Media News Analysis

Editorial, not above board

The Washington Post Editorial Board – a factory for US Democratic Party thought and propaganda – yesterday took another swipe at Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte whom it says is “driving this democracy into the dark corners of authoritarianism”. They accused him of “claiming a higher calling for trampling democracy”.

But the giveaway of what this tirade was really about was this line – that Duterte is “driving an important US ally into the waiting arms of China and Russia”. Read that again. For the Post and the liberal establishment it represents in Washington, the Philippine president’s realignment of his country’s foreign policy from West to East looking, is nothing short of political sacrilege. On this side of the Pacific it looks different: for many what he’s actually done is to free a vassal state from the manacles of its long-time master. And from Davao to Manila the vast majority of the population are glad to see the back of a shambolic American-Philippine ‘arrangement’ which has had little benefit for Mr and Mrs Santos and Mr and Mrs Cruz.

The Post Editorial Board was using Duterte’s comments about martial law as the hook on which to hang its political message. It told the world that Duterte had threatened to impose martial law, when in fact what he actually said was this: “If I have to declare martial law, I will declare it … I will declare martial law to preserve my nation, period” – a quote glaringly absent from the Post’s piece of yellow scribble. And, of course, the Board drew parallels between Duterte and former president, Ferdinand Marcos – one of the Liberals’ pet whipping boys – who imposed martial law on the Philippines from 1972-81.

OK, time to change the dynamic. How would the Post Editorial Board feel if Duterte asked US President Donald Trump or his military chiefs to send a couple of F-16 Fighting Falcons or F-14 Tomcats to deal with rebellious elements around Manila and Cebu? They could circle in Philippine airspace and take out targets above the busy city streets. As a proposition, would the Post Board members approve, or would they rush for their pencils as they do every time Duterte opens his mouth? And if there was a potential for innocent Filipino citizens to get caught up in that – killed on the pavements and in the shops – would that concern them?

We know it would – it’d go apoplectic. But it shouldn’t. At least it didn’t in 1989 when then-president Corazon Aquino called in US air support to knock out members of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement who were in the process of staging a coup. And under Operation Classic Resolve, the American’s were in like Flynn. F-4 Phantom II jet fighters were dispatched from Clark Air Base in Pampanga with more airpower launched from aircraft carriers, USS Midway and USS Enterprise to shoot down rebel planes. And all at Aquino’s request – though, as usual, there’s some dispute over who invited who to the party (see press clipping above).

Along with the Los Angeles Times, a fellow anti-Duterte rag, The Washington Post reported the event; but there was no shock-horror self-righteous indignation from their editorial boards. Aquino wasn’t painted like some latter-day Countess Báthory; after all, she was the “People’s President” and was of the same Liberal stripe of a media that chose to look the other way. And there wasn’t that much fuss two years earlier when on 22January 1987, 13 unarmed farmers were gunned down on Mendiola Bridge as they walked to Malacañang Palace to deliver their grievances over long-delayed land reforms. Her seal was on that as well.

A few days ago, details of Operation Classic Resolve came into the public domain. They were among some 13 million pages – 800,000 files – of declassified US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents that were released online. What precipitated that was a freedom-of-information lawsuit against the CIA.

However, for the purposes of the mainstream media, they needn’t have been released at all. At least certainly not the file on Aquino’s invitation to a foreign power to take over the Philippine skies and kill at will on her behalf – a request which 12 easily overridden opposition lawmakers, members of the Philippine House of Representatives, described at the time as “a shameless act of surrender of sovereignty to a foreign power”. But let’s be fair to The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, the Philippines – in all but name until Duterte decided otherwise – was more or less part of America.

The fact is, none of the mainstream media have touched this story; and the reason for that is obvious. It doesn’t fit with the anti-Duterte narrative. As far as that’s concerned Corazon Aquino is at the extreme other end of the colour spectrum to him – her image is bathed in white light; his is where the light is at its blackest. Despite obvious evidence to the contrary, she’s depicted in that narrative as a woman of her people while Duterte is cast as a trampler of them. Forget the multitudes that flock to his every event; forget his approval rating, currently hovering around 85%.

Corruption during the term of Corazon Aquino went from the Palace right through every strata of society to the inner city barangay – and much of today’s social problems stem from that era. That it seems has never been of consequence to the media – domestic or foreign. We’re not even sure that the foreign media understand that time in Philippine history any more than they understand the present. But they don’t need to. When it comes to writing about Duterte, normal newspaper practice is turned upside down. They start with the headline they want and then write the story to fit it.

Liberal Party politician, Franklin Drilon, president pro-tempore of the Philippine Senate was quoted in the New York Times recently as saying: “The truth is, mere talk of martial law is enough to send chills to the spine of any Filipino”. And he’s right. But what’s worse is to twist the meaning of what Duterte said in order to advance a political agenda that seeks to exploit those fears for its own ends. That’s what the Post Editorial Board did and what its unholy brethren in the mass media do at every opportunity where Duterte is concerned. And for the record, The VolatilianTM is not anti-Liberal Party per se; it’s anti journalistic deceit.

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