Editorial Notes

The 'fake news' on plot to oust Duterte: Inquirer

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte delivering his state of the nation address at Congress in Manila, on July 24, 2017.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte delivering his state of the nation address at Congress in Manila, on July 24, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial, the paper rebukes the President's son for releasing a false list of people supposedly behind a plot to oust him.

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Easily the most laughable post to hit social media this week was a list of people supposedly behind a plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte.

Posted by no less than the President's controversial son, Paolo "Polong" Duterte, the list identified as "Anti-Administration Group, Oust Duterte Movement" the strangest of bedfellows.

The names included Vice President Leni Robredo, Supreme Court Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Marvic Leonen, Senator Leila de Lima, Bishops Pablo Virgilio David and Broderick Pabillo (misspelled on the list as Pabilo), Inquirer columnist Randy David, journalists Maria Ressa, Ellen Tordesillas and Ed Lingao, former chief justice Hilario Davide, former vice president Jejomar Binay, cabinet members of the Arroyo administration, retired generals, business entities, "millennial students studying at Jesuit-run schools" and "mutant/cause-oriented groups."

What set social media on fire was the inclusion of Jollibee among those cooking up a supposed ouster plot.

The image of the beloved Filipino icon as a government destabiliser proved too much even for a people known for their extreme patience and deprecating humour.

Soon, many memes of the jolly coup-plotter bee were being shared online, in a hilarious takedown of the bizarre list peddled by the President's son.

Not a few people also became instant fact-checkers.

Foremost of them was Father David Reyes, parish priest of the St. Joseph Patriarch Parish in San Pedro, Laguna, who pointed out that: (1) Bishop Leo Drona was already retired and wheelchair-bound; (2) Bishop Julio Labayen died on April 26, 2016, or before Duterte became President; and (3) Bishop Arturo Santos simply does not exist.

Lingao, meanwhile, pointed out that Jim and Ducky Paredes are two different people, while Don Ramon Pedrosa is not the husband of Carmen Pedrosa, who, "last I heard… is a Duterte die-hard who was appointed to the board of Pagcor."

And so on with the list's inanities.

But, past the laughter, Robredo and Senator Nancy Binay asked the pertinent questions: Who drew up the document? Was this sloppy list the work of intelligence agencies? What did the President's son hope to achieve by "sharing" the ridiculous listing?

For fun, he said in the original post that he had since deleted after the social media backlash.

(In a new post, he lashed out at Robredo, Binay and Reyes and told off the rest not to be morons - or, in his formulation, "gago," "tanga.")

This is the latest of the Duterte lists that impute crime without evidence on perceived opponents of the President.

Outside of Jollibee, the mutants and the dead bishop, those on the list are real people - people who served or are serving their country, many of them with distinction, and whom the list is recklessly branding as destabilisers - "for fun."

The public knows all too well by now the risk to life and limb that such drug/hate lists pose to those cast as enemies, drug peddlers or destabilisers by this administration.

At the very least, the President's son, who is running for a congressional seat next year, should know that his words and actions reflect on his father's lofty office, and could be magnified in ways no ordinary citizen can hope to achieve with a single notorious social media post.

He does know, because he and his family never leave unchallenged similar alleged misinformation foisted on them.

He and his brother-in-law have filed at least four counts of libel against Senator Antonio Trillanes IV for linking them to the P6.4 billion (S$166.5 million) "shabu" shipment that slipped into the country last year, and for allegedly extorting money from ride-sharing company Uber.

Such accusations, Polong said, were "intended to malign, destroy and kill my good name and reputation, locally, nationally and internationally," and "especially so as I am the eldest son of our sitting President."

For her part, his sister Sara, the Davao City mayor, engineered the ouster of the Speaker, third in the line of succession to the presidency, because Pantaleon Alvarez was said to have called her part of the opposition.

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the authority on destabilisers, didn't even deign to finesse his description of the list, and called it for what it is: "The first time I saw that posting, I said it's fake news. I still maintain that it's fake news."

That should be the last word on it.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.