How Rappler helped defeat Mar Roxas

By JoeAm

When you spend your whole life in one city, you live the values and speak the language of that city.

When you live in one culture for your whole life, you live the values and speak the language of that culture.

When you are a reporter in one culture all your life, you do what comes naturally.


I was busy extolling the virtues of Rappler the other day on twitter. I was taken aback by a response that was hostile to Rappler, blaming the news organization of bias against Mar Roxas. “Now they are whining about Duterte?” He had no sympathy at all for Rappler and their problems. I objected. He persisted. I said “I’ll look into it.”

I did recall that Roxas did not get much news coverage from any outlets for the early part of the campaign.

The culture

The dominant Filipino culture is morally bent and self-punishing to observers schooled in modern Western traditions. The foundation of ‘goodness’ is not Christian principles of compassion and good works but tribal qualities of loyalty and respect for power.

There are many exceptions, so don’t get angry just yet. Read on.

Two facets of the dominant Filipino culture are emotionalized reasoning rather than analytical reasoning, and admiration of the powerful rather than admiration of the decent. Indeed, decency is seen as weakness. That was basically President Aquino’s problem. He was and is a decent man operating in a culture that admires power.

And then we have the enduring popularity of President Duterte who brutalizes his own citizens.

My premise in this article is that the Philippines is poor because of its cultural rejection of analytical reasoning, decency, and good works. Emotionalism and power-mongering lead to bad thinking, corruption, and bad works.

My method

For the subject at hand, I searched Rappler for ‘Features on Mar Roxas’ and then I searched Rappler news about ‘Mar Roxas’. In both searches, I focused on the weeks just prior to the May 2016 election. I’ve listed a lot (not all) of the articles at the end of this post so you, too, can get a sense of them.

I will discuss a few of the articles later on in this write-up.

Reading the beast or feeding the beast?

Does journalism in the Philippines ‘read the beast’ of a self-damaging culture and report on it, or does it ‘feed the beast’ by being emotional and favoring power over decency in its reporting? I believe it does both.

Damaging articles that fed the beast

My initial reaction in looking over the lists of articles was that Rappler was just doing its job of reporting on election activities. There were articles that favored Roxas and a few that did not. But two articles did pop out as particularly damaging. They fed into the idea that Roxas, a man of decency and rich experience, was failing. He was making mistakes. He was a flawed person. Other articles repeated the themes of these two articles.

  • What’s not working for Mar Roxas? – Run on Feb 9, by Glenda M. Gloria. The article said “Roxas’ messaging has been erratic at best – or a failure at worst – in the last two decades.”, said Roxas got himself into controversies he should avoid, and suggested Daang Matuwid was risky and Roxas needed to own the mistakes of the Aquino Administration to make it work (which, of course, would not exactly be steering clear of controversies). The article closed by citing how LP members were “jumping ship” for other candidates. (Note, this is a very important point: the author criticizes Roxas for the fact LP people shifted allegiance; she does not criticize the people jumping ship or the culture that promotes it. She does not consider that local politics in a tribal arena is more dominant than national politics.)
  • Mar Roxas: His own enemy by Bea Cupin who followed the Roxas campaign for three months. The article originally ran Nov 11, 2011 and was updated on Feb 26, 2016, prior to the campaign period. The article characterized Roxas as being detail oriented and not presidential, said he connected off-camera but not on-camera, said Daang Matuwid was a trap and Roxas needed to be smart about it, and implied Roxas did not have the “courage” needed where courage was somehow related to being bombastic. (A few weeks later, Rappler editors judged that Roxas delivered the best closing remarks of all debate contestants. On camera.)

Then there was the patterned approach to news followed by all Philippine media, the “He said”, “She said”, point and counterpoint articles run separately rather than put together to create a story of removed and balanced journalistic perspective.

But the most telling set of articles attempted to describe in human terms the three major candidates. All three were authored by Patricia Evangelista and Nicole Curato:

Think of what words mean, just looking at the titles. We draw from Roxas that he is not his own man, that Grace Poe is extending a living legend, and Rodrigo Duterte is angelic or godly. What a difference had the Roxas title been “The Experience of Mar Roxas”. One word completely shaded the takeaway by millions who got no further than the headline.

The conclusions of the three articles completed the destruction job on Roxas. Here are the three endings to the articles, verbatim, with Poe and Duterte first, then Roxas:

Grace Poe

Those who choose Grace Poe have made that calculation. Her claim to authenticity may have already been diminished, but she remains a possible contender to the looming behemoth that is Rodrigo Duterte.

Here is the national sweetheart poised for the presidency. She is as pleasant as she is predictable, the tailored white dress for the big events, the buttoned white shirt and faded jeans for the sorties. Always the sleek ponytail, the ever-present pearls, the thin watch, the ready handshake, the welcoming smile. She is gracious with her time. She seeks advice from experts. She may occasionally walk out in a pique when questioned by reporters, but when the lights flash on, she will be ready.

In a field populated by political veterans, Grace Poe remains a hypothetical. This is how she will act if China invades. This is how she will respond to a massacre in Mindanao. This is how she promises to hold cabinet officials accountable. See her denounce corruption, promise education, offer irrigation, deny allegations, ask questions, demand answers, assume this, concede that. A vote for Grace Poe is an article of faith. By her saving, so too are we all saved.

Once upon a time, there was a foundling. Pure of heart, vast of purpose, wielding a sword once carried by a martyr-king. It is a story of epic proportions, but it is, in the end, only a story.

Rodrigo Duterte

Who is the man we are electing? Is it the leering misogynist, or the advocate for women? Is it the defender of the law or the gun-toting bully? Is it the man who will give voice to the south or exploit their vulnerability? Is his promise of ending crime and corruption and drugs in 3-6 months a legitimate plan, or will he pass it off as yet another joke when he fails to get it done?

This has been a story that has been told many times before. It begins with a suffering people, vulnerable to the rabble rouser standing on a soapbox. It comes with fear-mongering, with urgency, with slogans and promises. A line is drawn, us versus them. Cull all the critics, watch out for the outspoken, lynch the detractors – Dear Leader will save us, if only we let him. Some liberties can be given up, for the sake of order. The Nazis began with the burning of books – they ended with a holocaust that annihilated at least 15 million.

Thirty years ago, the Philippines put behind martial law, imposed by a man who turned into a dictator after his first taste of power. Today, Rodrigo Duterte is at the top of the polls. If he wins, his dictatorship will not be thrust upon us. It will be one we will have chosen for ourselves. Every progressive step society has made has been diminished by his presence. Duterte’s contempt for human rights, due process, and equal protection is legitimized by the applause at the end of every speech.

We write this as a warning. The streets will run red if Rodrigo Duterte keeps his promise. Take him at his word – and know you could be next.

We write this as a warning. We hope to be proven wrong.

Mar Roxas

In spite of this, Roxas remains what the Liberal Party touts “the only decent choice.” The choice is black and white. The binaries have been laid out: the decent versus the barbarians, the decent versus the immoral, the decent versus those who would push the country down to hell on a handcart. This is the dangerous territory of exclusionary elitism, of claiming moral high ground without actually listening to why voters have become so desperate to place their bets on other candidates.

And yet is a young teacher in the conflict zones of Lanao del Sur to be blamed for choosing the Mindanao-born Rodrigo Duterte? Can a taxi driver be called a barbarian for wanting a president who can put a stop to corrupt traffic cops? Is it not reasonable for a starving farmer to protest against the yellow army when the drought kills his bananas and the governor says he doesn’t deserve help?

In the last months of the campaign, the mayor of Davao has cast himself as the antithesis of everything Mar Roxas has become in the public imagination – bumbling and slow, charmless and dull, reduced to a whipping boy by the howling denizens of social media. Roxas is the man with the winding sentences and the semi-colons. Duterte is the gunslinging 70-year-old with 140-character smackdowns.

Roxas greets the veterans of Zamboanga siege a happy anniversary, and forgets the displaced victims who died in the heat of temporary shanties. He sees the dead farmers who marched for rice in Kidapawan, and asks who funded the protests.

“If we compare choosing a president to choosing who will drive our children every day,” Roxas asked, “whom will we choose? To whom will we trust the safety of our children?”

Here is a candidate so out of touch with his own constituency that he is unable to grasp that the majority of parents in the Philippines do not own cars, cannot afford private school buses, and consider themselves lucky when their children can go to school at all, even when they are forced to wade barefoot through rivers or risk getting run over by trucks thundering down the highways.

His name is Manuel Araneta Roxas II. Son of a senator, grandson to a president, anointed heir of two dynasties, and the last living hope of a dream that was born in the sugar plantations of Negros. He is the second choice, but we are told second is the best we deserve. Under his reign, the chandeliers will burn white in a city where the sky glows ultramarine

Light, airy and undefined for Grace Poe, powerful and foreboding for Rodrego Duterte, and a candidate “out of touch” in Mar Roxas. The Roxas dedication to civility (and democracy) was termed “exclusive elitism”.

Did the authors read the beast, or feed the beast?

Perhaps we need to reflect on what journalism “ought” to be doing.

What is journalism’s role as a “Fourth Estate”?

These days, Rappler and executive editor Maria Ressa are under considerable pressure from the Duterte Administration. Well, they’ve done some critical articles and the Administration is of the mindset that criticism of the President is unpatriotic. So Rappler’s reporter has been kicked out of the Palace, the SEC has filed what appear to be politically motivated cases against Rappler (‘foreign ownership’), and Maria Ressa defends Rappler with the argument that its purpose is to defend democracy, freedom of the press, and other virtues. That is what it has done in the past and would continue doing.

That’s admirable because that is what a Fourth Estate of journalism does. It is the unbiased intermediary between the people and the government, and vice versa. Journalism provides the objective reporting that makes democracy work.

In theory.

Missing the forest of democracy for the trees of circulation

Rappler emotionalizes the news in major way; it does not simply objectify the news. It is of the Philippine culture, deep and true. The on-line publication even runs a “mood meter” so readers can vent on each story. It’s news stories are often editorialized and set up to emotionalize issues (he said, she said). I once took them to task with a complaint for referring to President Aquino as “boneheaded” in a news report. And, of course, the examples I have given above are more personal and emotionally analytical than objective.

Rappler is not the only Philippine news outlet that does this. It is the culture, after all. And the publishers have to sell advertising. They appeal to what the public wants. The public wants sizzle, not steak, and personal controversy, not dry facts.

Nothing works better for Philippine media than a good man being deep fried.

The major media appear not to grasp the concept that democracy in the Philippines can thrive only if they are teachers of principle rather than parrots of popular ignorance and emotional immaturity.

The election of 2016 should have been simple. Two candidates, Binay and Duterte, were known to have bad character. One was corrupt, the other a murderer. The third, Poe, was a school teacher who headed a movie ratings board and was of questionable allegiance to the Philippines. The fourth was a man of impeccable character, rich experience, and generous patriotic service:

  • Elected to House at age 36.
    • Chosen as House Majority Leader.
  • Secretary of Trade and Industry under President Estrada
    • Chairman of the Information Technology and Electronic Commerce Council
  • Secretary of Trade and Industry under President Arroyo
    • Named “Father of the BPO industry”
  • Elected to the Senate in 2004
  • Secretary of Transportation and Communications under President Aquino
  • Secretary of Interior and Local Government under President Aquino

What Board of Directors or business executive hiring a top executive or an associate would require more than 15 minutes to make this selection? How did it come to be that the most critical evaluations of character and competence were set aside in favor of the trivialities of personality?

Well, it’s the culture. Gossip is profound news. Facts are irrelevant. Good is weak and bad is strong and ever will be until the politicians and the journalists develop a different set of standards for examining the qualifications of candidates. As long as journalism seeks to be emotionally resonant instead of rational, then the discussion will miss the mark entirely.


Rappler helped destroy Mar Roxas, without question. Good became bad, in their analysis. The bad became enchanting.

Rappler was not alone. This examination could be applied to any of the major dailies and television news programs. The journalists did not defend democracy. They were ‘all in’ to emotions, trivia, and sensationalism. They went for ratings. If there was a flaw in their eyes (“Mar Roxas obsessed over details”), they refused to see the STRENGTH of the eccentricity . . . because it was not how they would do it . . . they saw it as weakness.

They joined the club of people who demand that, unless the candidate is just like me . . . or more powerful and dynamic than me in some way . . . he is not qualified. In this need for microscopic perfection, they lost sight of the simplest measures of a candidate. Character and competence, where competence embraces knowledge, intelligence, experience, and ability.

They found the trees. They missed the forest.



Features Stories on Mar Roxas

Search of News on Mar Roxas

213 Responses to “How Rappler helped defeat Mar Roxas”
  1. arlene says:

    Would it be safe to say that news media favor negative news because they sell? Just my two cents. Good morning Joeam. Good morning everyone?

  2. I hope Ms Ressa, other Rappler staff, other journalists, find it in their heart to appreciate this incisive analysis and say mea culpa. And would it be hoping too much that they repair the damage done?

  3. roly eclevia says:

    I fully agree with this analysis. Philippine journalism, and that includes Rappler, is just the print extension of ABS-CBN and GMA7.

  4. It was strangely, maybe not so strangely painful reading this

  5. Andres 2018. says:

    Decent, one could not say that he is decent, or else he will be branded as a hypocrite. Roxas and his campaign team fell into this trap.

    Roxas portrait himself as living under the shadows of Aquino. No one likes a beta male. Roxas failed to shine on his own. His excellent resume did not help him at all.

    If Rappler painted Roxas as such, that was the perception of the authors, which is also the perception of the people in general. The perception was based on how Roxas and team portrait Roxas as a candidate. So thats it. If i were to look at it, the failure is on Roxas marketing, media simply echoes what they hear and see. Unless, its a paid media where one is expected to uplift a candidate’s status.

  6. thank you Joeam for this. i was always thinking if im only being biased about this topic coz i was a volunteer for the Roxas-Robredo campaign.

    missing the forest for the trees – ah, sounds like my friend’s letter to Maria Ressa back in 2013 (yes, yolanda days) – pointing to 2016 as the bigger picture. my friend wasn’t replied to. she never found out if Ms. Ressa was able to read the email.

    ive always thought too that it was coincidence that a lot of twitter people were for Poe and that twitter people always read Rappler. these people also blame Mar Roxas and every dilawan for our misfortune today.

  7. Rappler still remains the best “paper” the Philippines has. Interestingly, Maria Ressa is just like the now very high-profile opposition organizer Jozy Acosta-Nisperos someone who decided to return to the Philippines from the United States. Her staff is a new generation, young and bold.

    They did commit a scoping error (c) Edgar Lores in evaluating the personality points too highly. These emotional aspects are indeed important, but the candidate evaluations should also have mentioned competence, experience and programs. Mar Roxas won hands down in those areas, Grace Poe was second with some good ideas, Duterte I evaluated in my blog as having very strange and incoherent ideas. We have to credit Rappler also though for it’s clear warning:

    “We write this as a warning. The streets will run red if Rodrigo Duterte keeps his promise. Take him at his word – and know you could be next. We write this as a warning. We hope to be proven wrong.” Pat Evangelista who wrote this article covered EJKs like no other reporter did, respect.

    • But there is also nothing wrong in “The binaries have been laid out: the decent versus the barbarians, the decent versus the immoral, the decent versus those who would push the country down to hell on a handcart. This is the dangerous territory of exclusionary elitism, of claiming moral high ground without actually listening to why voters have become so desperate to place their bets on other candidates.” Bertolt Brecht said (via McHeath) in the Threepenny Opera that food comes before morals. The messaging clearly failed there.

