Rappler vs Roxas, Round 2: What is truth?

AFP troops engage in Zamboanga siege, September 12, 2013 [Phto by Reuters, Eric De Castro]

By JoeAm

Last week’s article “How Rappler helped defeat Mar Roxas” generated a lot of discussion here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Maria Ressa, Rappler’s Executive Editor, responded to the article on Twitter. People contacted me by e-mail and DM to share their thoughts. It ended up being like I had overturned a rock, and all kinds of new information started crawling out. I’d like to report on it here because I think the role of media during elections is of paramount importance as the nation considers whether it remains a democracy or moves to dictatorship.

This write-up is not intended as an attack on Rappler or Maria Ressa. It is a case study, an elaborate appeal, first, to restate the importance of ethical, objective media to the well-being of the nation, and, second, to encourage recognition and empowerment of good people in government rather than consider their human flaws as disqualifying weaknesses, and to see the weakness of bad people in government and not accept the bad deeds they do because it is ‘in character’.

To be more specific, don’t buy into the trollish notion that Vice President Robredo is incompetent because she is a kind, respectful person and does not go around cursing and bellowing insults. And stop applauding rape jokes.

I’ll organize thoughts around four main subjects:

  1. How people responded to the article.
  2. The conflict between Mar Roxas and Rappler
  3. The social and cultural insights: media and politics
  4. Conclusions and some ideas about actions that can be considered

You may offer your own information and insights in the discussion section of the blog, or in comments to Twitter and Facebook postings.

How people responded to the article

Here are some of the main reactions:

  • Most people agreed with the article’s key points that Rappler made Mar Roxas’ election task very difficult. They recognized the way Rappler focused on his perceived weaknesses and promoted the strengths and allure of Poe and Duterte. That is, Rappler writers both “read the beast” of popular miss-impressions coming from the public, and “spoke to the beast”, reinforcing them. Well, much of my readership is pro-Roxas, so I suppose that is not surprising.
  • A lot of people said essentially, “Hey, Joe, Rappler was just doing its job. It was on Mar Roxas to shape popular ideas, not Rappler.” They thought the article was naive or wrong and Mar Roxas’ loss was testimony of his weak abilities.
  • Maria Ressa said the article was wrong. They were just doing their job of ‘speaking truth to power”.

You can get a quick sense of the tenor of observations from the twitter dialogue on three different threads here, here and the Maria Ressa dialogue here from which the following excerpt was taken:

Leisbeth Recto. Agree. But the analysis of @societyofhonor does make sense, does’nt it?

Maria Ressa. Actually, no. As @glendamgloria said, “Mar Roxas lost because of himself and ‘thinkers’ like JoeAm who wrote – in those days – what Mar wanted to read. I think Mar knows that by now. And he has moved on.” Journalists speak truth to power. Founders of @rapplerdotcom always have.

Joe America. Speaking “truth to power” depends on one’s sense of truth. Many associate goodness with being bad, and badness with being strong. ‘Truth to power’ fails to recognize the nation has a problem seeing and appreciating goodness. That’s the point about the Roxas articles.

Maria Ressa. I disagree with that. The campaign, its confusion, etc. Think you’re also forgetting technology, new generation. It was only after elex that social media was weaponized. It’s impact of astroturfing and algorithms.

Maria Ressa. Interesting though the thought that our nation has a problem “seeing goodness.” Isn’t that just because of the way our leaders have exercised power?

Leisbeth Recto. So do u think the 16M who voted for Du30 saw “goodness” in him? And if they saw “goodness” in him, dont u think they or our nation hv a problem then?

(dialogue ends)

Well, I find Maria Ressa’s response perplexing on a couple of points.

One, she apparently does not see or accept the cultural interpretation that, in the Philippines, good is often seen as weak and bad is seen as strong. So it is easy to wonder, is she susceptible to the cultural “truth” that goodness demands perfection or it is worthy of attack, while badness is bad and so bad deeds are just what is expected? She apparently does not see or accept the unfairness of that norm, or why it is the Philippines has so many corrupt and non-performing leaders because that norm is in action every day.

Something is wrong, for sure, and Philippine media are right in the middle of it.

Two, Ressa says social media were weaponized AFTER the election. Well, it for sure turned hostile toward her personally after the election in vicious personal attacks. But Rappler wrote about social media being a part of the Duterte campaign (links here and here). So trolls were clearly at work before the election, possibly with foreign backing or coaching (Cambridge Analytica).

The takeaway some readers had to the article is that Rappler was reading troll-inspired social media commentary before the election as factual, taking it as representative of the general public’s view, then citing it as a “truth” of how the public was reading Roxas. Rappler repeated the troll-inspired descriptions of Roxas’ weaknesses in its articles and fed it back into the public dialogue. And then . . . in a bit of perverse irony . . . Rappler blamed him for not being able to correct the image that had been created by trolls . . . and Rappler and other media.

The conflict between Mar Roxas and Rappler

It is hard to prove bias. Many people challenged my conclusion that Rappler’s “truth” about Mar Roxas was anything but honest, earnest reporting or commentary. Let me belabor the matter and point to some specific incidents that suggest some forces other than objectivity were at work. I personally think it was part experiential and part cultural . . . that Rappler’s own poor experience dealing with Roxas, fed by troll amplification of his ‘flaws’, combined to shade a good man bad in the eyes of Rappler’s editors.

Rappler has, on at least two occasions, taken personal issue with Mar Roxas in direct, hard-hitting (below-the belt?) public commentary. This apparent personal animosity seems to have attached to subsequent reporting, including in the election-period articles I wrote about last week.

The “personality clash” between Mar Roxas and Rappler may have had a beginning, or took a major step deeper, at the Siege of Zamboanga in November of 2013. I recall having written about what I believed was an inappropriate engagement by Rappler directly into the news story itself as mentioned in the article “Zamboanga Winners and Losers“. I wrote:

Now you may think this is easy. You may be like the Rappler editors who believed they should be put in charge of negotiating the release of hostages. You may be able to judge Secretary Roxas as effective or ineffective. I can’t, and I’d venture that such a judgment would be more a statement of someone’s preconceived bias than fact arising during the conflict. 

