Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar on Saturday scored Rappler executive Maria Ressa’s opinion column in the Los Angeles Times as “baseless”, saying she is “out of touch with the political realities on the ground”.
“It is tragic that Ms. Ressa remains out of touch with the political realities on the ground as she continues to insinuate that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte won through lies and fake propaganda,” Andanar said in a statement.
In her September 25 column entitled “Opinion: Americans, look to the Philippines to see a dystopian future created by social media,” Ressa claimed that “lies laced with anger and hate began to systematically tear our democracy apart in the Philippines,” and that “Like a virus, this disease spread fast. With the help of social media, President Rodrigo Duterte was elected in May 2016.”
Andanar said the President won the 2016 election “fair and square” and was even able to defeat his nearest political rival with the largest electoral margin in Philippine history.
“Simply put, the CEO of Rappler refuses to accept that the President is what the people truly wanted and needed. The people hoped for an action man who can bring positive change to their lives and the Filipino people got what they wanted and truly wanted,” he said.
“His style of governance, albeit unorthodox, resonates with the people. This is not democracy being torn apart but rather democracy naturally playing out,” Andanar added.
The official also noted that Filipinos remain satisfied with the performance of its current chief executive as shown in several surveys.
“Three years into President Duterte’s term, he maintained a high satisfaction rating where 80 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with his performance, and 85 percent approve of and trust the President according to two independent pollsters, notwithstanding all the black propaganda and loud political noise waged against the President and his Administration,” he pointed out.
“To debunk the ‘destruction of democracy’ (in the words of Ms. Ressa), a non-commissioned survey conducted in the third quarter of 2018, disclosed that 84 percent of Filipinos are satisfied with the way democracy works in the country. Ironically, the latter was even reported by Ms. Ressa’s own news website,” he noted.
Andanar also drew attention to a portion of Ressa’s piece which cited the homicide cases under investigation in the country.
“Again, Ms. Ressa continues to cite the baseless number of ‘27,000’ drug addicts that were allegedly killed, which is actually the total homicide cases including cases not related to the drug war. Sticking to the hard facts that came from our law enforcement agencies, the number of unfortunate deaths from legitimate police operations are only 5,526,” he said.
He reiterated that the anti-illegal drug campaign is backed by the public.
“In the second quarter, 82 percent of adult Filipinos are satisfied with this campaign according to another Social Weather Stations survey,” he said.
He assured the public that the government does not employ disinformation tactics.
“This is not the policy and the practice of the Duterte administration. Our office at the Presidential Communications Operations Office is at the forefront to combat disinformation not only to clear out matters that concern the government but also to empower individuals to be responsible and vigilant consumers of media, especially in the digital space, through our ‘Dismiss Disinformation’ campaign and other of our many programs,” he said.
Andanar also lambasted as “baseless and absurd” Ressa’s allegations that activists and news organization face “top-down persecution by the government”.
“In fact, despite hurling criticisms against news organizations that carry fake news about his administration, the Chief Executive still signed his very first administrative order as Chief Executive creating an inter-agency body tasked to protect members of the press,” he said.
“The President also recently signed Republic Act 11458, which expands the coverage of exemptions from revealing the source of published news or information obtained in confidence,” he added.
Andanar said the current administration will make sure that justice is served, regardless of any political leaning.
“It is not the policy and practice of the current government to ‘harass’ dissenters, as we only present our side of the story,” he said.
“The national government will keep on telling the truth, and we remain confident the people themselves will tell President Duterte’s true legacy,” he said. (PNA)