      They didn’t spare Poe either: “Once upon a time, there was a foundling. Pure of heart, vast of purpose, wielding a sword once carried by a martyr-king. It is a story of epic proportions, but it is, in the end, only a story.” Maybe too critical of all, for fear of being called lapdogs.

      Because that is what you usually get called in the Philippines if you praise someone “too much” – a lapdog, possibly out for one’s own advantage as everybody is. And independent of all groups, I dislike the “he said she said” headlines without context in Philippine news. That of course is the culture of tsismis, of village gossip. The bayan (nation) still acts like the bayan (village). From live-broadcast Senate hearings to papers up to social media. Enjoying the scandals, even the scandal (porn) fake videos, while forgetting the WORK.

    • Yes, you are right on point. How in the world can competence, experience, and programs be set aside in favor of one’s own personality likes? Gross cultural tendency, I fear.

  8. Jonas emir says:

    Always a good read sir
    But how could you change a culture?
    How could you a bad perception?
    Are we filipinos a lost race?

    • Tough questions, Jonas. It will take the right person at the right time in the right circumstance. That person will have to figure out how to tap the broad sense of being left behind that is felt by most Filipinos and convert it to personal pride in what government is accomplishing.

      • Tweeto Wakatono says:

        Mainit pa, nakakapaso, and this is not fake news.

        When the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines CANNOT get justice from her own Supreme Court this is likely to happen.

        Families of drug war victims turn to the ICC

        By Ellen Tordesillas
        August 31, 2018
        IRMA J. Locasia, mother of Salvador J. Locasia, Jr. killed in a police operation on August 31, 2016;

        Dennise B. David, father of John Jezreel T. David killed in a police operation on January 20, 2017; Maria C. B. Lozano, sister of Crisanto and Juan Carlos B. Lozano both killed in a police operation on May 12, 2017; Mariel F. Sabangan, sister of Bernabe F. Sabangan killed alongside Arnold S. Vitales in a police operation on May 15, 2017; Normita B. Lopez, mother of Djastin B. Lopez killed in a police operation on May, 18, 2017; Purisima B. Dacumos, wife of Danilo G. Dacumos killed in a police operation on August 3, 2017.

        Last Tuesday, as the Supreme Court started hearing oral arguments on the legality of the withdrawal by the Duterte government from the International Criminal Court, the names mentioned in the first paragraph, held a press conference announcing their decision to go to the ICC in

        The Hague because they do not expect to get justice for their kin killed in Duterte’s bloody and indiscriminating war against drugs.

        • Tweeto Wakatono says:

          Those who more than believe and claim IN GOD WE TRUST, JUSTICE is NOT an accident waiting to happen JUSTICE does happen without fail. And the PRICE is PAID in just terms.

          • Tweeto Wakatono says:

            You can criticize and insult the Filipino people and their culture, but you can not judge them and be condescending about them. They are all over the world WINNING admiration never bestowed to any other race in honesty, industry, cleanliness, morality, piety, friendliness and what ever. In many decades, I have been around. I chuckle when asked by foreigners why do Filipino girls smell good? I answered, oh perhaps they are always clean and just take a bath everyday. Heh, heh and no Filipino will tell you this, see it this way.

        • Interesting that you mention Ellen Tordesillas, who is doing superb work these days getting the facts out the the dailies do not have the patience or skill to hunt down. Her Vera Files project is superb. That said, I put her in the same category as Rappler as a blogger who was outrageously bitter toward President Aquino, I believe for some historical personal reason, and relentlessly tore him down, feeding into the panning of Roxas. She, too, is responsible for the Roxas defeat. I would add that she defended and worked with Harry Roque at the time.

  9. edgar lores says:

    1. I think Arlene is right: news media favor negative news or views.

    2. I also think Joe Am is right: Rappler found the trees. They missed the forest.

    3. I read all the “The Candidate” profiles, the final installment of “The Imagined President” series.

    3.1. All profiles paint negative pictures of the candidates. The profiles are elaborations of the appellations given the candidates in “The Demonized” installment of the series.

    o Binay is “The Bandit King”
    o Defensor is “The Loudest of Them All”
    o Duterte is “The Bully”
    o Poe is “The Drama Queen”
    o Roxas is “The Heir to the Kingdom”

    3.2. All the trees were found wanting – dwarfed.

    3.3. The profile on Duterte was accurately chilling and prophetic: ”We write this as a warning. The streets will run red if Rodrigo Duterte keeps his promise. Take him at his word, and know you could be next.”

    3.4. Yes, the profile on Roxas was biased as to his elitism and to his performance. The verdict is not even-handed and harsh. Certainly, Roxas cannot be held accountable for being a silver-spoon.

    3.4.1. ”It is not being a Roxas that makes him unfit, it is the belief that being a Roxas grants the presidency to a man so obviously unsuited for the role.”

    My question would be: Who held this belief? The writers of the profile? The voters?

    3.4.2. “In spite of this, Roxas remains what the Liberal Party touts ‘the only decent choice.’ The choice is black and white. The binaries have been laid out: the decent versus the barbarians, the decent versus the immoral, the decent versus those who would push the country down to hell on a handcart. This is the dangerous territory of exclusionary elitism, of claiming moral high ground without actually listening to why voters have become so desperate to place their bets on other candidates.”

    My question would be: Looking back, wasn’t “decency” the major issue (the forest) of Election 2016? Especially so when the profile on Duterte was “prophetic?”

    4. And I think this is where Rappler failed the nation. They may have accurately profiled the candidates — the trees. But they failed to map the terrain — the forest. (Not only decency but the major problems that beset the nation.) And they failed to indicate which tree would best populate — and grow — the forest.

    4.1. It may be that journalists may criticize but may not endorse. This issue is sensitive and debatable.

    4.2. The writers of the series, Evangelista and Curato, are certainly well-informed and have strong biases against all the candidates. But what are their biases for?

    4.3. What is my opinion? I think a newspaper may dis-endorse a particular candidate in an editorial. Conversely, I am wary of a direct endorsement of a particular candidate. If there are several candidates, I would not worry if the best two were singled out.

    • “But they failed to map the terrain — the forest.” FULL ACK. Also my view. I said they failed to compare the programs. You add “(Not only decency but the major problems that beset the nation.)” – maybe scoping the main issues of the country plus putting the answers (programs) of the respective candidates beside them. ” It may be that journalists may criticize but may not endorse.” so as not to be taken for “tuta” in the Philippine context. Inspite of criticizing Roxas Rappler still is considered dilawan. But one can indeed portray the facts in a neutral way – issues and programs – and let the reader decide. The emotional factors should not, as I mentioned in my comment, be the only thing that is analyzed.

      My question would be: Looking back, wasn’t “decency” the major issue (the forest) of Election 2016? Especially so when the profile on Duterte was “prophetic?” The writers have, I think, mapped out quite clearly why decency failed to win people’s hearts. What I mentioned was Brecht, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs came a bit later, but definitely the needs of most Filipinos are simpler than being squeaky clean, they want the bottom rung of needs first and they thought Duterte would fulfill them. Now they have bukbok rice. And even less safety than before. But as I mentioned, disente in street Filipino has another connotation than decency in English. It can mean a well-dressed haciendero who takes pains to go to church every Sunday, after the mistress on Saturday. “Lost in translation”:

      • edgar lores says:

        I remember seeing a multiple-choice questionnaire on issues. Each choice was an answer from a candidate. At the end of the questionnaire, they identify which candidate most fits the answers you selected.

        I have an impression that this was done by Rappler, but am not sure.

    • Vicara says:

      Another “terrain” mistake made by Rappler’s editors and writers of political profiles (that were, yes, more factual and in-depth than anyone else’s) did not adequately consider the context of reader consumption: that there were deafening counter-narratives becoming inexorably accepted as truth, via the well-funded and brilliantly managed social media campaigns of (primarily) Duterte and (next) the Marcoses/Poe. And yet the professional journalists who pride themselves on their devotion to facts and accuracy continued to focus on individual candidates, in a vacuum of cool, traditional political analysis that never acknowledged popular/populist perceptions.

      What made the situation worse was that the Roxas campaign were blind to this as well, and appeared often directionless, clunky and old-tech (expensive TV ads that accomplished little). I vented my own despair about that here on Joe Am’s blog. Roxas and his campaign team were caught flat-footed by the opposition soc media narratives that had been set in motion YEARS before, in order to bring down Aquino, his chosen successor anyone associated with him; and to restore the Marcoses and GMA to political heights.

      Hindsight is 20/20 of course, but the real story–the one that no one covered–of the election of 2016 was the hijacking of narratives and “truth” and the manipulation of the popular consciousness to elect a confessed killer president and restore the Marcoses. It was an emergency situation that no one noticed until it was too late.

      If only more news organizations taken that seriously–and reframed their campaign coverage to expose how public perception was being shifted for each candidate, then perhaps “disente” would not have become so completely transformed into an insult and a weapon by political foes, for example. We would have made better election choices, knowing how our brains were being screwed with.

      • edgar lores says:

        From the introduction: “In this final installation, we give you The Candidate, a synthesis of both narratives as seen through the lens of journalism and sociology. ”

        I guess they missed the “sociology” part.

      • “Roxas and his campaign team were caught flat-footed” Exactly.

        In the jungle that is the Philippines, huwag na huwag kang magmukhang tanga.

        You can’t afford to look foolish, even if that means that planned epal actions work better than spontaneously helping and falling in the mud while doing so – “basta may postura” is an unwritten Filipino rule similar to the Italian “bella figura”, style over substance.

      • Micha says:


        The prevalence of social media messaging adopted by candidates hardly qualifies as “mistake” made by Rappler in its profile reports.

        • Vicara says:

          Micha, Rappler’s mistake–committed as well by skilled political journalists both here and abroad–was to not listen enough to social media and to underestimate what was happening in terms of public perception. This is why, for example, Trump’s win stunned the educated, “reasonable,” analytical classes in the U.S.. So much of the campaign reportage trying to be “fair” consisted of mainstream media commentators–polished professionals–playing off each other in a self-referential loop. But the real campaign context was not what they thought it was; the writing was therefore off-tangent–because it missed the fact that multiple narratives were at play.

          • Micha says:

            I don’t think that’s a fair characterization. Rappler is an online newspaper. Both their editors and reporters are digital savvy and are well aware of the social media factor.

            Could you cite the instance(s) where they went off-tangent in their reporting?

      • ” . . . did not adequately consider the context of reader consumption: that there were deafening counter-narratives becoming inexorably accepted as truth . . .” Really important element of the forest. Thanks for bringing that forward. I’m thinking they might do better today after all the fake news that has been released which Maria Ressa and others have had to deal with head-on.

    • i remember getting irked by all sorts of petty news like stolen underwear, made it appear like crimes were at an all-time high during PNoy’s time.

    • Thanks for adding that layer of analytical depth to the writing that Rappler did, Edgar. Sorry I couldn’t respond sooner. All day electricity outage here.

      Your comment 4. is one that I hope Rappler editors take away from the reading here, if they do read here.

  10. Dennis Torrecampo says:

    The biggest tragedy is that impoverished Filipinos betray then kill their own heroes and heroines. Sometimes their demise gets celebrated as a customary afterthought…or totally forgotten.

    These days–thanks to troll-driven media and a gullible, ignorant public–the same heroes get killed the second time via historical revisionism and a populist, gut-first mindset.

    All these in favor of feeding their demons and beasts within. Poverty starves bodies and souls, hearts and minds, good and great.

    Idle brains, after all, are the devil’s favorite workshop.

    • andrewlim8 says:

      @Dennis Torrecampo

      The topic ” why are so many Filipinos so gullible?” is worth a blog piece of its own.


      May I add that a Mar Roxas who has everything – wealth, education, values, track record, looks, etc will always be vulnerable to this: Filipino masses can be manipulated into feeling envious and angry for having only a small small fraction of what he has.

      Stupid though it maybe, they can fall for the charms of a corrupt, evil, incompetent character because they feel familiar comfortable- which means they are like that, too!

      So many Filipinos suffer because they have such poor capacities to learn and remember.

      They keep repeating their past mistakes, always relying on ” puso” ” diskarte” ” sipag at tiyaga” without figuring things out first.

      • “Stupid though it maybe, they can fall for the charms of a corrupt, evil, incompetent character because they feel familiar comfortable- which means they are like that, too!”

        Of course, identification. It works not only in the Philippines.

        And of course, many Filipinos take shortcuts due to either circumstances or the path of least resistance. “My kid is sick, so I take the bribe”. “I need the business permit, so I pay the mayor”. Getting lawyers to fight it out is a choice for the privileged over there. Usually.

        Grace Poe was attractive to those who didn’t want to be bad, but felt they couldn’t afford to be totally good all the time either. Those who wanted to be open to all options.

        Like they say on the street in the Philippines: “sa pula, sa puti” – not a nice term.

        • They keep repeating their past mistakes, always relying on ” puso” ” diskarte” ” sipag at tiyaga” without figuring things out first. sounds like Duterte.

          Capacity for abstraction, needed for analysis and then planning and execution (not tokhang, I mean getting stuff done) is lacking in the barangay mind (c) chemrock.

          Of course as many Filipinos including Duterte think only on barangay scale (c) Francis they think simplistic solutions work on a national level, no planning needed at all yoohoo!

        • Vicara says:

          “Grace Poe was attractive to those who didn’t want to be bad, but felt they couldn’t afford to be totally good all the time either. Those who wanted to be open to all options.” Spot on, Ireneo.

        • “Grace Poe was attractive to those who didn’t want to be bad, but felt they couldn’t afford to be totally good all the time either. Those who wanted to be open to all options.”

          – people couldn’t believe someone can be “totally good”.

      • Yes, discouraging, that, eh? A successful person becomes the enemy, not only of the people, but the press, for they gang up on him, or her. They ACCEPT what the trolls and political players say, in their bragging, tough way.

    • I wholly agree with all that you say, Dennis. Indeed the information base is almost “failed”, it is so full of distortions and politics, and perhaps it has been that way a long time. Earnest good works, accountability, forgiveness . . . these qualities would help Filipinos a lot. I don’t mean forgiveness of crooks. I mean having the ability to let others have their own way of doing things, and the ability to let go of issues.

  11. andrewlim8 says:

    DIGONG’S – the newest restaurant in town

    SET MENU (Para sa mga tangang Pilipinong naniniwala pa rin kay Digong)

    RICE- with bukbok o mahal? your choice.

    MAINS – Ginisang ampalaya, paboritong ulam ng mahistrado

    – Galunggong (imported from China, caught in West Phil Sea)

    – Dinuguan (inspired by EJKs)

    – Laswa (true Visayan dish but applicable to so many in govt)

    PRICES – Subject to change without notice, depending on how inflation and exchange rate deteriorates. With federalism, we add 20%.

    May gana ka pang kumain?

  12. Jov Quio says:

    An excerpt from a speech delivered in US congress 88 years ago; “They mistake kindness for weakness, forbearance for fear”. Alexander Beveridge

  13. ysmael dalmacio says:

    can you check glenda m. gloria and bea cupin na hindi sila vayaran na periodista? salamat

  14. Micha says:

    Elections are a contest. Every candidate who gets on the stage will be scrutinized, put to the test. Your ability to survive that process determines your ability to connect with and get sympathy from the voters.