The incident revolved around a “Rappler exclusive” about rebels surrendering and turning over 80 hostages as reported in the Rappler article “About 80 rebels surrender in Zambo“. Note that the article is a fourth revision first published at 9:23 pm on September 12th and last updated at 7:41 PM on the 13th. It was developed or re-written as the situation on the ground changed over a 24 hour period. Also note that no other major dailies carried this story, ever. Rappler’s reporter, Carmela Fonbuena, wrote:

When Rappler received the information about the surrender, the police had yet to notify their regional commander or Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, who is in the city as part of the crisis committee tasked to end the standoff, which entered its 4th day on Thursday. Roxas subsequently denied the report.

Next came this article: EDITORIAL: Why delay resolving the Zamboanga crisis?” Published at 3:11 am on September 13. It was revised on March 27, 2016, during the presidential election campaign. Had truth shifted during the three-year intervening period between original report and revised report? (Note to self: recommend that on-line publications adopt an ethical requirement to document changes in footnotes to revised articles). Because of revisions, it is hard to sequence the articles properly. The editorial was written by Rappler editors (I presume Maria Ressa, as she is cited in other articles as the contact Roxas was dealing with). This editorial was a direct, hostile attack on Secretary Roxas, calling his actions shameful and asking:

Why would Secretary Roxas leave hostages vulnerable overnight in a volatile area?

Mar Roxas was there as head of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and was the first national official on scene September 12. I suppose it was a prequel to typhoon Yolanda, first on scene, forever to bear the burdens. He was working with local authorities who evidently had different ideas as to how to deal with the situation, and communication was chaotic. Leadership shifted on the 13th to President Aquino and AFP, PNP, and local officials negotiating with hostage takers.

Rappler editors evidently felt that, on the 12th, they had better information and solutions than did Secretary Roxas.

Another article had unnamed editors (Ressa, most likely) “standing by their story”: “Rappler statement on the surrender in Zamboanga“. The editorial was published at 10:37 pm on September 13. It was also revised on March 27, 2016, with no explanation as to what was changed.

9:10 pm – Rappler posts the story about the surrender. Interior Secretary Mar Roxas denies the report. Sources tell us an upset Roxas calls up Vano. The crisis management committee was completely unaware of what was taking place in Sta Barbara.

The implication was that Roxas was “out of touch” with what Rappler knew.

Rappler followed with another story hostile toward Roxas: Bungled chances in Zamboanga City

The article was originally published October 3, about three weeks after the incident. It, too, was revised on March 27, 2016, just prior to the elections. The author was again Carmela Fonbuena. The article implied that Roxas was not straight with Rappler’s Maria Ressa because:

What Roxas failed to talk about was the committee’s indecision on Thursday night.

In the confusion of battle, with lives at stake, and Rappler’s insertion directly into the engagement, Rappler focused criticism on Roxas.

Well, Roxas was in the heat of battle and Rappler wanted him to attend to their stories? Rappler’s main battlefield source was a radio reporter named Teodyver Arquiza. Rappler attached their credibility to Arquiza and went with his version of a whole lot of confusing and conflicting events. Roxas, and to a lesser extent Aquino later on, were apparently considered uncooperative and even deceitful by Rappler.

It appears that Rappler editors felt they knew best how to fight this battle and deserved to receive immediate attention and information. They believed Mar Roxas was empowered to set things right, but didn’t, in their eyes.

The fighting continued, the hostages were released in phases starting three days later with no hostage casualties, and the stand-off soon ended. So Roxas’ work, whatever it was, ended up a success.

Rappler continued issuing frequent reports on the tense standoff and reported the hostage releases as they occurred in stages and a report on casualties: “Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Commander Habier Malik lost 71 followers. Six soldiers, 3 cops, and 7 civilians were also killed.”

One is inclined to ask, if Ressa and her field staff were trying to do a Walter Cronkite style battlefield report, why were they so hostile to government authority? Why were they not respectful and understanding of the chaos of battle? If you scan the Rappler Marawi articles, a much more long-lasting, destructive, and deadly affair, you will not find that same demanding and critical tenor in Rappler articles.

Rappler had another occasion to attack Secretary Roxas in an accusatory article in 2015. The article misled readers about the laglag-bala (bullet-planting) controversy. Rappler apologized for the incident and drew a reprimand from the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR).

The hostility is evidently present even today. Note the thick condescension in this June 12, 2018, article: “[EDITORIAL] #AnimatED: Kris vs Mocha: Lessons for the catatonic opposition” where Rappler editors write:

For that matter, one might ​ask​, WHAT opposition? After the mass defections​, the stripped committees, and Mar Roxas’ blissfully apathetic Instagram posts, there hardly feels like an opposition, much less a resistance. Maybe more of a whimper, yes. 

So we have to ask, what is the “truth” that Rappler prides itself on speaking to power. Is it facts, or is it opinion? Facts are facts, but if it is opinion, what makes it true? Are Rappler editors possessive of some incredible power of discernment unavailable to the rest of us? Or are they simply making use of the same fallacious reasoning power that President Duterte, or Harry Roque, or others use that “it is true because I said it”?

I personally have very much come to dislike the “speaking truth to power” slogan because it suggests confrontation is needed, and that journalists have to be “bad boys” (or girls), too. No, they should speak facts and dispassionate analysis to both the powerful and the powerless.

The social and cultural insights: media and politics

Journalism is the crucial bridge between the people and politicians. If it is ethical and factual, it can keep a nation balanced and healthy. If it is more concerned about circulation, or if it fails to recognize the cultural field in which it operates, or plays political allegiances, or deals in emotions rather than reason, the connection between public and politicians becomes distorted. Information is missed or wrong. Bad voting occurs. And a nation gets a brutal, authoritarian regime.

Rappler is among the best of Philippine news outlets. The publication has a cadre of bright, highly capable reporters and columnists who do excellent work at several levels deeper than the daily newspapers and vastly better than the shallow, sensationalist televisions news reports. Rappler today does not seem to favor politicians as some papers do, almost as if they were paid for reporting a certain way. Maria Ressa has earned awards for her exceptional work. Her probes into fake news were data-backed gems of discovery and enlightenment. She has had to withstand vile and vicious threats from State-inspired trolls and withstand politically motivated legal cases from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). She has dealt with these attacks with dignity and determination.

