterday. If he did that, he might yet surprise himself with the fact how extremely cooperative others would be.