    On that measure, Roxas was a lousy candidate and a lousy politician – pretending to be sympathetic to the flight of the proles when he couldn’t shake off the image that he belongs to the haciendero class. One who gets an advert driving a tri-sikad in Farmer’s market but is being driven around town in a Mercedes.

    Don’t blame Rappler. Their reports are accurate measure of facts on the ground.

    Voters chose.

    Roxas couldn’t connect.

    Let’s move on.

    Enough of the hand wringing.

  15. GNCayanan says:

    What a great enlightenment…Kudos to your research and analyses!

  16. Micha says:

    The narrative of the Roxas campaign does not seek to overhaul the status quo, he wanted to preserve it – the very status quo that voters perceive as skewed, rotten and unfair. They hunger for change and they couldn’t just see it in Mar Roxas.

    So they settled for the bombast of a self-confessed criminal instead.

    • sonny says:

      Micha, do you think PH politics is at a state similar to the Beltway “swamp” of American politics?

      • Micha says:

        The Beltway swamp largely refers to that Hill environment where the flood of corporate lobbying money flows, corrupting politicians on both parties and influencing legislation and policies that favor the bankers, the zillionaires, and the mega corporations.

        Is there a comparable environment in the Batasan complex and in the Senate? I am not privy to what extent.

        Is that the status quo voters wanted to change? Part of it, yes.

        The bigger part though is changing, or at least reforming, the broader socio-economic status quo itself.

        Left or right, populism is here to stay as long as governments or the ruling clique continue to ignore the sorry flight of their masses.

        Conservatives like Roxas wanted to introduce reforms one step at a time but people are getting both impatient and desperate, as they should be. The challenge for politicians and policy makers is how to balance swiftness and soundness of those demanded reforms.

        • sonny says:

          Agree. Much appreciate the reply and insights. Thanks.

          The gridlock and the festering are similar. The bigger part is changing/reforming as you said; if only a catalyst (probably the combination of Leni’s work and the dedication of the decent people already at the reins of the government and society at large) would hasten these changes/reforms.

    • distant observer says:

      Micha. I think I get your criticism. I really do. But what kind of political agenda do you suggest? Some kind of socialist revolution?

  17. Great article! Nobody could have written it better. Write about how people always assume people who criticized a politician meant they were paid to do so by the rivals. 😀

  18. chixxx says:

    Talo na yan!!! Move on!!!

  19. Squared says:

    There was also the badly taken out of context interview regarding laglag bala which was spliced to illicit negative response.

    I remember Rappler had to issue an apology back then.

    Which is why I was surprised then that the morons of the PH attacker Rappler for supposedly being bias against the god of morons, DuterTAE

    • Thanks for the recollection, Squared.

    • tinacuyugan says:

      No one seems to be making anything much of Laglag Eroplano under this administration. It certainly caused more collective harm with greater economic cost, than Laglag Bala. (And the unauthorized landings that followed by other Hsiamen planes could have easily developed into a major catastrophe.) But there are no PR experts to whip up largescale public indignation over that in social media. The news orgs have “moved on” after producing a few short, ominous reports about that debacle. Too many worse things happening kasi. And growing censorship/ self-censorship in newsrooms.

      • Good is weak, bad is strong. Mistakes among the good earn hostility, with roots in crab envy. Mistakes among the bad are accepted because it is ‘in character’. That’s the central idea I’m working on now because the Philippines remains 3rd world as long as bad deeds from bad people are accepted and good works are not even seen.

  20. Maria Renker says:

    After their closure, im sure theyre regretting it now. sad.

  21. Rose says:

    Very well written.
    Analytical thinking should be encouraged and inculcated to Filipino culture. Not only rely to what is loud or noice. Good is good; it should be followed. Journalism should stay to what is good with facts. Hello they should analyze with consideration to what it might affect the future. Now it’s too late, DUTERTE creates disaster and havoc to Philippine economy, culture, freedom and sovereignty.

    • Thanks, Rose. I used to criticize the Inquirer because it was the best of the lot, and I guess I have put Rappler there now. What goes for them would go double for those other tabloidian caretakers of Philippine democracy.

  22. Sir, I cannot help but be emotional when I read your article. Am a Roxas supporter by heart and it was a sad reality that he should be the president, we, his supporters all hope. Had there been a more deeper analization ( not missing a point) of his experience, his decency and knowledge, by the Rappler and other news sources; inflation,EJK related to war on drugs, shortage of rice and fish, cussing & cursing , etc. would had been avoided and never be experienced by the Filipinos, because PNoy left a legacy, better economy, and it’s continuity is apparent in the person of Mar Roxas. I hate to know in black and white how unfair our media was with Mar. Since June 30 2016 to date, how does they rate the guy they hisitate to uphold but hinting they were mesmerized by his macho image?
    Thank you for your effort to put all the articles related to Mar. God bless you.

    • Best to you, too, Susan. Thanks for the comment. For sure, a Roxas presidency would have been more dignified, although he is known to blow up now and then, heh heh. But honest, earnest, human rights, economy, civility, and sovereignty would all be back on the front burner.

    • LG says:

      Mar may just run again, if the Federalism project is buried by 2020. By then, I hope the voters have learned the lessons of Du30 regime. GMA had declared, in a news report, that she plans to retire and won’t run in 2020. Do you believe her?

  23. Your article brought back bitter memories of the May 2016 election. I lost the president we voted but the media was mesmerized with the knight in all arrogance. Had they chose an experienced, knowledgeable, decent candidate, history books will write a different facts…

  24. But why should news organization do those things? For the ‘truth’? Or to prop up Mar’s position? As Micha mentioned, the reports are accurate measures of facts on the ground. If Roxas’ party wanted to change that, then they should’ve provided more ‘facts’. Though they did eventually, the proper responses were mostly too late to matter.

    And about manipulation: Well, when it comes to most eastern countries, nuances seem to be important. They sense all these little things and they can and will make a big deal out of it. And if they can contrast it to other people? It makes the effect more intense. So really now, it was a long time coming.

    Because by continuing to ignore all these small things, well, they are basically denying its existence outright. Though one may say otherwise and it was unintende, it is what is probably being perceived. Hence the calls of hypocrisy and why a number of people have turned away from the party.

    A common analogy is the black spots on the white wall. Try comparing the following:


    Candidate: “Look at how white this wall is.”

    People: “But there are black spots?”

    Candidate: “Just look the how white the wall is. And I shall make it whiter!”

    People: “Pero may black spots nga.”

    Candidate: “It doesn’t matter. Maliit lang yun eh. Don’t you want whiter walls?”

    People: “Aba gago to ah.”

    *Candidate is losing according to polls*

    Candidate: “Okay. The black spots do matter. And I will do something about it. But please do note how white the wall is?”

    People: “Too late.”


    Candidate: “Look at how white this wall is.”

    People: “But there are black spots?”

    Candidate: “Ah. There are indeed black spots. And we will see what we can do.”

    People: “Oh. He acknowledges the black spots.”


    Candidate: “Look at how white this wall is. And yes there are black spots. I will not deny it.”

    People: “Oh! How honest and authentic!”


    On a side note:

    In a way, by saying that people have missed the forest for the trees, well, one has probably already lost as one will be starting on the wrong foot.

    From the commoner’s perspective, one is just babbling about the forest when they(the commoners) don’t even have an idea of what it is. Then they are somewhat castigated for not knowing it.

    As Irineo said, food comes before morals. So by telling them to choose morals over food, how do you expect will they react? And I guess this is the source of the disconnect…

    Hmm… This reminds me of Plato’s allegory of the cave and how the escapee cannot convince his former fellow inmates…

    • I’m not writing to ‘commoners’, as you call the general public. I’m writing to people who are well-read and can influence the shape of journalism in the Philippines. The ‘why’ ought to be fairly obvious, to encourage journalists to move away from emotionalizing their reporting so that the people will think about what is needed in a public office and avoid catastrophe in the name of ‘change’.

      Yes, to white spots and black spots. Yes as well to getting away from the notion that perfection is possible. I write from a corporate executive’s bias, where delegation is needed and that means giving the person to whom you delegate the room to do it his way, even with associated mistakes. Way too many Filipinos are too demanding for their own good, it seems to me.

      • LG says:

        For Rappler journalists, esp. P. Evangelista and N. Curato, this article and replies to it are the evaluation of their submission on the subject in question. I hope she feels lament. I used to like P. Evangelista’s articles in the Young Blood column of the Inquirer.

        • edgar lores says:

          I like Patricia. Her writing is as clear as a cloudless blue sky.

        • Here is Maria Ressa’s response on Twitter, which I find somewhat expected, as denial is also a cultural trait. Speaking “truth to power” is totally dependent on one’s sense of truth, and too many associate goodness with being bad, and badness with being strong. The ‘truth to power’ statement is essentially a claim of being bold, like Duterte, rather than being elegant and recognizing the nation has a problem appreciating goodness.

          • edgar lores says:

            “Mar Roxas lost because of himself and ‘thinkers’ like JoeAm…”

            And Duterte won because of himself.

            The reasoning is specious and simplistic: basically, the cause is the effect.

            Nothing about culture syndromes, voters’ perceptions, cambridge analytica, or Distant Observer’s news media framing, attention shifting, and issue ownership.

            • Yes, a wholly disappointing response.

              • For me, no. It jibes with what I wrote about the press in the Philippines opposing everything for fear of being labelled as belonging to a certain camp. It was that way even before Martial Law, when the label of being “envelopmental” journalism was feared.

                Polite discourse is still seen as weak. In such an environment, being seen as having a strong frame is even more important. Either you defend your nonsense to the hilt, as that is seen as “strength” – or wait until the right time to make a stand like VP Leni is doing now, because if you haven’t said much there is less to defend, less to revise. Doesn’t negate any of the cultural observations you have made, including those about face and power. Press people in the Philippines are face and power players on their own, each in their own way.

              • For sure ‘truth to power’ is an opposing bluster to an autocrat’s tirades, but it is the beast, not just reading it, and appears to be ignorant about destructive cultural norms.

              • LG says:

                I did not expect such response from Maria Ressa. Maybe, Rappler, as a messenger of news and opinion is not what I think it is or ought to be. At least she let it known that she is a diligent follower of JA’s blog. Or she has assistants who does and feeds her as needed.

              • I think the blog article got tweeted so much that it eventually hit her monitor. I suspect that a part of the ‘denial’ response is because I did the criticism without asking for her input before publishing, as a journalist might. She got blindsided. The other part is that maybe she does not grasp the way “good is bad” and “bad is strong” underlays so much of what is wrong with decision-making in the Philippines, and the whole Roxas thought stream was of that vein. He was a silver spoon elitist and was not going to get away with it. A number of people have contacted me via DM or e-mail to speak to the broken relationship between Rappler and Roxas, so it appears to go beyond cultural nuance into raw dislike. I inadvertently tipped up a rock and bugs came crawling out. I may do another article if I can figure out how to do it constructively.

            • she even said that social media was only weaponised after elections when they had several articles about social media gaming before elections. and how is cambridge analytica used after elections???

      • I am aware of the target audience. However, one does have to note that the target audience will still have to cater to the general public. So do try to consider if them taking a more active role of how the forest is to be mapped out will actually result in what you’ve said. Or if it will just result in further disparity and backlash.

        As Edgar pointed out in his comment:

        “4.1. It may be that journalists may criticize but may not endorse. This issue is sensitive and debatable.”

        And it is. Yet what you seem to imply is that they should forego it and give personalities some slack and that they should give more weight on the good. So on whose basis? Because to be blunt, how is that any different if the current admin asks something like that? Which they did. Because intention? Well, you know what they say about hell, roads, and all that jazz.

        But then again, you’ve made the following comment above:

        “The problem is, with that critical attitude, no one ever qualifies for endorsement because no one is ever perfect. It is a horrid condition, this need to pick at the littlest flaws and grow pimples into cancers.”

        If that is the case, then it really isn’t on the journalists. Because if criticism lacks context and it grows worse than it actually is? Well, then address it and provide more context. Issue a response and start a conversation if need be. If media doesn’t pick it up, well… When has that been a hindrance if a story is on their side? If it is the opposition, it never seems to have been a problem, no?

        But really now, when it comes to criticism, the option is to merely address it. Could be truthful and transparent. or, just merely spectacle and bombast. Just don’t shut up about it.

        And this is one reason why Duterte is able to stretch his ratings despite all his shortcomings. He does a mix of both, heavily relying on the latter lately. But of course, it can only get him so far until the need for transparency will become overbearing and undeniable.

        But do try to compare that to Roxas and other technocrats who have a tendency to just prop themselves up, rationalize their position, then just leave it be as it is supposedly not on them if they are not understood. It’s not their fault if they are not appreciated. Then they wonder why they are not appreciated. How quaint.

        If they really want mass media to change, the personalities in question should really start it themselves. It’s really not just journalists as they mostly work with what they get. And they really don’t get much because seldom do these personalities pursue an issue to its conclusion as they are too afraid to be seen with dirt on their faces. But as you’ve said, nobody is perfect. So what’s to fear then?

        Defend it to the hilt. Or if it isn’t going anywhere, acknowledge that there is a mistake. Chances are, there is. And it really is you. Not them.

        But if an opportunity arrives to prove them wrong? Then prove them wrong. That’s the only way how the media will learn.

        Basically, it is simply feedback. And it prevents us from moving on from one issue to another without ever having any sort of resolution.

        • Mainstream media generally report the news in short, shallow, serial bites, point-counterpoint-to-be-continued-tomorrow. Sensationalism rules. Someone like Roxas and even more so Robredo figure, I think, that “I will do my best”, not play the troll games and if people want decency and earnest hard work, they will vote for me. That is basically what got President Aquino elected, people DEMANDED that he run. Then as he started dismantling the rings of favor and corruption that surround government, and started making what people perceived to be mistakes, the venom started. Still, he ended his term on remarkably favorable satisfaction ratings. Duterte came in on the rush of fondness that greets any winner, and is now facing the reality of reality. Monday’s blog will talk about that . . . it’s about incompetence . . . and I don’t see how he can continue to hold onto high satisfaction when his people are saying “let them eat weevils!”

          Media are the peoples’ source of information and contribute to the simplicity and emotionalized decision-making. You are right, all candidates have to figure out how to talk to the people, and do it through the media, and Leni Robredo is perhaps better at it than Mar Roxas if I read her response to Duterte’s declaration that she is not qualified to be president. She put the people’s needs first. Or perhaps the “silver spoon” that people thought Mar Roxas dined with was simply too much for him to crack. In economics presentations and the debates he was the most intelligent and expressive in an executive manner, but the people wanted someone more like them, rough and disadvantaged.

          If they keep voting an emotional dream, we will continue to get Sottos and Pacquiaos and the nation will struggle. It falls to someone to try to speak of a greater need, which is dignity. My article is just a discussion driver and the audience will either take something from it . . . and the discussion . . . or not.

          • “Leni Robredo is perhaps better at it than Mar Roxas if I read her response to Duterte’s declaration that she is not qualified to be president. She put the people’s needs first. Or perhaps the “silver spoon” that people thought Mar Roxas dined with was simply too much for him to crack.” There is this matter of “habitus” which I have mentioned a lot of times. People’s prejudices are also based on the habitus, the entire way a person acts including mannerisms. You can mean well but still be rejected.