But it appears that Rappler may be susceptible to the flaws in Filipino culture that generate bad voting. A decent person’s flaws become fair game for emotionalized commentary and the “truth” is whatever Rappler says it is, right or wrong. Mar Roxas, a man with a silver spoon heritage, could help hatch the BPO industry, give strong ‘executive style’ campaign debates and economic interpretations, serve in top positions in three administrations, ride out typhoons where they hit hardest so recovery would be faster, and do excellent, honest senatorial work . . . but, man, he fell off a motorbike, spoke arrogantly at times, displayed a temper, had a wife some did not like, and obsessed over details. He was weak.

That is the opinion of many it would seem. My opinion is that Mar Roxas has a personality different from mine, and a way of working different from mine. But he would make a better president than me, better than any of the other candidates in 2016, and better than Maria Ressa or any of her writers.

I believe Grace Poe and Rodrigo Duterte, an orphan of indeterminate allegiance and a death-squad mayor, did not carry the same baggage of expected perfection and begrudging envy. They were seen as strong.

Rappler does emotionalized reporting in the best of Filipino traditions. It also does factual reporting, better than most. The problem is that the editorial staff seem to consider both their own opinions and the facts reported as “truth”. But ‘speaking truth to power” has a flaw when opinions are wrong.

Take Maria Ressa’s Twitter comment that “‘thinkers’ like JoeAm wrote – in those days – what Mar wanted to read.” Excuse me. I wrote what I thought was best for the nation, and even the Aquino people remarked that I criticized them but with constructive aim: “Who’s Joe America? Why did he make it to Aquino’s Sona?”

So this kind of Rappler “truth” is not factual. Indeed, that style of ‘information-creation’ can easily be arrogant and destructive of the truth. Because it destroys reputations and confidence and trust in good people. Well . . . like Mar Roxas. Or Joe America.

Conclusions and some ideas about actions that can be considered

Rappler and other news outlets have a need for circulation to survive, and there is a place for emotions and opinions in their articles. But news reports are not the place for emotions and opinions. And for sure, battlefields are not the place for news organizations to presume they hold all necessary knowledge or any right to authority.

They hold zero accountability for outcomes.

Four suggestions:

  1. The ‘damaged culture’ of the Philippines (c James Fallows) affects reporters if they are not aware of the way damage is created. Good in people ought not establish a mandate for perfection. Bad ought not be seen as an excuse for bad deeds. To put it in current terms, Leni Robredo ought not have to carry the impossible burden of a demand for perfection and Bongbong Marcos ought not be given special favor because “well, he is a member of a brutal, thieving family, so we know he won’t be perfect.”
    • Deal in facts.
    • Strive for cold objectivity.
    • Keep personal views out of the news.
  2. Opinions should not be considered truth. They should be considered opinions or one person’s version of the truth, and open to opposing versions of that truth.
  3. News reports should not be emotionalized or heavily laden with interpretations that are outside the scope of the incident being reported. Yes, context is important. Yes, implications are important. Yes, inspired writing will get readership. But opinions and “trolling” (emotionalized arguments) ought not be in news reports. (Kindly don’t call presidents “boneheaded” in news reports.)
  4. When on-line news reports are revised, a log of changes should be appended to each subsequent revision so that readers have a clear understanding of what changed and why. Otherwise, each new report is a revisionist report and context is lost. Why were the Zamboanga articles revised repeatedly and then again three years afterward as elections approached?

For those intrepid readers who still have their eyeballs in focus at this point of the article, I will leave here one last reference link because I think it is exceptionally good, well-researched, objective, unemotional writing in a situation where emotions COULD run high: The Hidden Parts of Philippines’ Duterte’s Israel Visit – a Major Oil Deal and an Arms Display

I’d suggest that this form and style of writing would be a good goal for all Philippine news media to aspire toward, in terms of quality of reporting.


100 Responses to “Rappler vs Roxas, Round 2: What is truth?”
  1. karlgarcia says:


    The link is for subscriber’s only.
    At least the start of the article was shown and the comments section gave us an idea of what the article really is all about.

    If anyone can find a similar story kindly link it.

  2. edgar lores says:

    1. For anyone who has seen Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon (1950),” he would know that the truth about events has several versions.

    2. He would know that each version is a slice of perspective that has been cut in a particular way by the subjective lens of the witnesses. Each lens lends events a particular coloration that offer an alternative interpretation of the “facts.” The interpretations may vary slightly or grossly with each other to the point of being in complete agreement or in complete contradiction.

    2.1. We see this phenomenon of agreements and disagreements in cognizance in play every day.

    2.2. In part, the phenomenon exists because of differences in epistemology, in our ways of seeing and knowing.

    3. Rappler’s “The Imagined President” series was a Rashomon look at the presidential candidates in 2016. It presented three versions of the truth for each candidate in three installments:

    o The Idealized – the view from the supporters
    o The Demonized – the view from the critics
    o The Candidate – the synthesized view of Rappler

    4. Rappler defends the series — and The Candidate in particular — as speaking “truth to power.”

    5. From my view, there are not only many versions of the truth. There are also many types of truth. Speaking “truth to power” is just one. There are, for example:

    o The truth of power. This is the truth of the powerful. Speaking “truth to power” seeks to confront the lies of this truth. Note that the “truth of power” can be noble or ignoble.

    o The truth of culture. This is the truth embedded in the culture. It is the truth by which we live. It is often unexamined. It may be noble or ignoble.

    o The truth of trolls. This is the truth that supports or spoofs the “truth of power.” If supportive, it echoes and amplifies the propaganda of the “truths of power.” And it tends to pass the repugnant act and propaganda of the “truths of power” by invective or as acceptable without strong legal or moral justifications.

    o The truth of norms. This is the truth of standards. It could be a set of metrics or of ethics. It is usually noble.

    7. “Speaking truth to power” is important. We see the abuse of the “truth of power” in the De Lima incarceration, the Sereno ouster, and in the Trillanes amnesty revocation. But we have to be aware that speaking truth to power is only one type of truth.

    7.1. Our critique of the third installment is that it was not aware of the “truths of culture” and it did not speak the “truth of norms.”

    8. On the Zamboanga conflict, it seems to me that Rappler had a fortuitous close-up view of the hostage situation from a reporter and, therefore, gave it a high priority. They did not have the vantage of Roxas’ bird’s eye view of the conflict.

