Duterte boasts he did it: But Palace tries to hide the truth
WHEN THE government controls the narrative, and spins the interpretation of what officials are saying, the media as watchdog must report the truth. The latest on the closure of the giant media network ABS-CBN involves the clumsy effort to sanitize the president’s speech, causing more damage because the media was ready to tell all.
On July 13, President Rodrigo Duterte, speaking to military troops in Jolo,Sulu, said, “without declaring martial law, I dismantled the oligarchy that controls the economy of the Filipino people” as he, yet again, attacked ABS-CBN and implied that he had a hand in the successful closure of the network.
This happened four days after the House Committee on Legislative Franchise decided not to further discuss ABS-CBN’s application for the renewal of its franchise, effectively killing the bill without its even being presented to other members of Congress. Twelve hearings discussed charges that had been listed by representatives. The network presented evidence to defend itself against accusations of, among others, failure to pay taxes and bias against public officials in presenting the news.
Duterte’s anger at the network was first expressed in 2017 and he was last heard saying that ABS-CBN would lose its franchise in December 2019. Duterte was relatively quiet as the deadline for renewal approached and little was heard from the Palace after the hearings began. On July 10, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque declared that Duterte had nothing to do with the franchise denial and that the president was neutral on the issue.
The video of Duterte’s speech in Jolo was posted across all platforms of the Philippine Communications Operations Office’s (PCOO) including PTV-4, government’s TV channel, on the same day. But this version, including the official transcript made available on the PCOO website, did not include Duterte’s remarks about ABS-CBN.
Based on this version, most of the media quoted Duterte’s claim on demolishing the oligarchy. Journalists sought clarification on whether the president was referring to ABS-CBN’s closure. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque was quick to deny this, saying the president was referring to other corporations owned by the Tans, the Pangilinans and the Ayalas.
On July 15, journalists discovered that PCOO’s published video and transcript did not include certain parts of the address. Several media organizations obtained an audio recording of the complete Duterte speech. In the audio file, the president fully expressed his hostility against ABS-CBN, saying, “’Yun namang ABS-CBN, binaboy ako. Pero sinabi ko kapag ako nanalo, bubuwagin ko ang oligarchy ng Pilipinas. Ginawa ko.”
The spokesperson was exposed in not knowing what the president said. He was also uninformed about the complete audio file, the edited official transcript and the spliced video recording of the same presidential speech when Duterte clearly owned the deed of closing down ABS-CBN. Media picked up on the two stories: first, that Duterte directed the closure; and second, the Palace did not want the public to know that he admitted this himself.
Rappler was among the first to publish the entire transcript as well as the complete audio recording. The news website also called attention to other parts not included in the official transcript: his hostile outbursts against the usual targets of his anger in the media community, the business community, and the Left.
24 Oras’ report featured an interview clip of Roque who said he was not in Jolo, so he was not involved in the release of the video.
Joseph Morong asked Roque if he saw anything wrong with posting an edited speech in the PCOO website and the government’s broadcast platform. The spokesperson said he did not. Morong followed up by asking Roque if he still stood by his claim that Duterte was not referring to ABS-CBN in his speech. Not directly answering the question, the latter backpedaled to the president’s previous speeches in which he ranted about the Ayalas and Pangilinan.
The Philippine Star posted on Facebook, “‘Editing out’ [portions of ] President Duterte’s speech apparently gives Malacanang control over the messages it wants to convey to the public, but not when audio recording is released by media sources.” The post included a link to a comprehensive OneNews.ph report questioning the President’s supposedly neutral stance on the ABS-CBN issue.
All this has to do with government’s credibility. In the past, Palace officials would dismiss questions or complaints about Duterte’s outrageous remarks, saying they were just jokes not to be taken seriously.
If there were no complete audio clips available to the media, the public would not have heard the president owning his role in the closure of ABS-CBN. And what he said, which his communications people seemed very uncomfortable about, was his admission that he was responsible for the action which curtails media freedom and people’s access to free TV and its programs, not to speak of 11,000 people displaced and disrupted lives.
Media did well to expose this desperate effort to control the damage of the president’s boast about what he was able to do. Enough said. Enough heard.
Media should always be as keen to connect the dots when the president resorts to rambling stream of consciousness in his speeches,because this may reveal what is actually happening that government wants to hide. Journalists should expose the gaps when the Palace or any government agency claims it has achieved something. Media should always come to the game ready to smash false narratives that the government has had so much practice in doing since Duterte rose to power.
And now, it is out in the open. Can you believe anything that comes out of the PCOO?