            That is especially true in a country where the disadvantage distrust the advantaged (richer, more educated, whiter, more powerful, better English) due to historical experience. The assumption being that “one of us” will care more about “our issues” and “help us more”.

            Finally, there is the emotional aspect of the Filipino. There is an expectation that a leader will feel what they want, go by “pakiramdam” (feelings, empathy) instead of by logical analysis which is perceived as cold and distant. VP Leni has that touch, that emotional aspect.

          • That has always been the limitation of the format especially since the dawn of radio and television. So again, really can’t blame them for it. But then again, this is where consistency comes in and it is what will make things matter. And do note that this consistency is not just with time, as many would think. It is also with circumstance and position.

            As said before, people just intuitively sense this. And they will use it as a basis even if they don’t clearly understand it. That’s why you’ll hear people say that there was something ‘off’ with the messaging of Roxas. Trying to put it into to words, he was presenting himself as being ‘one of the people’, which I think was probably something fed to him by his PR groups. And to be blunt, he really wasn’t. Now, have that messaging for years and this is what happens. A very glaring “disconnect”. Yet many of his supporters seem to have had a hard time acknowledging it.

            But using Irineo’s concept of ‘habitus’, well, people can actually acknowledge whatever habitus one has. But if one fails to acknowledge it for himself, well, this is why they are considered ‘weak’. In Tagalog: “Wala kasi silang paninindigan sa sarili”. Translating it loosely: “They cannot own up themselves.” Hmm… Basically, they come off as inauthentic. To use the common language, they are ‘plastic’.

            Try comparing that to the Marcoses who have been living larger than life. Some, if not many of the general public don’t treat him the same as Roxas even if they share the same status. So why? Because they own it up.

            Overly superficial? I know. But it is what it is. And there is probably a long way before it’ll significantly change.

            But as for something to consider, try looking back to the “Walang Drama” ads of Roxas. It would have probably worked wonders. However, it was too late already. A good attempt, but still a last-ditch attempt. And if I am to be blunt, the delayed response and correction was surely the result of rationalizing the criticism brought upon them rather than understanding where it came from. So just a generalized word of caution.

            Anyway, as for Robredo though, she really is something to watch out for. Being relatively new, she can still mould herself without much baggage of habitus. And she is improving with time and circumstance. If I may phrase it, she is like a cast iron skillet being seasoned with fire. It really is only a matter of time until she will also reach Teflon status.

            • edgar lores says:

              Why would VP Robredo have to mould herself?

              • I think she is, in the sense that she has taken on a fighter’s mindset, which is not really her preference. But Duterte and the trolls have pushed her into a corner. And she is the opposition’s designated leader. She has to do battlefield leadership.

              • To garner even more support from people? From what I see, she does have the flexibility to become whatever she wants to be as she is relatively free from the expectations and biases brought upon by historical circumstance. Though tagged as ‘dilawan’, again, she is new and she could surely easily drop the tag if she wants to.

                Consider it a pipe dream but I do long for the day that we break free from the status quo of zero-sum games. But then again, I am optimistic that we can achieve something of the sorts just within the generation.

                For one thing, there is still this hullabaloo about constitutional reform. Though Federalism is losing steam, it seems to have opened up lots of discussions about amendments in general. And that is coming from interactions and observations of the different sides of the spectrum.

                But I seem to be going on a tangent. Going to cut it off.

              • edgar lores says:

                To me, the implication of the phrase “mould herself” is that her character is not fully developed. That is, she is still in the process of forming herself.

                On first reading, I took it to be a condescending remark. I am sensitive because of Duterte’s unfounded criticisms.

                I think her basic character — in terms of fundamental values — is already fully moulded.

                She is, to use the offered analogy, a fully formed iron skillet… that needs no further moulding.

                The fires of experience will not mould her further. Yes, it will season her. That is, make her impervious in her vulnerability… so that she can endure and overcome whatever the future brings.

              • Ah, sorry.

                I do not mean to imply that she is incomplete or lacking. If anything, I do agree with your point that her fundamentals have been established already. But then again, I am still of the view that everybody is always in the process of forming themselves. And no one is an exception. Robredo included.

                To somewhat continue the iron analogy: Depending on how iron has been fired, it should still be malleable to varying degrees. And that is why I actually have high hopes for Robredo. Good fundamentals, but still not totally static.

                Because noting that the statement was written along with the context of Roxas and how he was unable to bend even when given the flames of circumstance? Well, it just seemed apt.

                Francis’ points below seems to be all the more appropriate.

                For clarity, it is a compliment. But then again, should’ve said tempered rather than moulded. I’m no blacksmith. haha But again, she will only grow stronger and sharper with time and circumstance. And that is probably something that we agree on. 🙂

              • edgar lores says:

                I agree with the term “tempered.”

                There is something subtly wrong with the argument that “everybody is always in the process of forming themselves.”

                Let me “scope” the argument in terms of growing “stronger and sharper with time and circumstance.”

                The argument is true in the sense that we are “becoming” a more perfect (or imperfect) version of ourselves. But it is false in the sense that it denies that we, as adults, are already substantially and essentially formed.

                A sword, once formed, is only and always a sword.
                The sword may be blunted.
                The sword may be sharpened.
                It remains — in essence — a sword.

                True, the sword may be subject to intense heat, melted, and destroyed or re-formed into something else. This is no longer the process of “formation” but of “deformation.” The sword, in essence, is no longer a sword.

                We are talking here of incremental change — and even of trans-formation in the sense of realizing full potential — but not of drastic and complete deformation.

              • I dunno, Edgar. Yes, we all have a core character but knowledge is not static so we change what we think forever, and that can change our behaviors and acts. Take Harry Roque. His core character is amoral. So he works as a media whore on human rights issues then switches to Duterte. That is beyond tempered. Leni Robredo’s ACTS can be materially different as she is fed new knowledge and enters new playing arenas.

              • edgar lores says:

                Good point.

                Let me clarify: I am not arguing about knowledge but about character. And I will grant that knowledge, for the most part, refines character (for better or for worse) … but does not drastically change it.

                The operative terms in that last sentence are “refines” and “drastically change.”

                Yes, knowledge is not static and affects character. But character, to a substantial degree, is solid, stable, and predictable. Again, the operative phrase is “to a substantial degree.” This is my nuanced view. If this were not true, we would be in a pickle.

                (Yes, there are unstable characters like Duterte and Trump, but one can say they are unvarying in their instability.)

                Let me put it this way: we are a sword and, therefore, a finished product. This does not mean that the finished product does not change. As I said, it can be blunted and sharpened as it interacts with the outside environment. The interaction is akin to how we are affected by knowledge. We change but we remain a sword.

                There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. And perhaps I contradict myself when I say that complete transformation is possible. Saul on the road to Damascus: the sword became a pen.

                I agree that Harry, at core, is essentially an immoral (or amoral) character from the start.

                He did not devolve. The real Harry came out. Even before he became a spokesman, it was apparent the sword was not made of steel but of plastic.

                I grant we could argue this issue forever. My point is that true essence (character) will not substantially change and will reveal itself.

                I don’t think Harry — or Binay — is an exception. Saguisag, although flawed, is the counterexample and proves the rule. Robredo pere may be the perfect proof. He remained true to himself despite being in government service.

                The paradigm of Filipino idealistic youth “changing” into corrupt self-servers has always been with us. I do not think that they were truly idealistic, at core, from the start.

                If they were, at core, from the start, how could they change so drastically?

                We have to remember that youth is just the phase in the “moulding” process. When we turn into adults — and this can happen at a psychological, and not a chronological, age — we have become substantially what we have destined ourselves to be. Destined — tempered by inner character, time, and circumstance.

                Finally, yes, VP Robredo’s acts will materially different in how she acts in new roles. Her responses will be new and varied but they will arise from a core of spiritual values — ora et labora (© Irineo) — that will not substantially change. She will, for the most part, invariably act from her center of gravity.

              • I see the point of character being the immovable core of a person’s being, and knowledge that which is built on top of it, and creating life’s changes over time. My core character was hammered into me by a stern mother and father whose own fundamental goodness allowed them to move from being racists to accepting people, as their knowledge changed. We are once again in sync.

            • Nice description of VP Robredo. On Roxas, I’ll probably do a follow-up article because I’ve received some new insights on it.

  25. NHerrera says:

    Freedom of expression to inform fairly while making good journalism and sell the medium in a competitive environment– presuming Rappler in the instant case. There is clearly inconsistency in my statement. Among others, that will pre-suppose that the general reader wishes to be informed fairly. More importantly, what does Rappler really stand for, rid of the flowery or motherhood words a vision statement is usually stated.

    We may have a good example here of can’t see the forest for the trees. But as others have pointed out Rappler did to the other candidates what it did to Roxas, but I believe Roxas is so “rich and convenient” a topic for journalistic writing in a Philippine style General Election and Setting that he took the cake handily. A journalist wakes up in the morning during that period and wants to write about one of the Candidates. Nothing strikes him with a good idea? Write about Roxas and his journalist quota is done for the day.

  26. Francis says:



    My first response is to second Micha’s own response. The general does not necessarily blame the battlefield for his retreat. The suitor does not necessarily blame his or her target of affections for the “walang forever,” that is—the rejection of his or her advances.

    The politician is not automatically entitled to power—or to a much easier route to power, i.e. some favorable press coverage—just because he or she is good. If this were the case, the world would be a much kinder place. Unfortunately—it is clearly not.

    I absolutely do not mean to offend—but it I may be perfectly blunt, just as the article was perfectly blunt regarding Rappler:

    This is absolutely naive.

    Whether you are a saint or a devil—when you enter politics, you always assume and prepare for the worst. Politics is Janus-faced. You have one face that is hopeful and driven by cooperation and empowerment. West Wing. You have another face that is cynical and filled with conflict and intrigue. House of Cards.

    The naivete of many reformists is that they assume that politics is just all—or can be all—West Wing. This is wrong. Even in the cleanest, most honest states—like Singapore or Sweden—the intrigue, the ruthlessness of the “House of Cards” face of politics disappear. Less apparent yes—but NOT gone.

    Point is: politics is—like human nature—also rough and harsh. Which is not to say it can’t be beautiful BUT to ignore the more sordid aspects of politics is just naivete.

    The point is that even saints, even nice reformist politicians—they don’t just have to have good character, but they also have to WIN.

    This does not mean that I believe in a dichotomy between POLITICAL PRINCIPLE and POLITICAL PRAGMATISM. I believe that political principles are just as important as political pragmatism. Nobody wants to vote for someone who stands for nothing but himself—which is, I suppose, why there is this populist disenchantment with the establishment going on globally.

    In fact, it is the precisely BECAUSE of this populist turn that the public should have candidates (and more importantly: institutions, i.e. parties) that have BOTH political principle and political pragmatism instead of ones (like the populists) who offer a “simulcra” (an illusion) of political principle with their self-serving political pragmatism.

    This is WHY the naivete of reformists in this country frustrates me. I can understand trapos being corrupt—this is merely them acting in their own self-interest, but I cannot understand how reformists can be so self-defeating at times.

    Gloria plays to win. Marcos plays to win. Obviously, it is clear to everyone they played to win in BOTH the short-term and the long-term; all that black propaganda on social media proves that.

    You can’t beat people playing to win unless you are willing to win yourself.

    That starts with not assuming that “all variables” are in your favor.

    “Ah—so we should resort to their dirty tactics? Is that what you are saying, Francis?”


    Pardon my left-leaning bias—but look at the examples of insurgent progressive candidates in the United States, who have often won WITHOUT big donor money.

    But this DOES NOT mean that they aren’t savy or politically pragmatic—they have strategized, they have used reliance on high enthusiasm and small donor donations to pull themselves to victory.

    Where they lost—they calmly re-assessed the situation, probed where they went wrong and fixed it in LATER campaigns.

    Actually—pay attention to that bolded text.
    That is what EVERY major political party or group does in every mature democracy, at least in part. Liberals. Conservatives. Leftists (especially—which is why I have a soft spot for the Left: half of the vast literature leftists have written is pretty much situation assessments about how to improve strategy. It isn’t all bewailing the evil capitalists.) They don’t cry over spoilt milk.

    • You would of course agree with Micha if you read the premise of the article as being in defense of Mar Roxas. I often take ideas for articles from people who comment here or FB or Twitter. I fear you are overlaying motive that simply is not in the article, to consider what Roxas did or did not do that cost him the election. The Twitter follower challenged my understanding of Rappler with some bitterness about how they treated Roxas. We argued, I said I’d look into it.

      Now if I read your comment right, I should have just told him, “hey, life is tough and Roxas didn’t cut the mustard!” because to consider journalism or social media as the “battlefield” affecting presidential races is naive. I suggest you go back to the question at hand and answer that instead of the one I was not addressing. It seems naive to me to think we don’t have to have a watchdog tracking of mainstream and social media. And it seems it is okay with you if the press is tabloidian rather than fourth estate that bridges with ethical determination between voter and politician. That’s just the battlefield. ?

      • Micha says:


        “(Media should be the) fourth estate that bridges with ethical determination between voter and politician.”

        That’s what Rappler had exactly been doing. Heroically, I might add.

        What was missing? That they should have shown more slant and give the Roxas campaign a Cinderella treatment?

        You are suggesting that they should have abandoned their neutrality and go all in for LP?

        • No, I’m saying emotionalism found in personal likes and dislikes that are based on cultural values that see weakness in good deeds and strength in bad will not fulfill a journalists ethical role of transmitting good information between politicians and voters and produce leaders other than reactive to the failures of the previous administration.

          • Micha says:

            That Rappler did not provide a channel of good information between politician and voter is a subjective and inaccurate charge as far as I can tell. I’ve followed their reporting and it’s as accurate and objective as one can get considering what others have. That they could have somehow swung elections results the other way if only they did this or that is an overestimation of their reach given the demographics of their readership.

            Otoh, it is not of course unusual for the editorial board of newspapers like the New York Times or the Guardian to endorse their preferred candidate(s) in a major election and still maintain a certain level of objectivity in their reporting.

            Maybe Rappler’s editorial board should start endorsing candidates too and cement their important role as the fourth estate?

            • That’s a fair statement and I agree that Rappler editors and writers are ethical journalists who care about democracy and their role to check and balance and provide important information. I like their fact-based economics articles and their boldness at recognizing and fighting the destructiveness of fake news. As I was doing this project and read some of the articles, which were commentaries, not news reports, I was struck by the attentions given to personality and not to achievement. The suggestion that Roxas somehow has to be a different person than he is, and that his success is inherited, not earned. That is the other destructive influence on good thinking here, the idea that ‘good is bad’ and ‘bad is strong’. Somebody needs to attend to that because it is as pernicious as fake news. Rappler people are smart enough to ‘get it’. The other news outlets are pretty much lost to such concepts, I think. So that is the main point of the article in looking at how to move the Philippines away from being such a dysfunctional place, at the polls.

            • LG says:

              One can’t be a Rappler reader without English language-literacy and the Internet. Thus, such reader would have internet access and has achieved at least some college level education. The noted reader, then, would have gotten that the descriptive opinions on the 3 presidential candidates (noted in the blog above) by authors Evangelista and Curato, were bias-laden. Were the biases the authors’ or the average readers’ as perceived by the authors?