    8.1. On the #AnimatED editorial, what exactly is Roxas’ role in the opposition? If he has no official role, then the dig is gratuitous.

    8.1.1. I will grant that the Opposition is anemic and part of the reason is a structural weakness in the political culture.

    9. The question of “What is truth?” is a deep one. Pontius Pilate asked the same question of Jesus.

    • 8.1 Roxas has no role. After the election he retreated to private life. That’s why I include it as an example of what seems to be an enduring hostility toward Roxas, and a failure to respect his choices.

      • Micha says:

        And that also reveals the entirety of his political personality : his heart ain’t in it (in politics) if there’s nothing in it for him personally.

        He chose to remain silent and live a privileged secluded comfortable life while the Duterte rampage wrecks havoc on the rest of the country.

        • As you choose to live in the United States and pursue your ambitions and leave the Philippines to us. People have a right to make personal choices without us pretending to be able to live their lives for them better than they can do for themselves.

          • Micha says:

            No such thing as free will. Every single choice and action we make we did so because of circumstances not totally within our control. I for one wouldn’t have left if the prevailing socio economic and political environment in the country weren’t as detrimental to my personal well being.

            Did Mar Roxas have the luxury of choice on the matter of engagement with politics? If we delve deeper into the causality of his decision most likely no, too. And that defines him as far as political engagement is concerned. Because had he perceived that the threat and damage to the social and political well being of the country posed by the Duterte regime also posed a direct threat to his personal well being, he would have acted differently. But no, his perception was that even if Duterte rampages with murderous intent on those low life drug users he will still be quite alright, safe and comfortable.

            • Think as you wish. Seems awfully presumptuous and unkind to me. But he’s dealt with harsher judgments, I’m sure, and I imagine has pretty well figured out that he need not run his life based on what others think.

              • he and his family spent enormous amount for his campaign in 2010 and 2016, he spent years in public service even if he was living a privileged life in the US and “he doesn’t have the heart for it” because he’s resting?

                no wonder we’re stuck with vultures. no wonder why there’s hardly good people wanting to enter public service.

              • Yes, I agree appreciation is in short supply.

  3. Andres 2018. says:

    If Rappler’s advocacy is speaking truth to power, then i would understand that they will notice first the dirt before the white wall. They will first report on the perceive incompetence of the government rather than its accomplishments, or they may never tackle at all the accomplishments as it is expected from the people in power. It seems this was the state of mind of Rappler when they are writing about the Zamboanga Siege and during the election time and maybe in majority of their articles.

    If you think of it, “speaking truth to power” is a direct contrast to “seeing and appreciating goodness.” The one usually looks for the bad things that the government are doing, the other trying to find all the goodness in it. The one may care or may not care of all the good things that the government have done as it is expected that the government will do that, the other may or may not care looking into the incompetence of the government as they may exercise high tolerance on it.

    • Well put. That does characterize the Zamboanga reporting, and speaking truth to power does tend to not look for (boring) good stories. I only skimmed Rappler’s Marawi news reports and I did not detect such an aggressive style there. I think it is perhaps because reporters did not have the same open access, I don’t know. That would require further study.

  4. NHerrera says:


    Generally, if one is invested in something he acts to protect that investment but more on this below.

    An example is an investment in stock market share. (To quite a few, it may really not be an investment but a gamble.) In such investment, an initial price surge with minor dips later gives happiness and the investor rides along. But if he is rational about such investment, he is prepared. He may have decided on a trip-wire: that whatever happens if his investment gives a loss of 20 percent, he sells. The “truth” about his actions — still assuming he knows about the stock market and is rational — may be rather clear in this case.

    A different kind attaches to an emotional investment. There is generally no pre-defined trip-wire to quit on the investment. Irrationality may rule. Does one use a variation of the technique used by the stock share investor? His commitment to this latter investment may range to the upper limit of suicidal. No letting go. The truth associated with such investment becomes rather muddy.

    (I am not saying this is only a characteristic of the Filipino.)

    • I think it is a human characteristic, that we invest our esteem in what we say and defend ourselves even against enlightenment. But the less of that we can do, in favor of forthright examination of issues, the better the outcomes will be. In the US, introspection can get formal through therapy or informal through self-help programs and books, but people have a deeper understanding of themselves in relation to others. Not perfect, but broader and deeper. Thus the conscience about human rights is more pronounced. Here, there is almost no “other awareness” or conscience about other people being harmed except among those who have brushed against the Western (liberal) ideas.

      • NHerrera says:

        Interesting and coincidental that this discussion comes at a time of the existence of a supposed official high-level group in the Trump Administration, one of who wrote an op-ed to the NYT, working actively behind the scenes to thwart Trump against his worst actions. Conscience in the service of the country.

        • Yes, I guess speculations are thick as to who wrote it. The basic theme is that Trump is out of his mind, and a second government is developing to control him and inject sanity into policies. I somehow don’t see Bong Go doing anything like that for Filipinos. Or Roque, or anyone.

          • NHerrera says:

            For the information of TSH readers, below is the link to that NYT Op-Ed article referred to. The NYT gives this brief about the essay:

            The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers. We invite you to submit a question about the essay or our vetting process

          • NHerrera says:

            If I may, I want to extract a short paragraph from that essay, a sharply worded one applicable to a lot of countries, the Philippines chief among them (bolding mine):

            The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.

  5. Micha says:

    Well, both the Zambaonga incident and the Yolanda caper illustrate the outline of Mar Roxas’ politics.

    Here is a man who was the presumed successor, the heir apparent of President Aquino. He was groomed for the job. An active vice president, given juicy cabinet positions in order for him to be in the middle of it all, delivering results and, to be expected, gaining favorable political mileage.

    The public impression it drew, alas, was that he really wasn’t in it for the sake of it. He was in it for the sake of himself; to pursue an overarching goal of attaining the presidency.

    That, in a nutshell, is the problem of Mar Roxas. It’s an image problem.

    But more than that, it is also a problem of ideas. What exactly is the ideology of Mar Roxas?

    The trouble with focusing on the man instead of the idea or set of ideas he represent is that the man could easily fall, vulnerable to limitations and fragility.

    In the realm of politics, I think it should be 50-50. Cultivate both the man and the idea.

