Fake news


It is tough trying to figure out what’s going on these days with all the fake news turning up on social and traditional media. I find it disturbing that some otherwise responsible newspapers would report on obviously fake news in a hands-off manner as if to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Elections happened eight months ago but for the die-hard followers of PDutz and Mar Roxas, it is as if the campaign season is still going on. I see no practical reason to keep the country divided through a battle of misinformation.

Fake news poses a danger to us all. The hysteria generated by fake news could project the image of an unstable country that’s too dangerous for investors, local or foreign.

As it is, Bloomberg reports that the peso, “Southeast Asia’s worst-performing currency of 2016 is in for another tough year with President Duterte’s spending plans seen boosting imports just as rising US interest rates spur capital outflows.”

Furthermore, Bloomberg points out that ING Groep NV predicts “this year will be the first in about a decade when the amount of money Filipinos send home from overseas will be lower than the trade deficit.” The government, Bloomberg reports, is forecasting a 10 percent jump in imports in 2017, compared with a four percent rise in remittances.

A forecaster told Bloomberg he “is penciling in a rate of P51.50 to P52 per dollar by the end of 2017… But that’s barring any unforeseen events,” the analyst told Bloomberg. “What can affect the peso locally will be politics.”

Indeed, even BSP Governor Amando ‘Say’ Tetangco admitted during his talk with members of the Tuesday Club that political noise is an economic risk factor for 2017. He said we ought to have more discernment on what constitutes political noise.

A good example of political noise is the so called #LeniLeaks. I read through the e-mails constituting the so called #LeniLeaks that are supposed to be hard evidence there is a conspiracy to unseat PDutz.

I see no such conspiracy, at least on the part of VP Leni. Indeed, VP Leni has said in no uncertain terms that unseating PDutz is bad for the country.

I am glad Justice Secretary Aguirre agrees with my evaluation. He said he has not yet seen any law violated in the exchange of e-mails thus far made public.

“As long as they do not violate the law, there is nothing wrong with it, nothing wrong to dream,” Aguirre said last Monday. The DOJ chief is not even sure the so-called #LeniLeaks can be characterized as a conspiracy.

I personally see #LeniLeaks as a brazen attempt to demonize the VP enough to make her unworthy of her position. This is probably in reaction to the supposed threat to PDutz and/or to prepare the way for BB Marcos. The threat is to unseat VP Leni, not PDutz.

The attacks on VP Leni have been relentless and brutal, even claiming she got pregnant at her age and had an abortion in the US. That is literally below the belt even in the dog-eat-dog world of Philippine political wars. But her less than competent social media team trying hard to protect her is doing her damage.

VPLeni’s social media team shouldn’t have conveyed strategy in an e-mail to an e-group. That’s basic. Indeed, the more professional political handlers won’t even leave a paper trail on what they plan to do. Mga bagito, is the kindest thing I can say to describe VPLeni’s team.

And their strategy or plan of action is laughable. Giving back tit-for-tat against BBM and his son? Never mind the point of a La Salle professor about father and son being private citizens now because they are still combatants anyway and still fair targets. But I can’t believe they will again use the old stuff already hurled against BBM like his Oxford non degree.

If this is the quality of thinking behind VP Leni, the social media warriors on the other side will have them for breakfast. VP Leni will be minced meat in a matter of weeks.

As for US-based lawyers Ted Laguatan and Rodel Rodis and Loida Nicolas, I wouldn’t worry too much about them. They are probably just trying to make their lives exciting in their senior years to off set the onset of Alzheimer’s. They have no means of galvanizing support from the military, which is essential, or from the general population which still adores PDutz with 83 percent approval.

On the other hand, they are dual citizens, also Filipinos who have the right to comment on issues of public interest. And it is not seditious to call for the President’s resignation… we do that all the time with all our presidents at one time or another.

That’s the problem with dual citizenship. Their loyalty can be easily questioned. I believe you can only have allegiance to one country.

I was covering the Senate when the dual citizenship law was being discussed and the main justification was to harness the economic power of Pinoys living abroad. What we probably need is a law that grants former Filipinos full economic rights, but no political rights.

I am surprised someone as savvy as national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon would even consider Laguatan, Rodis and Nicolas serious threats to the Duterte administration. It makes us look like a banana republic.

I find it very worrisome too that the information secretary, Martin Andanar, has re-posted a fake news report about the claimed illegal shipment of gold bars supposedly authorized by the BSP and officials of the past administration as if the report is true.

The administration is screwed if its own information chief is unable to discern fake news. Worse if he knew it was fake, but shared it anyway. That’s called disinformation.

I suspect the rabid PDutz supporters don’t care whether the story is true or not. Merely releasing it serves some propaganda purpose. There are too many gullible people ready to believe without asking serious questions.

BSP’s general counsel dismissed the story rather simply by citing facts… plain boring facts:

1. The subject matter is outside of BSP’s authority (production of the United States of America currency notes).

2. Circular No. 49 is a circular issued way back on Sept. 20, 1994, and not 2014, on a totally different subject matter.

3. Republic Act No. 7655 cited in item 1 supposedly as basis of the authority to produce the US dollars pertains to an act increasing the minimum wage of househelpers.

4. Republic Act No.  7735 cited in item 2 supposedly as basis for the production of the funds pertains to an act establishing a national high school in Davao (Lorenzo S. Sarmiento Sr. National High School).

5. While purporting to be a BSP issued circular, issued by the Office of the Governor, it is signed by three Cabinet secretaries, the Senate President and the BSP Governor. FYI, BSP circulars are signed only by BSP officials. End of story.

I also feel bad that prominent people I personally know very well and have worked with and think highly of seem to be in on this propaganda war to the point of ignoring truth. I worry that they are starting to believe their own propaganda, which is tragic. The post-truth era has arrived in the Philippines.

Maybe it is just my training and instincts as a journalist that makes me naturally skeptical of any claims. But people who should know better should work to tone down the histrionics because that will not do PDutz or the country any good.

I feel sad for our people. Many are well meaning and honestly just want the best for the country. But they are being misinformed by a flood of fake news. An all out propaganda war will surely make the task of governing our country more difficult.

If we want PDutz to be the best president we ever had, let us help him be that by letting him preside over a united Philippines. Try to heal the wounds of the last campaign. Praise PDutz and criticize him as the situation warrants. Blind faith supporters can only do him and the country harm.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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