              • A picture of the public narrative as seen by the authors. But there were two sides shown for every candidate: the positive and the negative side. (Idealized and Demonized) The entire Series was called “The Imagined President” with a cartoon for every portrayal.

       (“Mar of the People” – Idealized)

       (“Heir to the Kingdom” – Demonized)

              • edgar lores says:

                Just a brief note of methodology.

                1. The first two installments — Idealized and Demonized — are subjective. The first by supporters; the second by critics.

                2. The third and final installment — The Candidate — is “a synthesis of both narratives as seen through the lens of journalism and sociology.” It may be seen to be an “objective” recap as seen by the authors.

                3. My question would be: Was a common grid — a common set of criteria — applied to the lens such that each candidate could be objectively vetted and measured by the same metrics?

                3.1. In the absence of a common grid, can “The Candidate” installment be considered normative?

              • Rappler’s series of presidential profiles, The Imagined President, began last month with the The Idealized candidate, where the best narratives of presidential candidates were presented as imagined by themselves and their supporters. (READ: Mar Roxas: Mar of the People)

                Here, in The Demonized, the second installment, we examine the worst versions of candidates running for President, as imagined by their critics. These profiles condense the range of commentary from political opponents, interest groups, columnists, as well as the grievances that populate both online and offline conversation. We hope to make sense of what frightens, what offends, and what angers a nation in search of a leader.

                OK, one could say that the idealized picture of Mar portrayed by Rappler is sarcastic, portraying Mar Roxas as a sort of Clark Kent (Pleasantville) in the Fast Forward video..

                It is a perfect day. The lawns are manicured. The trees march in rows. Buildings spear into the sky. This is the city where the suburban dream comes true: joggers in neon sneakers, dogs trotting on leashes, conference rooms filled with wrapped presents. Every motorcyclist wears a helmet. Every bus has room. Every face smiles over the neckline of a yellow shirt. This is where young love blooms, where robed graduates throw high their tasseled hats, and the sky fills with yellow balloons.

                Welcome to Pleasantville, the future as imagined by Manuel Araneta Roxas II. Watch him, surrounded by smiles and pretty faces. Look at him laugh, watch him dance, see him throw a ball, score a shot, wave at crowds, grin at his wife, high five, fist bump, fast, forward, to the future.

                Vote for him, and his city is yours.

              • I hate this stuff. It’s like taking an applicant for a job and mocking him, then glorifying him, all for good fun, and along the way, losing track of the truth about what the job requires in the way of skills, and does the Candidate have a resume that shows he can do the job. Truly, it takes the worst of people and incidents out of context and pretends it is a good look at them, when it is really the misshapen image in the Fun House mirror. It degrades the assessment process, emotionalizes it, glorifies the writer, and destroys people. Hate it. It’s like rape jokes, really. Hate it.

              • edgar lores says:

                1. It’s complicated.

                2. There are at least 3 levels of biases:

                o The bias of the culture
                o The bias of the authors
                o The bias of the readers

                3. Joe Am’s point is that we are not aware of the bias of culture. He says Filipinos associate goodness with being weak and, therefore, it is bad. Conversely, we associate badness with being strong and, therefore, it is good.

                3.1. The extension of his point is that the authors reflect the bias of the culture. Just to illustrate another example, take this paragraph:

                “What some call Roxas ‘failure to connect’ is not just a minor issue of charisma. It is an issue of recognition – the President of the nation should be able to give voice to the most desperate people he represents, and the first step to that representation is having the capacity to listen and to empathize.”

                3.2. The bias here is that a leader must be in step with the nation, he must be the voice of the people. This bias can be interpreted to be false if we look at Duterte. Yes, Duterte speaks for the people. But look at the level that he has brought the nation down. He has brought the nation down to the lowest denominator. The country has adopted a culture of killing, misogyny, and rape.

                3.3. The “correct” bias here should be that a leader must have a vision that, at the very least, must be consistent with the constitution. A vision that is above the biases of the culture and of the people. A vision that uplifts the people. Instead of a culture of killing, a culture of due process. Instead of a culture of misogyny and rape, a culture of respect for women.

                3.4. However, in this case, the bias of the culture coincides with the bias of the authors that coincides with the bias of the people.

                3.5. Another bias is that decency is the “dangerous territory of exclusionary elitism.” This bias is an example of Joe Am’s “goodness is bad.”

                4. The Rappler essays can be a rich source for the analysis of all these levels of biases. The picture I would paint is that the authors are observant fishes analyzing the candidate fishes. They miss observing the citizen fishes. And being fish, they are not aware of the water (culture) they swim in. And neither are they aware that the water is polluted.

              • +1 or 10 or 100 or whatever the top level of the scale is.

                It might be 1,000 but would then have to be charted on one of those logarithmic scales that DO used and we’d all need slide rules to figure it out.

                Francis is probably scratching his head. “What’s a slide rule?”

                Great analysis. Terrific punch line.

            • caliphman says:

              Micha, we have a history of taking different sides on the controversial issue if monetary economics. But if it matters to anyone here, I stand with you on your views about Rappler, Mar Roxas, and the former’s role in the latter’s loss in the last election.
              My primary reaction to JoeAm’s article is that it seems rathet pointless to rehash the advocacies for and against Roxas, Poe, and Duterte that raged in this forum and throughout the country. Roxas lost and Duterte won, rightly or wrongly, not because of Rappler but because each ran a campaign that resonated with the largest block of Filipino voters. And yes, what resonates with Filipino voters is what appeals primarily to their hearts and their minds. However Rappler framed the candidates in their reporting, it would have been remiss if it ignored this undeniable fact. To redefine Rappler’s reporting mission with that of its editorial responsibility to state its advocacies is rather misplaced, in my opinion. And to cut to the chase, it is not clear that even today, with most of what Rappler warned presciently about Duterte having materialized, I strongly suspect that Roxas would still lose to Duterte.
              Not because of the latters control of print and social media but as JoeAm points out correctly, Filipinos as a whole focus on personalities in choosing their political leaders. That being said, changing that culture is going to be a difficult and generational task, if not impossible (is a view I have posted here for a while now).

              • Pointless? The elections are right around the corner and we don’t want to think about the way media report? The article generated robust discussion here (12,000 reads), on FB and on Twitter. Some readers agree with you/Micha/Francis and others. Most agree that Rappler was both played by Duterte and made the Roxas challenge very uphill. I’ve been contacted off-line by e-mail and DMs in a way like never before, people providing information on the Roxas/Rappler relationship. Maria Ressa responded on Twitter. I will do a second article about the topic in about a week.

              • caliphman says:

                I would say that the number of online hits that this blog racks up is just as good (or not) as a measure of success as the number of newspapers or magazines sold by an issue of the Inquirer or othe popular news media.That Rappler and other news media tailors its reporting to gain attention and readership is hardly an indication of the veracity and meaningfulness of the content it is reporting. By that measure, the US National Inquirer and other popular tabloids would rank very highly indeed. None the less, I commend the fact that this blog that is widely read if not unanimously well received. I for one read it in detail for being quite controversial. In the presidential election, Rappler struck me as being opposed to and wlgave dire warnings about Duterte’s candidacy. To claim now that it intentonally or not helped in Roxas losing the election is rather specious.

                That there is a coming election is not significant. Firstly, it is not a presidential election and the fact is that voters in local elections are even more based on personalities and less on the presumed policies, platforms and qualifications of the candidates. Secondly, I would be very surprised if the news media Does Not continue to focus on these themes in their reporting of the candidates, except perhaps of course in their opinion and editorial sections. Not much will have changed from the basic circumstances n the last election except it becomes more important for those who are more “analytical” in choosing and advocating local political leaders to also focus not only on policies and platforms but also on electability.

              • Hold that thought. I’ve been working on the followup report on Rappler/Roxas that likely has information you have not considered.

                I disagree with your statement that the coming election is not significant. As the Senate goes, so goes the nation.

              • caliphman says:

                The importance of the coming election and whether the Senate will be key in the nation’s fate are topics for another day, at least for me. That past Senate elections manifest even more the tendency of Filipino voters to place primary importance on celebrity, personality, dynastic pedigree, and parochialism instead of whats good for the nation. That the majority of its members and leadership include the likes of Sotto, Pacquiao, Binay, Marcos, Pimentel, and other Duterte allies make it less likely that this institution will challenge or block the current regime from taking extraconstitutional steps to preserve ir seize even more power. Not when the few senators who try to do do like De Lima end up languishing in jail and those who curry favor with the president are rewarded with cabinet posts or continuing positions of power in a changed form of government. So it is indeed with eager anticipation and hope that I await any future blogs with new information on these topics that I failed to consider.

              • But the point is that the 2019 election is very, very important. It is a staging election for 2022 presidential candidates. It tells whether opposition or pro-Duterte groups gain more power. It is the last vestige of democracy at work in the Philippines.

              • caliphman says:

                Joe, do not get me wrong as we are both rooting for change for the better. But as former artillery men should know, be current trajectories are the best determinants of where shells will land. It is not clear to me that secondary elections do set the stage for outcomes in a following presidential selections, unlike as it is here in the US. And so far, the prospects against democracy have progressively from bad to worse. The forces of darkness grow ever thicker over rhe horizon. One thing I am certain , it will not be through media but an awakening of the masses in a fair and free election that will change those trajectories.

              • Poe was launched to national prominence through the senate. Duterte-Carpio will use the same trajectory, is my artilleryman’s assessment. 🙂 I think media are vitally important in awakening (or rocking to sleep) the masses. They are the candidate’s amplifiers. But it’s okay if we disagree because otherwise it would be boring around here.

              • NHerrera says:

                It certainly ain’t boring round here. Top of the morning to you fellow pilgrims in this fast-filling Earth ship of ours!

              • LG says:

                More same to you NH.

              • caliphman says:

                Joe, on your last point, I agree to agree 🙂

      • Francis says:

        I apologize for being too heated in my tone; I was peeved because—in my opinion—there are far worse contributers/more significant reasons why Roxas lost. And to clarify: that doesn’t mean I pin the blame on Roxas or his campaign; they did the best, given the hands they were dealt with. I believe that the reasons for Roxas’ loss are much deeper—structural and institutuonal in nature. Some deep fundamental flaws in society.

        In fact, I would even argue that the “Filipino media” being emotional and sensational is not even purely their fault or responsibility alone—but partially due to the fact that the media is forced and cannot avoid mirroring the society they inhabit in. Where are the machinations and debates within political parties, within their rank-and-file to report on—in a society where “political party” might as well as be a paper certificate. Where are the ideological struggles to report on—in a society where abstractions like ideologies mean absolutely nothing to most people? We ask, “Why can’t the Filipino media have more in-depth and substantial reporting?”

        Rappler does what it can. They try their best to really go beyond the whole “camp v. camp” horse-race style of politics; for instance, they did an article on the LP’s (then) new manifesto last year—which I found very nice. They have podcasts on transportation issues and host some hard-hitting analysis.

        But I am going off-topic.

        You are right in that I wasn’t addressing the main point of this article: that is, Rappler’s alleged responsibility in helping Roxas lose and by implication—the general lack of news outlets capable of providing “objective” reporting and following that, the lack of watchdogs to keep news outlets “honest” with regards to their duties.



        I don’t agree with the idea of “objectivity” having this absolute importance. “Objectivity,” for instance, works (mostly) fine in the natural sciences—but not so much in the social sciences where the subject of study is the complex, irrational human being. I think that “journalism” is a sort-of kin to the social sciences, in that their common subject is the human being—human life, human society.

        Humans are complicated. It is far easier to measure how much chemicals to put in a flask than to measure the varying, constantly changing qualities of a human being.


        I think news outlets have two roles: (1) to provide “objectivity” in terms of giving “factually-correct” information and—where there are normative elements in the facts involver—to report them in a maner as balanced as possible (i.e. give all perspectives) and (2) to provide “normativity” by giving space to “well-reflected and rigorous” commentary. This is coincidentally also the role of “analysis” outlets (what I referred in comments in some long ago articles as “intermediaries” between academic/policy elites and the educated citizenry) like The Atlantic or Current Affairs in the US and the vibrant non-fiction book scene there distilling complex issues into something that is widelt understandable by the public at large.

        My feeling is that news outlets and “analysis” outlets differ in that news outlets focus more on (1) while “analysis” outlets focus more on (2). However—the point which I would like to emphasize is that news outlets always have both (1) and (2): hence—why there is the opinion page (2) in the Inquirer and everything else (1)..

        Why can’t we do away with messy (2) and just stick to the “facts” with (1) and all? That is because journalism reports on the lives of human beings—and to get a fuller picture, (2) is necessary. A gut feel—something that can’t be crunched in numbers or hard fact.


        However—the bar for opinion pieces (2) is not lower than for factual reporting (1). Only different. In (1)—the expectation is “truth” in that the facts are solid; the expectation in (2) on the other hand is a “well-reflected” or “rigorous” interpretation of the truth. And interpretations cannot be absolutely true or wrong—just well-argued and based on facts or not.

        (But an argument based on facts still cannot be absolutely true—only well-argued.)

        Take for instance this objective fact: the Gini coefficient (which measures inequality) is rising for Country X.

        A leftist commentator would argue that the objective evidence (the rise in the Gini coefficient) calls for a certain normative stance: an expansion of welfare policies to combat this rise in inequality. A conservative commentator with different principles would argue that, on the other hand, would normatively judge the objective evidence provided (the rise in Gini coefficient) differently and argue that the benefits of the booming economy outweigh this rise in inequality, and that actually, inequality is not something absolutely bad as human beings have inherently different capabilities and work ethics…

        No one can said to be absolutely “true” or “false” in this debate. And the hypothetical commentators will never reach an absolute agreement on who is “true” or “false” because they both have different, irreconcilable principles/norms/values.

        But the leftist and conservative commentator can nonetheless engage in dialogue so long as the objective facts they build their normative analysis/judgements on are factual and so long as their normative analysis/judgements are “rigorous” i.e. no contradictions, fallacies minimized as much as possible.


        “Then there was the patterned approach to news followed by all Philippine media, the “He said”, “She said”, point and counterpoint articles run separately rather than put together to create a story of removed and balanced journalistic perspective.”

        “Mar Roxas to Grace Poe: Let’s talk – May 6”
        “Poe to Roxas: ‘We have nothing to talk about” – May 6”

        This falls under (1) for the duties of news outlets.

        You are right. These two articles should have condensed into one article—to contrast the views of the candidates above, rather than this “he said, she said” format. This is something Rappler should consider.


        “My initial reaction in looking over the lists of articles was that Rappler was just doing its job of reporting on election activities. There were articles that favored Roxas and a few that did not. But two articles did pop out as particularly damaging. They fed into the idea that Roxas, a man of decency and rich experience, was failing. He was making mistakes. He was a flawed person. Other articles repeated the themes of these two articles.”

        I put this under (2) for the duties of news outlets as examples of analysis which is inherently normative.

        >“What’s not working for Mar Roxas? – Run on Feb 9, by Glenda M. Gloria. The article said “Roxas’ messaging has been erratic at best – or a failure at worst – in the last two decades.”, said Roxas got himself into controversies he should avoid, and suggested Daang Matuwid was risky and Roxas needed to own the mistakes of the Aquino Administration to make it work (which, of course, would not exactly be steering clear of controversies). The article closed by citing how LP members were “jumping ship” for other candidates. (Note, this is a very important point: the author criticizes Roxas for the fact LP people shifted allegiance; she does not criticize the people jumping ship or the culture that promotes it. She does not consider that local politics in a tribal arena is more dominant than national politics.)”