    Mar Roxas was packaged as “the man”, not the man with an idea.


    Having said that, I think that picking a fight with Rappler over Mar Roxas at this point is counterproductive to the goal of having to deal with the immediate problem we have at hand.

    • madlanglupa says:

      > Having said that, I think that picking a fight with Rappler over Mar Roxas at this point is counterproductive to the goal of having to deal with the immediate problem we have at hand.

      I agree. Today is more worrying.

      • Thank you. I’m done with it. If my point about the destructive cultural principle that “good people have to be perfect because they are good and bad people can be bad because it is expected of them” is not understood, there is little more that I can do. I’ve tried exhaustively to make the point. That people still want to debate about Mar Roxas suggests I have failed, but, hey, that’s on them.

        • Micha says:

          Who defines “good”? Good for whom? Good for what?

          If you think Mar Roxas is good, that is only one of the varied and conflicting opinions about him.

          • Why are you badgering me about Mar Roxas? The article is about the cultural tendency of many Filipinos to expect decent people to be perfect and excuse bad people because bad people are expected to do bad things. The only thing I can see is that you follow the cultural traditions based on your rant against Roxas. That’s fine. But kindly don’t try to force me into that bucket.

            • Micha says:

              Americans were also stunned with the defeat of Hillary Clinton. She too, like Roxas, was the presumed successor, the heir apparent of the incumbent. She too was groomed for the job, given the influential cabinet position so she could be in the middle of action, delivering results, hugging the spotlight. The election was hers to lose. She was considered the adult in the room (decent/good in your parlance) vis-avis her immature, nasty, and pussy grabbing opponent.

              So no, the cultural tendency as you assert is not unique to Filipinos. Good-bad dichotomy loses its absolute meaning in the realm of politics. Politics becomes the playground of postmodern relativism.

              What we have witnessed is a political zeitgeist around the world – the rise of populism.

              The defeat of Roxas (as with Clinton) has nothing to do with your good-bad cultural tendency theory.

            • “The article is about the cultural tendency of many Filipinos to expect decent people to be perfect and excuse bad people because bad people are expected to do bad things.”

              ahh yes! like i always say, there’s always “at least” or “infairness” when it comes to bad people. when bad people does something right for once, everyone’s all praises like they’re heroes. but when good people commit a mistake, they’re treated like they’re the evil ones.

        • NHerrera says:

          The article is about the cultural tendency of many Filipinos to expect decent people to be perfect and excuse bad people because bad people are expected to do bad things.

          I wish to pursue this. It is not meant to pester or hound you on the statement. First I believe as you do that it is a cultural tendency and it is destructive.

          If we accept that, there is a nice corollary to it. Which is: that the Filipino leader should have goodness in him but have a streak of badness with a good mix of toughness/ roughness to be embraced by majority Filipinos. I am not detailing the attributes of goodness and badness, but say that the goodness part contains traits such as you and majority of TSH would like. I have as an example the recently deceased John McCain. Going local, I find that Trillanes has the badness mix that others who may be equally good or better do not have.

          [In a different vein, we also have the example of the bad prodigal son who only lately have the goodness part in himself surface. That is why the good brother has reason to complain to the father why a fatten sheep has never been offered to him who did as his father like and toiled in the fields, in comparison to his brother who behaved badly and wasted the resources of the family.]

          • Strong is different than bad, and a presidential candidate should be strong.

          • In a country where many people lack an innate moral compass one can appeal to, the capacity to dispense violence is indeed strength, and the inability to dispense violence is indeed a form of weakness. Just words don’t impress many, “action” does.

            There is of course the ora et labora form of action, building stuff, Leni’s style, which might also be gaining traction now. But even civilized societies need their guard dogs, their wolves whose instincts have been civilized by morality. Trillanes is a yet rare example of such.

        • An example of “more is expected of the good” or maybe even “the good are the suckers in the Philippines” can be seen with families that exploit, yes exploit, their OFW relatives. Let them miss out just once on sending money or buying stuff, then they are “bad people”, but if the folks back home spend money for a nephew’s tuition on some sort of vices, hey, be forgiving please. Permanent migrants sometimes give up on helping at all as years go by.

          And of course heroes are held up as role models of perfection, but the moment they fail in the stringent eyes of their fellowmen, they are abandoned. Happened to both Bonifacio and Heneral Luna I think. Martyrs are perfect because they are already dead – no living person to remind the average Filipino of the many flaws he has – and is secretly very ashamed of.

  6. popoy says:

    Been sidelined or inutilized by health issues not mine for a month now, issues still persisting. This is my take on blogs nuggets I missed in TSoH. Can’t find the file but I already wrote FINISHED to Du30’s administration, only a matter of time and that TSoH is doing its best so DEMOCRACY finishes nailing together the coffin parts of DICTATORSHIP before the Filipino people lowers the rope (gibberish again, Eh?).

    An illiterate Pinoy barber gave haircuts inside GI’s camp after liberation from Japan last WWII, he knew no English, so every time he finished a hair cut, he just smile and say, “Joe, the END.” He learned that many times as watched movies shown by the kano every night to the people living from near or far from the camp. The End, time for people to go home.

    • Say hey, Popoy. Best to you and those close for better health. It’s a bummer, I know. I’m not sure how things here will end up. But it seems like something major is brewing. Rumor has it that Duterte will declare nationwide martial law when he returns from his trip because of the economy, prices, critics, and who knows what reasons. It likely cannot be defeated if it goes to his Supreme Court. Senator Trillanes has certainly pushed to the forefront of the opposition the past three days, getting a lot of television face time and newspaper coverage. Will Duterte have his troops remove Trillanes from the Senate office building? It seems like we are near the end of the movie, the climax part where everyone is chasing everyone and fighting, but the ending is unwritten.

      • popoy says:

        History is sequential causes-effects-causes ad infinitum. Learn from the cause-effect nexus for lessons of history, to avoid repeats and bad sequels. Even the Supreme Court have a history of subservience of a Justice holding an umbrella for the comfort of a wife of a high government official, part of a history of quality and integrity of the highest court of the land which MAKES LAWS through its decisions.

