Thu. May 26th, 2022
Cartoon by Glenn Tolo of the Daily Tribune

Five US-funded, local news websites are campaigning one way or another for the pro-American Leni Robredo to become president.

I find this disgusting and shameful for my colleagues to be doing.

The Constitution bars any foreign money in media — a means, even if a modest one, of ensuring Filipinos are in control of the apparatus that mold its citizens minds. You may not agree with that, but that is our Constitution and we are duty bound to follow the basic law of the land.

Yet four local news websites, run by Filipinos (one by a Filipino American, Maria Ressa) have defied this ban, and spat on this constitutional principle, by taking in foreign funds, in two cases, for more than a decade now, totaling P170 million, which is their outfits’ main means of funding, and apparently a lucrative source of their individual incomes.




And these are not just funds from some foreign entity. These come from the government itself of a still hegemonic superpower, the US, which wants to control as many nations as it can — not always through arms, but through control of the minds of these countries’ leaders.

The US government’s conduit is the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), directly funded by congressional allocation, through its Agency for International Development (AID). NED’s founder Allen Weinstein himself had told the Washington Post that NED “has been doing what the Central Intelligence Agency did” in molding public opinion in its target countries. A State Department official in a congressional budget hearing explained: “What was done was to shift many of the awful things [done by the CIA] to a new organization, with a nice sounding name. The creation of the NED was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.”

In the past five years trying — unsuccessfully, obviously — to pull down President Duterte’s political support and popularity, these media firms have now mobilized to campaign both subtly and overtly for Washington’s candidate, Leni Robredo.

These five news websites which have been receiving funding, and the respective amounts, from NED for years are:

– Rappler P40.9 million;

– Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), P40.1 million;

– Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), P50.5 million;

– VERA Files, P22.4 million; and

– MindaNews, P13.4 million.

The amounts are huge for thinly staffed websites with little overhead and none of the huge paper costs that are print media’s biggest expense. These funds therefore mainly went to salaries. No wonder these four have ignored my private and public requests to them to disclose their funding sources and expenses.

US-funded Rappler promoting Robredo.

Rappler’s P41-million funding from NED is on top of the P180 million capital it got from two US outfits in 2015, North Base Media and Omidyar Network. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 2018 had ruled that this was in violation of that constitutional ban, and ordered Rappler to cease operations. It appealed to the Court of Appeals, which hasn’t acted on it for two years now.

Why do we allow such mockery of our Constitution and legal system? Rappler, sources claimed, has contracted the most powerful law firms in the country to defy our laws, with its American investors even setting up a huge legal defense fund for it.

Except for Rappler, which was established as a news site in 2012 — at that time to spread lies against Chief Justice Renato Corona whom President Aquino 3rd wanted removed — these media websites were established on different pretexts, the PCIJ to fund investigative journalism work, CMFR to critique media ethics and practice and the latest, VERA Files, as a “fact checker” for Facebook.

‘With love’? – US-funded VERA Files rooting for Robredo

Campaigning

Check out their websites and you won’t have a sliver of a doubt that these are media entities, and their reportage clearly campaigning for Robredo, and highlighting the black propaganda against the frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The CMFR which has a working staff of four, surprisingly was the biggest recipient of the AID-NED funding, totaling P50.5 million so far that I wonder if it is providing other services for the US. It has been headed since its organization in 1989 by Melinda Quintos de Jesus, the sister of former Aquino 3rd “peace adviser” Ging Deles, and the wife of Edilberto de Jesus, an adviser in the Corazon Aquino government.

The CMFR does not disclose its funders on its website. It arrogantly refused to do so when I requested its head to do so in an email last year, claiming I “was belligerent.”

With Rappler having a reputation for being Duterte’s most vociferous critic in media, NED probably got a State Department order for it to give Rappler money starting in 2017. It was a lifeline that it would be getting regularly, as Rappler’s funds from two US firms, Omidyar and North Base Media, had been used up quickly in two years because of huge costs in internet technology to expand its readership and because of its executive salaries.

The NED funding to Rappler was disguised as a grant to it for a project titled, “Understanding and Addressing Disinformation’s Impact on Democracy.” That’s so ironic as it was Rappler that first spread the vile disinformation that the police had killed “7,080” from July 2016 to January 2017 in the government’s war against drugs. The anti-Duterte media here and in the US used that figure to extrapolate very falsely that by 2018, there were “21,000” killed in the anti-drug war — 7,000 multiplied by three (years).

CMFR has been a strident anti-Duterte news website, routinely recycling articles from Rappler and PCIJ critical of this administration as well as opinion pieces by-lined “CMFR” only that has propagated the propaganda thrust of the Yellows.

On the other hand, VERA Files is a “fact checker” for Facebook, and has so far received P22 million from NED, and P2.2 million from the US Asia Foundation, which has also long been alleged to be a conduit for CIA operations to mold the minds of a target population

These media outfits won’t last a week without the American funds. And they dare to call themselves the “independent media”? And in the service of a presidential candidate, bankrolled by the US?

Why the hell do we allow that?

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