        There is “objectivity” in that—as far as I know—the article was discussing facts (events that did factually happen) and more importantly, the interpretation of these facts were as sound as any “normative” judgement could be: the reporter built her analysis not by asking some random person on the street but via expert opinion (a member of the academe who was interviewed) who offered a reasonable critique of the campaign.


        It was a reasonable critique: it is implied that the campaign’s potential problems to sustain popularity (in points #1, 2, 3 of the article) may pragmatically affect the willingness of LP members to support the campaign (point #4). I don’t think that is an unfair or even uncommon assessment whether in the Philippines or in the West; there are thousands of articles, I am sure, about Candidate X having difficulty in getting support from his/her partymates. It also did not solely blame Roxas for this “jumping of ship” as the article also cited expert opinion showing how it is possible that the good perfomance of Aquino may not necessarily transfer to the campaign.

        >“The LP hopes Aquino’s popularity and overall good satisfaction ratings will boost their candidates’ numbers, particular during the official campaign period when Aquino is expected to push aggressively for his bets.”

        >“Again, Arugay sees a flaw in that plan. “The assumption is that the way Philippine politics is conducted is based on institutions or based on affiliations, and not personal. But it’s personal. Aquino’s satisfaction ratings are his. It’s not transferrable,” he said.”


        Anyone can agree with this critique. Or not. The point is it minimally satisfies the requirements for normative dialogue—the “well-argued” criteria that we were talking about for the normative aspect of news outlets (a) regardless of whether I agree with the normative content or not (b).

        “(Note, this is a very important point: the author criticizes Roxas for the fact LP people shifted allegiance; she does not criticize the people jumping ship or the culture that promotes it. She does not consider that local politics in a tribal arena is more dominant than national politics.)”

        And a Marxist could criticize this blog article for not including anything about the class situation in the Philippines. And an institutionalist could criticize this blog article for focusing too much on “culture” as opposed to the institutional arrangements that ensured Duterte’s rise to power. A normative judgement operating on different norms is not automatically invalid. It is annoying and irritating—but not wrong—to find an article built on a different philosophical/normative framework compared to mine.

        As much as I want to—I will not automatically say that conservative arguments are bull. Rather—it is my obligation, despite being a left-leaning sort-of guy to listen to their arguments and if they are sound per the criteria we discussed, engage with them and see whether I am swayed or not. If I am not swayed, that is that. If I am, good for that guy.

        >“Mar Roxas: His own enemy by Bea Cupin who followed the Roxas campaign for three months. The article originally ran Nov 11, 2011 and was updated on Feb 26, 2016, prior to the campaign period. The article characterized Roxas as being detail oriented and not presidential, said he connected off-camera but not on-camera, said Daang Matuwid was a trap and Roxas needed to be smart about it, and implied Roxas did not have the “courage” needed where courage was somehow related to being bombastic. (A few weeks later, Rappler editors judged that Roxas delivered the best closing remarks of all debate contestants. On camera.)”

        I would understand the disappointment with this article—calling it as something that “feeds” the beast—to be disproportionate to the actual state of the article. I went through the article and the impression that I got is that—yes, the author did criticize Roxas on his possible weakness in terms of emotionally connecting to voters and links to the faults of the administration at that time—but it wasn’t a one-sided hit job. For instance, this passage:

        “Mar Roxas off-cam is different from Mar Roxas on-cam. This much we’ve witnessed first-hand. In an off-the-record dinner that the Rappler team had with him last June, Roxas talked off-the-cuff, recalled anecdotes that were either funny or sad, cited statistics but just enough for us to chew on, and actually shared certain things that we mulled over long after dinner.“

        What I saw in the article was not malicious insults or even arrogant condescending advice but something akin to a sympathetic friend giving blunt, but honest advice: praising the good, calmly advising to look into the not-so-good. The Rappler article did not fail to note his good points (detail oriented or the fact that “away from the camera” — he was quite charismatic) but tried to balance some of those good points with critical but polite advice regarding how some of those good points may have flaws that the campaign could work on, i.e:

        “Roxas talks and leaves you with data, information and jargon, not nuggets of wisdom. He leaves you with a specific solution to a specific problem, but doesn’t help you understand what’s at stake. The millennial voter is not a bureaucrat. She wants – and needs – perspective.“

        In any case—as analysis—they were all part of the normative (2) duties of a news outlet which Rappler has all the rights to conduct. I am assuming that the normative analysis is grounded on objective fact, i.e. the statements that Roxas was cited as saying were correct and Rappler was truthful in relying their experiences with Roxas—so that leaves the issue of whether the normative judgement in the article was “sound” or “well-argued” :

        It was comprehensive, covering both good points and bad points of the article. The premises connected with the conclusions, as far as I know.

        The premises may be disagreeable: the premises that “emotions are absolutely and definitively crucial in getting a candidate elected” and “the Aquino administration had some fundamental flaws” may be disagreeable to those who would hold contrary norms or believe in different premises, i.e. that “rational objectivity” is possible and the highest/noblest aim, or that the Aquino administration was fundamentally positive, with all flaws outweighed by the sheer positives.

        Does that make anyone automatically a bad or immoral person for holding those contrary premises—that rational objectivity is possible, or that the Aquino administration had some deep flaws to reckon with? Does that make any article automatically invalid for holding such normative judgements? I don’t think so.

        I don’t think that just because I disagree with the premises, the fundamental norms of an argument—I should automatically throw it away and render it invalid*.

        (Note the asterisk. There are circumstances where one has to consider certain arguments invalid. When they are fundamentally immoral or malicious.)


        “But the most telling set of articles attempted to describe in human terms the three major candidates. All three were authored by Patricia Evangelista and Nicole Curato.”

        “Think of what words mean, just looking at the titles. We draw from Roxas that he is not his own man, that Grace Poe is extending a living legend, and Rodrigo Duterte is angelic or godly. What a difference had the Roxas title been “The Experience of Mar Roxas”. One word completely shaded the takeaway by millions who got no further than the headline.
        The conclusions of the three articles completed the destruction job on Roxas. Here are the three endings to the articles, verbatim, with Poe and Duterte first, then Roxas:”

        I think that the point of these articles is to give the “idealized” worst and “idealized” best of each candidate. And I think they tried as much as possible to not give quarter or preference to any candidate in that regard: by calling Poe a mere “story,” they hint at her clear inexperience and they do not shy away from the bloodiness of Duterte—which is godly yes, but not angelic so much as demonic.

        Is this style of reporting wrong? To present the “idealized” worst and best of each candidate however creatively?

        First, I establish that this falls under the normative (2) duties of a news outlet. Rappler is well within their right to go “mushy” sentimental with these articles. Now, given that this is normative (2) is the normative judgement sound or well-argued?

        What Rappler offered in these articles where hypothetical idealizations—models. To construct models is a technique that natural scientists, social scientists and philosophers often use. To use “worst possible” and “best possible” assumptions is a common technique in investigation and analysis of many things. The goal that Rappler was trying to do was to capture the subjective best possible and worst possible to facilitate a certain comparison among the voter:

        Given Candidate X at his worst/best, would I find him/her preferable to Candidates Y & Z at their worst/best.

        But why not just offer a plain, “objective” line-up of their CVs? Why go for this mushy subjective stuff?

        Because the journalists, politicians, political scientists—their subject of study or analysis are human beings. You cannot capture the essence of human beings on purely scientific, objective or empirical grounds; this is virtually a consensus in the social sciences. When studying humans—there will always be something fuzzy, something emotional or normative.

        A plain list of credentials could not capture the essence of Roxas, Poe and Duterte as well as a series of thoughtful reflections on the idealizations that people have of them. People relate to people not just because “I knew you had a score of 98 in that Math exam we took together and therefore you are an objectively good teacher” but because “I played with you, I saw how kind you were with us, I saw how kind you were with children and your juniors—I know you will treat my kid right in your class” — which cannot be quantified or neatly tabulated. That’s just part of being human,


        “Are you being a cultural relativist, Francis? Does that mean that any norms—so long as they are well-argued—are sound?”

        No, I am not.

        Note the asterisk earlier.

        There is a fundamental criterion—I wouldn’t call it objective, only moral—that distinguishes between arguments you can disagree with but still engage with/recognize the
        relative validity of, and arguments you must throw outright of the debate. That fundamental criterion, in my opinion, is malice or good faith.

        I—a center-left guy, a social democrat—can engage with a conservative because I know that the conservative is practicing his beliefs in good faith or not being malicious. I will NOT extend the same courtesy to a fascist, because a fascist’s fundamental beliefs are just inherently malicious and hurtful.


        @Joeam, I think that what you find most disagreeable with Rappler’s reporting is the “emotionalism” of their reporting.

        Personally, I would side with Rappler in that—with regards to their normative pieces/commentary and analysis articles—they are well-within their rights to have such articles so long as their arguments are done without malice or in good faith.

        (That means I acknowledge the point that you have made regarding their “he said, she said” reporting style—that is something that is detrimental to balance and therefore to the objectivity of the facts reported (1) however I consider it a venial sin of sorts, in that the format was wrong i.e. separate articles, but Rappler nonetheless presented both sides.)

        I think that, from the perspective of Rappler—their focus on the “emotions” of the public and the ability of Roxas to connect with such—was something that they found necessary to give a truly holistic reporting of the situation. It is not enough to report on mere “facts,” mere “events,” but to attempt to capture the pulse of the nation, the zeitgeist—which may be in part subjective. In Rappler’s eyes—it was incumbent on them (and I agree) as a news outlet to also capture the subjective dimensions of the campaign season.

        Was it inherently malicious or not done in good faith?

        I don’t think so. The tone of “Mar Roxas: his own enemy” shows that Rappler was merey offering their (subjective/normative) take on things in good faith. Rapplers was just, as humanly possible, offering their best analysis of the situation. One can criticize them for being “wrong” (i.e. not agreeing with my specific norms/frameworks) but not for being malicious.


        Which explains Ressa’s tweet—which was not a denial, but frustration.

        Imagine being close friends with this cop who you even drink with—and this cop suddenly sees you jaywalking and fines you 50000 pesos and kept you jail for a month. Yes, you committed a violation (jaywalking) but the punishment was disproportionate to the offense committed. You too would be a bit irritated.

        Ther are far worse culprits for why we have Duterte. And Rappler doesn’t even come to Top 100 reasons why.

        • Francis says:


          Of course—I do agree with the conclusion that you @Joeam and @Micha made at the end of one of these comment threads—which is that Rappler should have done something akin to an editorial endorsement. I actually wish all our major outlets would be just as honest as outlets abroad in their editorial convictions; for instance, it is common for news outlets in some countries abroad to offer endorsements.

          But I acknowledge @Irineo’s point regarding our petty factionalism and tendency to go “us v. them” — I think the lack of an “endorsement” culture among our major news outlets is just them being pragmatic. Para hindi sila pag-initan ng mga namumuno. So that those in power will not bully them—regardless of who is in power. Reminds me of rumors of how some businessmen just give money to everyone—not so much for corruption or to get advantage—but just to survive…


        • Francis, thanks for the elaborate response, which caused me to chuckle because, while writing on next Friday’s second iteration of this story, I had just typed that facts are truth, but opinions are only one person’s impression of truth. So I agree with you on that point. I agree that Rappler/Roxas as an issue pales in comparison with other current social/political events. But I think the episode, as a bigger lesson on journalism, is important and, as I have used the Inquirer as a whipping boy in the past, Rappler is it this time. The other thing is, that as blog editor, I have the luxury of writing about my pet dog if I am in the mood. The blog is available for guest articles, so you can elevate any issue you please right to the front burner.

          I appreciate your parsing of the Rappler articles and your takeaway that they are wholly within the realm of proper writing. I’ll pend comment on your line “so long as their arguments are done without malice or in good faith” until next week.

          Let me ask you for one-line responses to the following questions:

          1) Do Filipino voters generally make well-reasoned choices?

          2) Is the cultural observation that, in the Philippines, “good people are too often seen as weak and bad people as strong” a fair one?

          3) “Rappler does what it can” you say. Is this true of all newspapers and televisions news outlets in the Philippines? That is, they are beyond criticism?


          • karlgarcia says:

            One line without addendum. 😊

          • Francis says:

            It is hard to be brief. I shall try.

            R1) Filipinos make well-reasoned choices as logically as any other human being in any other nation-society—but the menu of choices open to them is limited by institutional and structural constraints in the society they live in.

            R2) It is a fair cultural observation to say that in the Philippines, “good people are often seen as weak and bad people” but this observation should be nuanced by the possibility* that “culture” is merely the rational adaptation (or to use a term that Irineo used: a rational habitus) of Filipinos in response to the institutional and structural form of Filipino society.

            Alternative—and more pithy one liner: Culture merely flows from institutions and structures; observe the latter for the roots, as culture—however grave—is maybe* only a symptom.

            R3) The Filipino media is not beyond criticism—but (like the average Filipino) the Filipino media is shaped not only by its own internal culture, but by institutional and structural factors in society that are simply beyond its control; one could even say that the former is shaped in the latter’s image, to a significant extent.

            *Not a consensus. Just the paradigm through which I prefer to see things.

            • 1. Agree
              2. Agree, but I’d argue it is eggs and chickens circular, as politicians cater to what people have learned to like.
              3. Okay

              You believe the change should be driven by institutions where people are empowered to develop structures and lead citizens to prosperity. The problem is, it is a democracy, and those citizens vote, and that is an institution in itself. Media are the passers of information between other institutions and the voters. If one says, “we can do better”, one ends up at a loss as to how to get there. I just chose to jump into the middle of the information institution. You might chose to jump in elsewhere. But something has to be done or the damaged culture just keeps eating away at itself.

              • ps, as a bit of a personal observation from an elder, I encourage you to strive for more brevity in your remarks. That is, from all the ideas flying around in your high-capacity cranium, learn to sift yourself so you hit readers over the head with the important takeaways rather than explain everything. It is easy for us of little attention span to drift off and miss your superior wisdom. But if your typewriter runs off to do a book-length comment, do please post that here, too. There is plenty of space.

              • NHerrera says:

                Also from this elder — and a slow reader — I second that suggestion.

            • Francis says:


              (I cannot help it.)

              In my opinion—the institutions and structural arrangements of society are like a giant maze.

              “Where we go” is conditioned by this maze. Now—to teach the mouse strategies to overcome this maze better (focusing on culture) is important, but this would be more effective if we were to just make the maze easier.

              On R1:

              We criticize the Filipino for constantly re-electing dynasties. The question though is does he or she have an alternative choice—especially at the local level? If you look at the “menu” of choices available to an average Filipino citizen, the menu is quite sparse: “vote,” “beg/petition politician for personal assistance.” Thanks to social media, that has expanded to: “shame politician.”

              That is because of the way our institutions and societal structures are arranged. We have no political parties, no “analysis” outlets capable of sustaining sophisticated discourse that can aggregate individual demands into distinct collective demands that can be molded into ideologies, platforms, specific and thoughtful policies.

              Look at the West. The difference is palpable.

              The average American—for instance—has a feast of choices available to him or her if he or she wants to make a difference. The menu is relatively rich: “vote in primaries,” “vote in national elections,” “join an interest group/advocacy organization,” “run in a primary,” “shame politician,” “petition politician,” “join local chapter of a political party,” “participate in local campaigns by phone-banking or going door-to-door,” “donate to a politician or political party you support,” etc.