        A good brothel manifest its worth to the community by the history of its past madams. High courts or supreme courts ALL OVER the world leave its footprints like big foot on the snow, a court history shaped by their Chief Justices (eg. UK, USA, France, etc.). Learn from history from the likes of Jose Abad Santos. History will also tell you who are the intellectual scalawags etched in its dustbins in the first, second, third and fourth estate. Mga Wakaran.

    • popoy says:

      Long ago, I wrote Glenda Gloria (Newsbreak) to praise lady journos having “balls” more than most men for their courageous writing protected by the invisible shield of freedom of expression (I must look for the old file). But it seems it needs testicles of different kind of steel to fight resurrecting, incarnating zombies of dictatorship. Free World, Vintage wine, bulwark of democracies like the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Free Europe, etc. HAVE NEWSPAPERS that’s got the balls to come out to be OBJECTIVE for their TRUTH; Editors UNAFRAID To Say WHO They Will Vote For In Every Election. OBJECTIVITY?

      I Must Read more on Ayn Rand. Now which newspaper is that in the countries I mentioned? Which newspapers under DEMOCRATIC rule have the Balls of Different Steel to say and pick their PM or Presidential candidate?

      RAPPLER is an OBJECTIVE newspaper, siding with no one but the truth but no balls to de-intellectualize itself like the common voter.

      Under Martial Law, all newspapers are fattened capons, balls-less purveyors of castrated truths with the exception of those who went underground waiting for that great time . . .

  7. andrewlim8 says:

    It’s okay with me if I will look foolish as events unfold to the contrary or if someone points out a loophole in my thinking. That’s fine. But follow this train of thought with me.

    It just occurred to me that could it be possible that this terrible incompetence we are seeing from the DND and DOJ re Trillanes’ amnesty revocation be their way of coping with an illegal and immoral order from Malacanang? Is it their way of saying ” I am trapped here and this is the only way I can deal with this without incurring the wrath of the Palace.”?

    They could be saying: ” I know that order from Malacanang is illegal, has no basis, and is immoral. But if I refuse to carry it out, that is insubordination and (in the case of Col Edgar Arevalo and Lt ColThea Andrade) put us into court-martial.”

    “So we will do this as sloppily as we can, to the point of looking stupid, incompetent and foolish in the hope that the public figures it out that we do not want to be part of it.”

    Plausible? Consider the ff:

    1. There are not many Filipino bureaucrats who have the moral fiber of a Jim Comey or a Bob Mueller who will stand up to a sitting President. The Filipino mindset is one of subservience, cowing in fear, a meek subordinate caring only for his salary and pension. Rare is the Filipino bureaucrat who will stand on principle! There aren’t too many Filipinos who have the background of US State Department bureaucrats – Georgetown graduates, blue-bloods who just love foreign policy. They can afford to disobey Trump. But here? Lastly, not everyone can write an op-ed in the New York Times confessing that they are thwarting Trump behind his back. Or is there?

    2. The average Filipino bureaucrat is always just a few paychecks from the poverty line. Losing one’s job and pension, in a time of high inflation is very scary.

    3. This display of obvious stupidity – like Albayalde’s yoyo on crime data in Naga – first he says the correct thing, then adjusts it to fit Malacanang’s tone but misreads the data blatantly, then comes back and corrects himself again – has occurred on more than a few occasions now. Lorenzana seems to do the same thing- say the principled thing, then reverse, then say the right thing again.

    4. The economic secretaries have more freedom to speak their mind because if you look at their SALNs they are multimillionaires. And Duterte really doesn’t understand economics. (although Pernia tries to ingratiate himself by saying “ this inflation is normal and acceptable” recently.)

    Now don’t misread me as arguing that these people are on the side of angels – far from it – but they could be trapped in this dangerous game and this is the only way they know on how to deal with it.

    P.S. The incompetence of PCOO , NFA, DA and Mocha is a different thing. That is REAL incompetence. 🙂

    • It is an interesting theory. I rather think they are just entering a woods they have never entered before, and don’t quite know how their words will be reported. It is a difficult place to be for people who said oaths they meant. Usually, Lorenzana says things well but sometimes the newspapers mix it up with the headlines. The economics people are always disappointing for puffing things up pretty as they get worse and worse. I wonder when a rating agency is going to have the courage to withstand Duterte’s swearing and downgrade the debt. Reading the PCIJ’s report on construction in the Davao Region is a tad scary as to how loose things run, with money flying all over the place and ending up with companies that are not qualified. Plus going to firms run by Bong Gos’ relatives. Plus, the build cost is P25 million per kilometer in Davao and around an average of P11 million elsewhere. Figure the commissions at P14 million per km and it is absolutely jawdropping.

    • edgar lores says:

      I think the theory is true.

      The distinction between the selected (e.g., Cabinet, Guevara) and the unselected (e.g. AFP/PNP, Arevalo) staff also makes sense.

      The selected had the choice of turning down Duterte’s offer. They did not. I do not believe they can justify their acceptance in the way that Trump’s chosen can. Trump is crazy but Duterte is evil (both morally and in the unconstitutional sense). So, no matter how one looks at it, they are enablers.

      The unselected are indeed trapped between a rock and a hard place. It’s the Nuremberg dilemma.

      Still, I would place top people like Albayalde and Bato as among the selected. They are more than enablers; they are evildoers… by tacit commission. Beyond the flip-flops of Albayalde, he is still pursuing the Drug War.

      Piñol, being in a Cabinet position, is a borderline case.

      Andanar and Mocha are also borderline… but they are not trapped. Andanar is selected and Mocha is a volunteer. But their deeds — in particular, Mocha’s — go beyond incompetence.

      Lorenzana is selected but is he like Mattis? Holding back Duterte’s worst impulses?

  8. andrewlim8 says:

    It’s a long post, and I had to chop it to get it through.

  9. Nordin Pumbaya says:

    First. I am shocked at Maria Ressa’a statement that Social media was weaponized after the election. I remembered clearly months before the election that there was a well-organized team of accounts on twitter always eager to malign Roxas 24/7. For a journalist who claimed to have studied the patterns of those trolling, that’s simply unbelievable. Besides, I wonder why the silence afterward. Why was there no follow-up investigations of possible sources or who are behind it? While those election trolling in the U.S were suspected to be connected to Russian groups there was no such connection made as far as Philippines 2016 election was concerned.

