Manila Times’s ‘matrix’ story wrong on many points, says PCIJ

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/22 April) – A Manila Times story about a supposed plot to oust President Rodrigo Duterte which implicated three media organizations and a group of human rights lawyers was wrong on many points, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said in a statement Monday.

PCIJ, along with Vera Files and Rappler, and the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers were named in the article as having conspired to discredit and destabilize the Duterte administration.

The article, published on Monday, was written by Manila Times chairman emeritus Dante A. Ang. It presented a matrix of how the “narco-list video” of “Bikoy” found its way into the supposed recipients.

Another matrix showed the “email footprint” of the video. “A group sympathetic to the President and deeply involved in the IT business had tracked the flow of information from its source to its various media assets and decided to provide the information to the President out of concern,” the article said quoting a “highly placed source”.

PCIJ, refuting the allegations in Ang’s article, cited the following:

  1. 1.     PCIJ had absolutely not nor ever received any email from Ms. Ellen Tordesillas on the link to the so-called “narcolist video” of “Bikoy.”  PCIJ has neither posted nor distributed any stories or commentaries on the “narcolist video” of “Bikoy.” The video was posted on YouTube from where the news media and citizens got to watch it. That is where the so-called “cybercrime experts” of the unnamed “highly placed source in the Office of the President” should look instead.
  2. The Manila Times story admits to a crime that may have been committed, and fundamental freedoms that may have been violated. It offers tacit admission that these “experts,” apparently working with the Office of the President, had invaded the privacy of the emails and correspondence of journalists now being singled out.
  3. For the record, the “matrix” had linked at least five persons to the PCIJ who are in fact no longer in PCIJ’s employ. Three of the five are personnel who had resigned from as far back as March 2018 to January 2019. Two others, OtsoDiretso candidate for senator Jose Manuel Diokno and Summit Media publisher Lisa Gokongwei-Cheng, had quit their posts in the PCIJ’s Board of Editors. Diokno resigned before the campaign period started.
  4. PCIJ, a non-stock, not-for-profit independent media organization, is funded in various ways: revenues from sale of publications and video, contributions from PCIJ patrons, interest income from an endowment fund that Ford Foundation gave in 2003, and grants for projects, from both local and foreign sources.

Foreign funding is not equivalent to foreign ownership of for-profit media. Truth be told, government agencies are the biggest recipients of foreign funding from the United States, Japan, China, Australia, and other multilateral and bilateral agencies.

For instance, since 2017, the state-run People’s Television (PTV-4) and the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO) have received from China’s state-run media donations of digital radio and other broadcast equipment; brought to China a number of journalists and columnists, including those from The Manila Times, via a “professional exchange program”; started to re-broadcast China programs in Manila; and sent PCOO personnel to learn the Chinese language.

  1. Mr. Rigoberto Tiglao, a co-founder and the first treasurer of PCIJ, helped raise seed money for PCIJ’s operations initially from the Asia Foundation and the Ford Foundation.  Mr. Tiglao himself wrote about his role in PCIJ’s funding in this article in Harvard’s Nieman Reports: “The PCIJ has helped change Philippine journalism… It’s a success story of an NGO, non-governmental organization, committed to a specific cause and funded by both foreign and local development agencies.”

 PCIJ has disclosed that it has received funds from the National Endowment for Democracy for the conduct of training seminar-workshops since 2014, in all such events. These seminars had drawn the participation of hundreds of reporters and editors from national and regional print, TV, radio, and online media agencies, including about a dozen from The Manila Times.

PCIJ said that since 2005, it had disclosed on numerous occasions its funding structure as can be seen in its website.

It emphasized that its funds come from various sources – sale of publications and videos, contributions from patrons, journalism training, endowment funds and grants.

“Our funding structure allows us to be independent because we are beholden neither to media owners nor to advertisers, nor even to grant-giving organizations (the diversity of our funding base allows us to choose the projects we want to do with donors and to set our own terms with them). We are, however, accountable to our board and ultimately, to our readers,” it said.

“Finally, and most importantly: A free, independent, and critical press is a hallmark of democracy. A press beholden to the powers-that-be and shirks from its responsibility to fully inform the people on issues of grave public concern mocks its purpose for being,” it added. (MindaNews)