              This difference has severe concrete implications.

              Why is institutional weakness—i.e. the absence of intermediary imstitutions between citizens and elites like political parties—not a trivial concern?

              Observe the difference between the 2018 midterms in the US and our own midterms in 2019.

              The opposition in the US can—because of the existence of institutions like political parties and interest groups—counter Trump’s influence by winning seats in the House and Senate. Maybe even (as the polls foresee) take away the administration party’s majority in the House—a powerful check to the Trump administration.

              An average American who disagrees with the current administration can find many outlets to make his or her voice heard.

              Meanwhile—the opposition in the Philippines has no choice but to concede the House to the administration because in the Philippines, political parties might as well be the equivalent of rock band names with band members going in and out, este partymates defecting to whoever’s sitting on the pile of pork. It is only the Senate that can be contested.

              An average Filipino who disagrees with the current administration finds few outlets to make his or her voice heard. Not that there aren’t any—but the paucity of options makes one feel powerless. Servile.

              Maybe Filipinos are so deferential because they don’t know any other way to live?

              On R2:

              A. The Filipino has only taken to this sort of thinking because this is what was logical to survive. The bad people had all the power and the good people had none. The answer is simple: give the good people leverage.

              B. If you put a group of people (i.e, Filipinos) in a society with these sort of institutional and structural arrangements—the “pettiness” that we often criticize (i.e. the “us v. them” dynamics, the factionalism, the flattery, etc.) is not so much irrational emotionalism as it is a survival tactic. The citizen fish has adapted in response to the polluted waters, to be bitter and cyncial in order to merely survive.

              Telling the citizen fish to be act like a freshwater fish while still being in polluted waters will end up in the citizen fish dying or the citizen fish begging to be placed in some koi pond somewhere. Which is why many citizen fishes become Overseas Fishes and go to the foreign aquariums, rivers and lakes.

              My take on things is: clean up the waters, while gradually making the citizen fish relearn what it means to be a freshwater fish again. Both actions must be simultaneous—and one without the other will be useless and impotent.

              On R3:

              I am not saying the Filipino media is blameless—things like the “payola” system show that there is something rotten internally—only that 1) it doesn’t hold all the blame for its current state, and that 2) focusing in it may not be the most productive line of action or to recall my Econ 11 class: focusing on the media yields the least marginal returns.

              That is just my opinion though.

              1) You have to consider several other factors why the Filipino media—and the state of Filipino discourse ingeral—is the way it is, besides internal faults:

              a. It is hard to report on “more than personalities” if the way power is institutionally and structurally arranged in society—institutions have not so much power, and dynasties and personalities have all the power.

              The reason Western media doesn’t just report on personalities, but on “issues” is because in the West—personality isn’t as essential to how power is arranged there. Which is not to say that it is not essential—but it is balanced by other factors. I don’t know how to exactly put it, but consider the difference between Pelosi and Arroyo.

              In Pelosi—you would see reportage probably talk about her difficulties with the insurgent progressive wing of the Democratic party who ground their opposition on the basis of ideological (read: principle-based) differences. In Arroyo—you’d likely see reportage talking about her close personal ties to certain people, etc.

              b. A lot of the blog article’s criticism focused on commentary. I think that this is a bit misplaced even when applied to the Filipino media in general—because I think that the Filipino media is stretched enough already as it is.

              What I mean is that it is not the main job of the Filipino media to precisely lay the grounds of substantial normative discourse. I bring up again this part of my comment:

              >“I think news outlets have two roles: (1) to provide “objectivity” in terms of giving “factually-correct” information and—where there are normative elements in the facts involver—to report them in a maner as balanced as possible (i.e. give all perspectives) and (2) to provide “normativity” by giving space to “well-reflected and rigorous” commentary. This is coincidentally also the role of “analysis” outlets (what I referred in comments in some long ago articles as “intermediaries” between academic/policy elites and the educated citizenry) like The Atlantic or Current Affairs in the US and the vibrant non-fiction book scene there distilling complex issues into something that is widely understandable by the public at large”

              >“My feeling is that news outlets and “analysis” outlets differ in that news outlets focus more on (1) while “analysis” outlets focus more on (2). However—the point which I would like to emphasize is that news outlets always have both (1) and (2): hence—why there is the opinion page (2) in the Inquirer and everything else (1).”

              The Filipino media—by that, I mean the news outlets—are forced to do both 1) and 2) even with the tremendous lack of “analysis” outlets to enrich and elevate commentary and discourse. @Joeam, if I had a billion dollars—I’d maybe throw some to Inquirer and tell them to tripe their opinion column space. I tell you, I don’t know how you can make someone “educated” regarding issues on such a measly space.

              But it’s not the job of news outlets alone to give this sort of in-depth interepretations of the truth. It’s their primary job to dig up the solid “truth” we need to build our rigorous interpretations if the truth on. The New York Times can do some investigative journalism on say, the repurcussions of climate change, the raw facts and facts of facts of facts—but it is the job of more commentary-oriented New Yorker and The Atlantic to spell out the deep normative, the moral implications of said facts.

              We lack the latter type of outlets a lot. Which is why—if I may be blunt—we Filipinos have a very babyish attitude to discourse.

              (I would personally grill Filipino media more for failings on 1) because that’s their main job and be more lenient on failings with 2) because it’s not their fault that they have to make up for the institutional gaps in society, i.e. the lack of a widespread and accessible ecosystem of “analysis” outlets.

              I think we should refine our criticisms of Filipino media—and of Filipino discourse in general by clearly separating two “burdens” :

              1. The objective burden: capacity to find solid facts, factual truths

              2. The normative burden: capacity to give rigorous, well-reflected interpretations of said truths necessary to good action

              • Francis says:


                I apologize for the length, I only saw the comments advising brevity when I had posted this comment hahaha

              • Francis says:


                triple not tripe

              • karlgarcia says:

                At least you tried.

              • Guess people indeed need some time to develop independence towards authority.

                There are cities where citizen participation already exists – examples are Naga and Iloilo.

                But what did resisting mean in the countryside so very often – it could mean getting KILLED.

                Whether it was during the warlord times of the late 1940s / early 1950s – remember Moises Padilla, or the re-ignited warlord period of the late 1960s / early 1970s – remember Governor Floro Crisologo, or Ramon Durano, or martial law, or post-martial law depending on where..

                Of course traditional face and power Filipino culture hardly provided a way of giving any form of constructive criticism. Any criticism affected the entire person and his social position. Whether it was the kanto boy whom you (even accidentally) slighted, to have him and his barkada waiting for you on your way home, lucky for you if you survived that, or whether it was the powerful person who would either send his goons or set you up in “legal” manner. Semi-Western liberal democracy only existed for urban and professional elites, that’s it.


                Naga and Iloilo, even Cebu’s friendly form of patronage under Osmena are progress.

                The families who attended the wedding of Ampatuan’s daughter dislike that progress I think.


                Institutions like you mentioned are weak or personalized. There are very few like COA which work like “anonymous machinery”, as “Weberian bureacracies” as per Max Weber. DFA and AFP were already changing, PNP in part as well, but that is being reversed now.

              • The most realistic analyses of Filipino power and politics are IMHO those of MLQ3, for those who don’t know, Manuel Quezon III.

                In my opinion, the Filipino millenials started to think they were living in modern country, starting to develop modern habits. Duterte has shown them how mistaken they were, that the power bases especially in the provinces rest on a totally different reality.

          • caliphman says:

            Francis, your verbosity nearly rivals the kilometric exchanges between two regulars here. The now apparently retired commenter Parekoy and his nemesis but still active partner, Irineo. What impresses me by far is that nary a typo or mispelling shows up in the torrent of verbiage and thought put forth in your posts. I am truly

  27. In the end, who owns (social and traditional) media these days? Can writers be truly independent when the channel they write for live by ads and their own career, awards and financial ambitions? Who are their advertisers? Do they still view their readers as their true publishers, thus accountable to them?

    Journalism, per se, has been suffering from integrity issues with by-the-envelope payola figureheads, PR spin doctors, and now fake news and troll propagandists. Words remain powerful, but this time whoever owns the channel or the algorithm wins its subscribers’ hearts and minds.

    The classic profit or people dilemma has never been more pronounced, and bloggers get trained to “show me the money” instead of presenting themselves as alternative journalism.They see trending scandals and viral gossips as their ticket to fame (or infamy) and fortune (or fakery).

    Not everyone succumbs to bad journalism and ugly blogging, but on the other side are people running headless in trying to discern fact from fake, truth from terror, shocked as they are by the sudden influx of social media memes and idiocies in their news feeds.

    SC Justice Lourdes Sereno was right to remind everyone about the beauty of fixed points to arrest vertigo and confusion, especially in the wilderness of information deluge. Truth and facts used to be journalism’s twin fixed points.They remain everyone’s best weapon to fight back deliberate ignorance, revisionism and miseducation.

    Only this time more strategically designed, used, curated, shared and promoted.

    Digital media truly leveled the playing field, for both evil and good. We already know what evil is capable of. It’s time we let the good in us shine through and win hearts and minds one truth and fact strategically shared and amplified at a time. Not within echo chambers and certainly not by feeding the trolls.

    Oprah Winfrey and Christiane Amanpour instruct us further: BE THE TRUTH.

  28. Tweeto Wakatono says:

    When all is said and done about Mar Roxas failing to see the handwriting in the swamp water it should be said that a country and its people failed in the last Presidential election to see that EVIL runs in Cold Blood in the hearts and veins among politicians, their family members and beneficiaries who should have been punished for DOING the country heinous harm. The devil in politics can never be HIBERNATING has beens when alive and out of jails.

  29. Joone Buelva says:

    When I was young I admired and read Benjamin Franklin. When I got older I have read Ralph Waldo Emerson and I admired him ,too. Now that I’m quite old there’s Joe America, as current as socmed and must be the american sage for the Philippines. How I wish Duterte to fall soonest so I can call on him to say, “Victory Joe!”

  30. LG says:

    Enlightening, Joe. Much thanks.

  31. dale says:

    This article vividly expounded what i have profoundly imagined on why history keeps repeating itself – blunder after blunder, and then when things become really unbearable would they again try a decent man . When the country has regained much freedom and signs of prosperity, they want to bring themselves back under “power-crazy ” and oppressive politicians. Of course – i don’t want to be counted with them … . There are still a lot of decent Filipinos who vote rationally, but are sadly outnumbered …. so perplexed on this strange phenomena that is plaguing our country.

    • sonny says:

      “There are still a lot of decent Filipinos who vote rationally, but are sadly outnumbered …. so perplexed on this strange phenomena that is plaguing our country.”

      This remains to be the ironies of a democracy: one man, one vote. No matter how wise or foolish the individual, how truthful or deceitful the information one employs, one vote counts like any other. The multiplier effect for good or bad is realized only after the fact and over a period of time.

      • I still stand by my opinion that the Philippines is only surface Christianized, and that the mentality is closer to that of the marauding tribes after Rome’s downfall than to established Christianity, even if Christianity is deep in (very) few. From our discussions, I have had two major takeaways that I would like to summarize for all:

        1) in case one has no chance to fight (yet), communities of praxis and “ora et labora” are the way – proving that one can get stuff done is something even the illiterate heathen gets. By now I have the conjecture that the barbarians overrunning for example present-day Bavaria spared the monks not because they wrote and spoke Latin, but because their monasteries were efficient agribusiness operations by the standards of the day. Even the most stupid King will now that the key to keeping a Kingdom under his rule is to feed his people well. The present failure of NRA and Pinol has brought me to that point.

        -> VP Leni is an example of ora et labora. The fruits of her work are showing by now.

        2) You have mentioned that converted heathens were very important in spreading the Christian gospel. Indeed because the “wild ones” have to be fetched from where they are.

        -> There is a reason why Trillanes and Alejano have a certain appeal to groups that the classic “yellow” crowd cannot reach. The military way projects both civilized restraint and the possibility of using strength to those who with the “tito/tita” mentality (c) madlanglupa.

        • sonny says:

          Irineo there is much that is triggered by your reply,

          “… my opinion that the Philippines is only surface Christianized, and that the mentality is closer to that of the marauding tribes after Rome’s downfall than to established Christianity, even if Christianity is deep in (very) few.”

          The ascent from ignorance to insight to enlightenment is a long and tortuous journey both for the individual soul and a nation. This is so true for the Philippines and the Filipinos. Christianity has been at it for the last 500 odd years, we had to go through this journey by way of the mercantilism of Christian Spain, then the long-distance American democratic governance and now the fits and starts of an indigenous demography trying so hard painfully searching for that system of individuals and institutions that will fit our current socio-political-economic hybrid configuration of a people.

          “… ora et labora”

          Prayer and work. We can look as you point out to the progression of Catholic Bavaria as the spiritual and material child of the Benedictine option, from its barbaric tribes to today’s current quiet and civilized Bavarian countryside (peppered by monasteries that housed the Benedictine monks who worked the region with prayer, study and manual labor for centuries.

          “… VP Leni is an example of ora et labora. The fruits of her work are showing by now.”

          VP Leni is also an economist. She was under the Bendictine environment in her pursuit of her MBA at San Beda. I am purely surmising that something happened during her contact with the monastic ideal, albeit relatively, briefly. This contact with the Benedictine way of life must have inspired to take her current path of quiet, steady social work/reform even in the middle of the turmoil around her.

          • One can see the contrast and the continuity between the old and the new looking at one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries (and breweries) on the hilltop of Freising (pretty much a fortress against barbarians back in the earlier days, but the present building is not that old) and the present School of Life Sciences of the Technical University of Munich – in Freising, basically building on the old tradition of the monastery. The most famous part of that school being the possibility to do a masters in brewery science, with practical experience gained at the brewery which is still there. The more modern stuff being nutritional science, fisheries, spectrometry and a lot more..

            Someone wrote that many of the Asians who learned their stuff at UPLB put it into practice better than Filipinos were able to – see present bukbok rice. I wonder why this is the case.

            Another person wrote that Department of Agriculture people in the field are mostly paper-pushers who hardly do any real projects. So is it in fact the government with it’s usual inefficiencies and innovation killers that is preventing effective use of knowledge?

    • Yes, how to get people away from heroes and making good decisions themselves. Today I think they don’t feel a sense of ownership of the nation. . . hmmmm, a blog topic here, I think. Thanks!!!

  32. Amy says:

    It’s all about running a good campaign (marketing the policies and persona). Many Filipinos wanted a tough straight-talking (even demonic unprincipled potty mouth) leader oddly enough. Duterte played dirty and promised to the hilt. Unfortunately, many are gullible enough and bought the garbage. As to Rappler, I think, by trying to give a balanced article, they have biased journos from every political persuasion. Noticed this same as in Inquirer, they have Sara leanings. The loudest wins out. Politics sucks. Strategize next election and appeal to the grassroots more with forceful convictions.

  33. andrewlim8 says:

    It’s Sept 1, and it’s Jose Mari Chan xmas carol time! Here’s the 2018 version, updated for the times.
    The verses fit the original, and the rhymes connect.