    Second. I reiterate my call for students of Journalism and Political science (all concerned Filipinos) to study these issue closely and try to derive something useful out of it for the sake of their disciplines and for the sake of our country. I cannot emphasize enough the significance, imagine we have finally found an answer as to why we Filipinos continue to elect mediocre presidents despite poor performance. If we fail to draw any lessons from these events our future as a nation looks bleak. We might as well look forward to a future with Pacquiao, Robin Padilla or Bong Go as president. God forbid!

    I am just an OFW looking forward to a better Philippines on my retirement, forgive my impatience!

    • Excellent question, Nordin, as to why no one digs into the election backing, or even the “Chinese” money that Duterte said he got. Foreign? It’s probably scary to phone anyone in Davao, though, so I comprehend.

      It would be a good case study for journalism classes, I agree. Reminds me of when I was in the classroom doing ‘content analyses’ of news to find the opinions within news. It would be hard to do that here, so many abuses.

      Stay impatient. I enjoy your commentary on Twitter. Keeps me nodding in agreement or smiling.

  10. Jane Singson Fields says:

    Maria Ressa does not know the pulse of the Philippines because she’s more Americanized.

    • That’s a strength, it seems to me, giving her a westernized sense of journalistic ethics and inquiry. Filipino reporters don’t seem to have the same probing inclination. They seem to bow to the authority before them. I don’t know how much contact she has with localized Filipino communities. Her reporters are out and about though.

  11. karlgarcia says:

    Ressa and Rappler are aware of the possible threats of Soc Med.
    They did reports on the positive use of SocMed.

    Here is one report.


  12. This Buzzfeed article contains a lot of gems about PH politics, journalism and social media.

    It looks like the news media in PH, Rappler included, may not be the major force in installing PRD to PH presidency. Facebook seems to be the biggest influence. Free Facebook was the vehicle that was exploited by PRD’s PR people and pro-PRD influencers. Rightly so because by the time PRD decided to run for presidency 2015, 2/3 of Filipinos owned cellphones and 97% of them have free internet access through Facebook.

    “Duterte utterly dominated Facebook during the country’s presidential election. In an April 2016 report, the company itself proclaimed Duterte the “undisputed king of Facebook conversations.” Two months later, he was elected president.

    “During the campaign period, Facebook was quite a valuable tool for the President’s base of supporters in organizing gatherings and spreading news about campaign activities,” said Andanar, Duterte’s communications secretary, adding the platform was “comparable to having instant-access live radio and television facilities.”

    Facebook influencers hitched themselves to Duterte’s rising star; transgender rights activist Sass Sasot (more than 650,000 followers), blogger RJ Nieto (1.2 million followers), and former pop singer Mocha Uson (5.7 million followers) all positioned themselves as Duterte propaganda clearinghouses. Together, they created an ecosystem not dissimilar from the pro-Trump internet world.”


    • Facebook influenced Rappler. It’s all linked.

      • You’re right as evidenced by this paragraph:

        “When the Philippine presidential election rolled around in 2016, the readership Facebook sent Rappler was unparalleled — so much so that Rappler did everything Facebook recommended: Instant Articles, videos, Facebook Live. And it worked. “I gave it all to Facebook,” Ressa said. Covering Duterte was particularly rewarding, since that tended to bring in traffic from Facebook in droves.”

        • Wow. There it is!!! Thank you. That also explains why, if you do searches of Rappler news on each name, Grace Poe, Mar Roxas, and Rodrigo Duterte, you get less than 4,000 for Poe and Roxas and 29,000 for Duterte.

        • edgar lores says:


          1. Was Rappler influenced by the election? (It seems so, yes, by Ressa’s above admission.)

          2. But was the election influenced by Rappler? (I would guess so, yes, by Newton’s first and second laws.)

          2.1. But in what way — Pro- or anti-Duterte? (The high volume (29,000) of Duterte’s results can go either way by Newton’s third law.)

          2.2. Facebook’s influence was pro-Duterte by the Buzzfeed article and Andanar’s reckoning.

          2.3. Can the conclusion then be that Rappler’s net influence was also pro-Duterte? (Even if only by the maxim that all news is good news?)

          • My view.
            1. Yes.
            2. A little, not major
            2.1 Pro-Duterte
            2.2 Yes.
            2.3 Yes.

            • Steve says:

              Facebook is a tool, not a participant. The tool was widely used by multiple parties, sometimes effectively, sometimes not. It is not entirely accurate to say that Facebook influenced the election; better to say that various parties used Facebook to influence the election.

              My own observation before the election was that the Duterte social media operation very closely resembled the established Marcos revisionist social media operation. That could be imitation, but I believed at the time that the Marcoses had placed their social media operators at Duterte’s disposal. I have seen nothing since that would lead me to revise that belief.

              • Right, FB is an ap, just as media are not the influencers, but journalists and editors are. But that is beside the point, rather a quibble. I’ve not contacted Nic Gabunada who once contacted me to see if I had an interest in meeting. He would be able to talk about the particulars. Marcos, Cambridge Analytica, his own brain, whatever it was, the output was very effective. He said it was structured on a network of groups, each group free to innovate to push out centrally composed ideas, and each group seeking to grow larger. It’s too bad that the information base was built on deceits and slanders. It generated such a horrible conceptual framework for the Philippines and it seems to me it can have no good ending other than mass lunacy and economic unfairness. Insanity occurs when our brains process bad information and emotions, and that seems to be the social media environment in the Philippines, and I suspect in the US as well.

  13. OOT

    Is it possible that while PH seems to be in turmoil over its leadership, democracy, economy and everything else, another disastrous event in form of foreign invasion is in the offing? Is there really a “Chinese ‘internal propaganda’ painting the Philippines ‘as its number one threat and enemy?” Why would China invade PH when they can come and go as they please as long as they are docking/landing through Davao?

    I am not sure about the point person named in the article though, a Norberto Gonzalez. He is supposed to be a former GMA defense secretary and was named by Sen Trillanes as someone plotting to oust PNoy during the Mamapasano clash. Karl, any info on this person’s credibility aside from what can be Googled?



    • andrewlim8 says:

      I wouldn’t touch Gonzales with a ten foot pole. He is solidly in GMA’s camp and the only logical reason to put out that idea is to stoke fear of China, and thus justify Duterte’s subservience to China. Now GMA’s camp may look like they are doing the right thing from time to time (see Joey Salceda’s pinning the blame for inflation on the govt’s inaction) but their history shows they do not do things on the basis of principle, but on practical benefits.