    (sung to the tune of Jose Mari Chan’s “ Christmas in our Hearts”)

    Whenever I see girls and boys
    Eating bukbok on the streets
    I remember the rice
    in the warehouse as they sleep

    Wherever there are people
    Buying fish exchanging words
    I believe these imports
    are truly from our seas

    Let’s fight our crisis, please
    For a bright tomorrow
    Where prices are at ease
    And all are one in God.

    (continued below)

    • andrewlim8 says:


      Let’s sing “ Merry Crisis
      and a crisis holiday”
      This season, may we never forget
      the price we pay for silence

      Leni, be the one to guide us
      As another new year starts
      And may the spirit of resistance
      Be always in our hearts!

      In every Chinese plane and ship
      we allow to skid and slip
      Losing all the respect
      Of our neighbors and our kin

      Our debt, like that bondage
      From that first Chinese loan
      Lead us back to the crisis
      When Marcos was in form.

      So come let us rejoin
      Come and sing the crisis carol
      With one big joyful voice
      Resist the lies of Digong!

  34. madlanglupa says:

    Other factors have been already in play, notably with social media having been weaponized and more powerful than Rappler’s articles, Roxas’ personality and past history, and all that unsurprisingly influenced voter decision. Also, much of the anti-Aquino videos were already in circulation long before even those articles which perhaps weakened Roxas’ image.

    Some disasters in the previous Aquino administration had, unfortunately with social media contributing to the rot, created the impression that weak leaders cannot do good, cause insecurity and want, widen the gap between rich and poor, and this rubbed onto Roxas’ image as well.

    From the viewpoint of the average social media user, what a mutual friend said is the so-called “tito”/”tita” mentality where there is no gray area and the only “enlightenment” is their religion, they want strong, action-oriented characters just like countless action movie heroes who don’t want to waste time with legalities and hand-wringing, and get to the point, put the fear of God in the hearts of their enemies and teach them a terrible lesson (i.e. a Fernando Poe Jr. movie included one scene where a street tough, after encountering the hero of the masses, found himself the next morning on top of an electric pole and waving a little Philippine flag) so that they could sleep easy in their beds. All they care about — as long as their *family* is protected as they go about their daily lives, instead of the well-being of the nation — is a President who acts like a king, a sultan who would punish anyone whom he sees as abhorrent and reward those who agree with him.

    This is the strong image that sold much more than the thinking and hesitating leader.

    Now some of are paying the price, while others have the task of challenging this growing, disturbing “normalcy” where justice is for the wealthy, prisons and jails are overflowing beyond capacity, the biggest crooks are rewarded, and we have Arroyo (more likely to take the role of kingmaker like Enrile) and Marcos (still salivating at the prospect of standing again at the Malacañang balcony after 30+ years) jockeying for supremacy and new riches in the coffers.


    By the way, here comes the triumphalist trolls. Prepare the Claymores and phougas.

    • 1) What the titos/titas don’t know – because they have never seen it at work – is that civilized, restrained power can be a lot more effective than unrestrained barbarism, which invites a cycle of violence even including the armed persons of the state.

      Even those titos/titas who live in modern countries where a quietly working police force is the key to a certain degree of peace and order don’t really care how it works so they don’t learn from that. I have looked at what is publicly reported about the likes of “Operation Archimedes” (the EU joint police operation against drugs, with years of intelligence work preceding simultaneous arrests in several countries, so the gangs have no chance to warn each other and destroy evidence) but I read about forensics in “Hardy Boys” as a kid.

      2) Of course economic booms cause crime in the beginning, as not everybody is included or some get their share only later. The economic boom of the 1960s in the Philippines created a new middle class with fancy cars (just look at the pictures from then) but also drunks on the streets, those who went to Manila and did not realize the same dream as the others. Those who had the fancy cars wanted someone to deal with their issues – NOW NA – and voted for Mr. “Action Agad” which was a Marcos motto. By 1971 there was the first rice crisis, by that time my mother decided that we join the UP Cooperative (just beside the UP Shopping Center for those who don’t know it) because.. there was NFA Rice there. But it took until the hardship of the early 80s to make most of the middle class go “yellow”..

    • edgar lores says:

      I laughed at that FPJ movie scene.

  35. Daves Zandueta says:

    As someone who reads Rappler every (other) day, I appreciate this piece. I like this part in particular:

    “The major media appear not to grasp the concept that democracy in the Philippines can thrive only if they are teachers of principle rather than parrots of popular ignorance and emotional immaturity.”

    Keep writing like you see it.

  36. LightningRod says:

    “Joeam helped to put Rappler out of business.”

    How about that for an emotionalized headline? Rappler was never in a position to help anyone to win or lose an election, like Joeam is not in a position to help trolls put Rappler out of business.

    It was Facebook who put Rodrigo Duterte and similar far-right candidates around the world over the hump. Rappler which prided itself it in its insurgent digital origins was blindsided by the Facebook revolution.

    Rappler has been hired by Facebook as a fact checker, but it’s dubious whether it’s making Facebook a more factual place. Trolls are winning, but only because Facebook incentivizes trolling

    Facebook is making it appear that it’s fighting back against organized trolling, recently announcing that it has detected organized efforts from Russian and Iranian actors to influence opinion in the US. But what about domestic operations?

    Facebook, it has been argued, is a public square that is agnostic to the issues of the day. I think that is a vile misconception. Values are everywhere. Racism’s ascendancy in the time of Trump is anathema to American values forged in the crucible of the Civil War. Ferdinand Marcos is justly relegated to the dustbin of history. Why can’t Facebook make such value judgments?

    • karlgarcia says:

      A Very informative comment.
      Trolls can be from troll farms or unknowing accomplices.

      What the hell trolling?
      Is it still about good or bad?
      Is it all about perceptions and impressions?
      is it just a matter of fact or a matter of opinion?
      Black,White, Prism, Spectrum….,

      Facebook will come and go like Friendster and MySpace Maybe in ten years, we will be talking about a different medium.

      We may have small minds in this large world that always needs a medium to make it just right or wrong.

    • Facebook is for sure worth a commentary. The focus of the story was Rappler, but the key word in the headline was “helped”, because Rappler was one of a lot of journalistic organizations who followed cultural norms of sneering at decency that was imperfect while being drawn to the magnetism of badboy strength that could not disappoint because, well, it was bad to begin with.

  37. karlgarcia says:

    I love this blog, unlike twelve years ago where I visit as many blogs I can, this is the only place I go( almost only the others are Irineo’s and sometimes Raissa’s).
    It pains me if Joe is accused of being a propagandist like what the late RHiro did before, who acted like a troll sometimes.
    Now Maria Ressa said that Joe wrote only what Mar wanted to see or hear. That is BS.
    She was advised wrong unless she is an avid TSH reader, nonetheless she did not do her research to have an informed opinion.

    • edgar lores says:

      A balanced Twitter response might be:

      “We were critical of all the candidates and not only of Mar Roxas. We presented the candidates, warts and all, for the voters to weigh. Yes, we did not endorse one or two — and perhaps we should have had. Comparatively, we might have concluded that Roxas was in the Top Two.”

      This is 274 characters. The last sentence may be struck off.

    • I’ve learned a lot since this article. Maria Ressa is defending her position, striking back in the emotional style that Rappler has grown accustomed to, where the “truth” they speak to power is the ideas running around in their heads, whether factual or fictional. More next Friday.

      • ps, I personally greatly appreciate your engagements here and backing, and am glad you find the blog enriching. Trust me, a LOT of people defend Joe America on line and I no longer get the Parekoy snipings about being an intruding foreigner from the hyper-nationalists. If they read here, they understand. If they don’t, they do speak from ignorance.

      • caliphman says:

        Ressa is no more emotional defending her journalistic and editorial conduct compared to some of the comments protecting Joe and TSOH have been. I fail to understand why these attack and defend exchanges are even necessary given the overwhelming odds facing the prodemocracy media. It is very divisive and just plays into the hands of the Duterte regime.

    • isk says:


      Yup, like me, I got hooked; saw joeam’s comment on Ellen’s Tordesillas blog years ago. The likes of Edgar Lores, chempo, IBR Salazar, Ireneo and of course you, the designated the librarian enlightens me of the complex issues in the Philippines.

      There’s so much to learn in here.

      Yes, many thanks to JoeAm.

  38. Bill In Oz says:

    Bad news sells big time. Good news belly flops. Journalists very where have this engrained in their professional thinking. After all selling the story means the job is secure. And this is so not just in the Philippines. It’s true in the US & in Australia…Bugger !

  39. NHerrera says:

    Reading TSH articles — exemplified by the current one on the Rappler-Roxas conundrum — is akin to a continuous education and re-education on “Uncertainty Principle.” [In Physics the Uncertainty Principle says the accuracy of determining the position and momentum, especially of the atomic and sub-atomic particles are related in the sense that the seemingly higher certainty in one comes at the expense of greater uncertainty in the other.]

    Coming back to the TSH articles, the lead idea of an article and the understanding of its plausibility is greatly diminished without the comments [amplification and other-side comments/ uncertainty (?)] provided by the well argued comments of the contributors. Thanks for the article and the comments — keep it coming guys. The technically-framed mind of this oldie can still learn or if not learn, still enjoy the to-and-fro of the discussion.

  40. Please allow me this response to Maria Ressa @mariaressa , Joe.

    I’m the only Society of Honor card carrying member who has been banned by Joe for perpetuity. Although I cannot comment any more, I still follow and read Joe’s blogs and the commentary. I was banned for a number of reasons but the last straw was my stance on culling there and in general, an academic and theoretical line of argument (which I hope I’ve been redeemed since Marvel’s “Infinity War” came out, basically I argued Thano’s case 😉 , but months before the movie screened thus original IMHO).

    I agree with you that the 2016 election was Mar’s to lose. I would also add that Joe himself is pro-Mar a staunch supporter (so too many of his readers). But the blog is not and was never simply a Mar Roxas echo chamber.

    I myself offered counterpoints, I believe during the run up to election day there, my man was Ms. “I-eat-death-threats-for-breakfast” lady (R.I.P.) , and yes just purely based on that one comment. But it wasn’t just me, plenty of others here pushed back on Joe’s articles— I personally pushed back on Mrs. Roxas and her dogs as humans comment (and she responded in kind). Sure I’d agree that the readership bends a certain way, but you are wholly wrong to think it is absent of fair and constructive criticism.

    That was my defence of Joe’s blog and its readership. Now for the part where Joe et al may disagree, but here is where me and you agree. It was Mar’s to lose.

    If you’ve read Julius Caesar’s Gallic War and Civil War you’ll get a sense of his genius in self-promotion and propaganda. It’s compiled in book form now but then it was simply a series of after action reports , reportage from the field, but you can read his laser focus on reaching straight to people, his writing style humble and his words simple and straight to the point, by passing the Roman high borns.

    Then you fastforward thru history and read Napoleon, who was also a fan of Caesar’s writings. And you study Napoleon’s rise to power and how deftly he used the newspapers and public opinion (he ended up acquiring a few publications). And even before his eventual rise you read his campaign to Egypt in which he ensured before going underway commandeered two or more Arabic printing presses in Italy. Then carefully disembarking them in Alexandria to begin his PR campaign for the hearts and minds of Egypt.

    Mar should’ve been more kissy-kissy with Rappler and its people, pled his case, wooed you guys, alas he was no Napoleon or Caesar. All water under the bridge. All that’s left now is your tweet, if you’re really a fan of speaking truth to power (which I too am, Ma’am), then you’d feature Joe’s article on Rappler. Just my humble opinion.

    Thanks, Joe! (hey, everyone!)

    • Irineo was once banned, but earned his way back. Micha has been banned, and lives on the cusp of falling off again now and then. But manages to stick with issues better these days. Your commentary usually adds greatly to the discussion here, but not when it is abject trolling or attacking my editorial prerogatives.

  41. Cha Coronel Datu says:

    To be honest, the title threw me off at first. There is a conclusiveness to “How Rappler Helped Defeat Mar Roxas” that opens itself to scrutiny rather than serving as an invitation for co-inquiry.

    JoeAm presents the context at the outset though :

    “I was busy extolling the virtues of Rappler the other day on twitter. I was taken aback by a response that was hostile to Rappler, blaming the news organization of bias against Mar Roxas. “Now they are whining about Duterte?” He had no sympathy at all for Rappler and their problems. I objected. He persisted. I said “I’ll look into it.””

    And I must confess that I too have found myself not always fully sympathetic with Rappler for some of the problems that beset it now. But that is a whole other story.

    I think JoeAm makes some strong, valid points about how Rappler has come short of its coverage of the last elections. Not so much that it helped defeat a particular candidate but that it has not fully lived up to the role of enlightening and educating the public on the problems and issues facing the country and how the candidates for future leadership were positioned to address those. My impression is that Rappler, as with the rest of Philippine media, focused far too much on the personalities involved, the twists and turns and all the other sideshows characteristic of a daily telenovela that Filipinos lve for, the he saids and the she saids of a campaign trail that was not wanting of cringe inducing sound bites. By so doing, it has detracted instead of engendering a problem solving approach and more forward thinking amongst the voting public.

    Now, for article title, maybe Joeam can follow the lead of writers Evangelista and Curato and go with something more cryptic. Like maybe – The Confabulations of Rappler . 😊

    • edgar lores says:

      The Thinking Conundrums of Rappler.

    • NHerrera says:

      Still going with the flow here. Somewhere above, Joe said that he used the operative word “helped” in the blog article. I too missed that until he pointed it out. Now, for a technically-minded fellow such as I am, that explains quite a bit. If he said for example that Rappler helped to a scale above 50% that would have meant one thing. But unqualifified as to “scale” he — I believe rightly — concluded with citations why Rappler did help. Sorry for this nitpicking, the wife must have stirred my coffee differently this morning. 🙂

    • Very eloquently stated, Cha. You moved the discussion in a positive way toward “what can media do to improve the level of discussion in the Philippines?” Excellent!

      • Cha Coronel Datu says:

        I just wish that Rappler would at least take a look at the list of feature stories and news reports you have listed above, choose a couple randomly and read through those with a view to learning from the past and seeking opportunities to do better. Maybe then, they might be able to see what you, I and some of the commenters here have seen – in my case, an excessive preoccupation with how a candidate should speak, act, carry himself and conduct his campaign instead of simply providing a platform for the candidate/s to present their plans and positions on the issues of the day. Also, I felt that the reporters, feature writers and their editors were generally more interested in getting their own opinions across about the candidates and their campaigns instead of encouraging their readers to form their own opinions. Whether their opinions actually did sway readers towards or against certain candidates, we have no way of knowing. But there is a strong case to be said on their lack of objectivity and professionalism.

  42. Jc says:

    GARBAGE ARTICLE… inaccurate, why are you attacking the culture of pilipino? Our culture is poisoned by west and catholism,,, can i ask you why a decent man Aquino won presidency? If pilipino culture saw a decency a weak character as you claim? Your definition of decency is shallow. Pilipino saw Duterte a more decent man than Aquino. Because pilipino define decency in more wide manner and not a person upbringing but hiz dedication, true love to his country….waste of time reading this article….

    • What is ‘a more wide manner’ of decency? Does that mean it is decent to be brutal in waging the drug war and okay to set aside the presumption of innocence that protects Filipinos of little means?

      Ps, I don’t mind if you don’t read here. You clearly have a mind that is made up and is very busy convincing itself that bad is good.

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  1. […] week’s article “How Rappler helped defeat Mar Roxas” generated a lot of discussion here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Maria Ressa, […]

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