      • Vicara says:

        Norberto Gonzales has always cast himself as a conspirator or as a detector of conspiracies. He was with the Light-A-Fire movement that was the first non-Leftist clandestine opposition group to rattle Marcos. They were led by corporate types such as Steve Psinakis and Ed Olaguer, who was caught and detained by Marcos. It was Gonzales and Olaguer who lit a fire as an act of sabotage at the Comelec building, which at the time was in Intramuros. The fire did damage to the building but, more importantly, drew publicity and gave the public the idea that maybe the regime was not invulnerable, and that there was at least one other opposition group.

        Security then was not what it is today, and the two men (separately) made it up to one of the higher floors, where Olaguer set up the fuel and the katol that served as a kind of fuse for starting the blaze. Gonzales’ assignment was to ignite this and get the fire going, while Olaguer went ahead and left the building. But as Olaguer was quickly making his way down the stairs, he heard from overhead a loud “Pssst! Pssst!” He looked up, to see Gonzales peering down the stairwell at him.

        “Ed, may lighter ka ba?” Gonzales asked. “‘Nalimutan ko yung posporo!”

        This story I heard from Ed Olaguer himself, as he recounted it to the great scholar of Southeast Asian Studies, the late Dr. Benedict Anderson.

    • I think the article is nonsense. Now it may be true that China sees the Philippines as vital to their mission, and it may be that they are demonizing or would demonize Filipinos based on the arbitration ruling, but invasion is irresponsible speculation for a person with such high credentials.

      • sonny says:

        Joe, in this regard I miss the clearing houses of news like AP, UPI and uncle Walter. Now we have to wade through sloughs of ‘unsortable experts’

        • So true. I reflect back on the short time I did news reading on the radio. We had an AP teletype machine in the closet beside our studio, clicking out the news briefs with a clacking erratic hum from a dot matrix printer under the control of someone ‘out there’. It would hammer out short, factual stories, even providing the pronunciations of the strange foreign names. We generally did “rip and read” news, tearing off the sheet, deciding in what order to read the articles, and then read them as the machine wrote it. We never questioned the validity of the information. It was all good.

          Now it is tainted by the unsortable experts.

    • karlgarcia says:


      The brother of Norberto Gonzales met Sen Trillanes for the first time in our house last year.
      I am positive that that was the first time they met face to face.

      Even if Norbert is an Arroyo guy, If I am to judge him through his brother then I would call him a patriot, I opined that we are held by China (hawak ng China) ( pardon the translation), and I was rebuked by Gonzales not to say such things, no patriot would say such things, he said.

      I have no idea if Senator Trillanes met Norberto afterwards.
      That is all the first hand knowledge I can give.

      Things to note, Norbert Gonzales and family is a political rival of the Garcia family in Bataan, Abet ( a high school batch mate and classmate for four years) is now the governor.
      Abet had a special mention among the only Governor aside from Imee to support him during the last elections.

    • sonny says:

      JP, considering (comparing) the histories of PNoy & GMA as presidents I would have reservations about people (i.e. like N Gonzales) that have been connected to GMA. This opinion, I admit, is my blanket assumption in the absence of data regarding the public history of N Gonzales. Here is an entry (Google) on Mr Gonzales that caught my eye (speculative):


  14. Nani Banaticla says:

    Prior to 2016 presidential election, I posted in my FB wall that Roxas is a technocrat, not a politician. That’s why he did great when he was in DTI. He could have been great too in DOTC if he had stayed there longer. But I still voted for him, my pragmatic choice among the candidates. The sad thing was he allowed his political handlers to shape him into a political animal which contradicted his character, his personality. And the contradictions manifested in his demeanor. Thus, the resulting confusions among voters on who is the real Mar Roxas. Lost was his wit, his sense of humor, and his true character.

    • Very astute reading, Nani. I agree, but I think it was uphill anyway due to the cultural headwind deployed effectively by the Duterte trolls.

      • Steve says:

        It was an uphill battle and numerous dirty tricks were employed, but that’s expected. the LP could have done a lot more on its own behalf, and often seemed to stumble into traps laid for it.

        • If it takes a network of lies and distributions of slander to compete, I doubt that LP would go that route. They could go the route of an organized network of groups pushing out centrally developed themes. Fighting Uson slanders, getting voter buy-in, but not dirty tricks.

  15. sup says:

    Amazing….I could not believe my ears this morning hearing Duterte telling this on ans cbn tv.

    “I will guarantee you the return of profit. There will be no corruption. And if you ask anything, even a toothpick, I will guarantee you can have my audience anytime of the day or night. And I can call the guy in front of you. But if I shoot him, you just walk away. Leave me with the police to talk about these things,” he said.


    There is a you tube link but that is spliced. Not sure if it is in there, 20 minutes duration.

  16. NHerrera says:


    Now here’s news that may warm some hearts. Nauru, population 11,000, through its President Baron Waqa has taken on China, population 1.3 billion in a diplomatic spat. Waqa knows his geopolitics. Nauru has Taiwan and Australia as allies contributing to its economy. China is trying to do the same.

    Nauru through Waqa,

    demanded China apologize for the “crazy” behavior of its senior diplomat at the Pacific Island Forum, a gathering of 18 regional leaders hosted by Nauru this week … “We won’t just seek an apology, we’ll even take it up to the UN” … “Not only that, I will mention it at the UN and every international meeting.”

    But here’s the beautiful part of the report (see link). China responded through its Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying with the words:

    “The relevant person should have understood that only those who behave with dignity will win respect from others,” she said. “The same is true for a country. Big or small, one country should conduct itself with dignity and self-respect.”

    My comment: isn’t that sweet of China?


  17. NHerrera says:

    Oh oh, from just about PHP53.55 per USD a few days ago, the Peso has breached the PHP54.00 mark today but seems to be settling in the range PHP53.85 – PHP54.00 at least for the moment..

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] by putting out a story that no on else confirms, which essentially everybody else denied. Well, there’s this interesting, if tangential, assessment of Rappler’s handling of the Zamboan…. But my answer is simpler: Rappler is fueled by social media hits, and likes, and shares, and […]

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