DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Though he had just cast his vote for the 2019 elections, President Rodrigo Duterte's mind was fixated on one thing: media outlets he blasted as "professional twisters."
Duterte railed against media organizations he claimed accepted Western funding on Monday, May 13, during a media interview held minutes after he voted.
"Professional twister, bayad 'yan sila, maniwala ka (they are paid, believe me). They cannot organize without the money of the Western," he said.
Duterte unleashed slurs against Vera Files president Ellen Tordesillas, who was recently named in ouster "matrices" which Malacañang claimed, showed a "conspiracy" to discredit and oust the President. The so-called "matrices" were crude diagrams illustrated on cartolina.
"Totoo 'yung matrix, pati 'yung Bikoy. Pati 'yung spectral analysis ng boses.... Si Tordesillas, talagang totoo, she is every inch a prostitute," said Duterte.
(The matrix is true, even the one about Bikoy. Even the spectral analysis of the voices.... Tordesillas, it's true, she is every inch a prostitute.)
Responding to Duterte's accusations, Tordesillas said, "Since Duterte does not have evidence to support his silly matrix, he is now resorting to vulgarity – the only language he knows."
"He is not in his right mind. He is a danger to the Filipino people," she added.
Duterte hits media given 'awards'
Apart from Tordesillas, Duterte did not name any media practitioner or media organization during the interview.
He, however, referred to media companies given a slew of awards even if they face "criminal charges," apparently referring to Rappler.
"They proclaim to the world with protestations that they are the victims. Nandiyan sila (They're there) of their own making, we do not control them. We have not organized any – and yet when the ruling is there, ayaw nila tanggapin (they refuse to accept it), then the idiots of the Western world start to give you.... When people facing criminal charges, may mga awards na (receive awards), this is a crazy world and let it remain there," said an incensed Duterte.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, other executives, and staff face a total of 11 legal cases, majority of which were filed by government entities. These cases include charges of tax evasion, violation of the Constitution, and Anti-Dummy Law. Ressa has had to pay over P2 million in bail and travel bonds and has been arrested twice. (READ: LIST: Cases vs Maria Ressa, Rappler directors, staff since 2018)
Fixated on media
It was apparent Duterte's mind was on these media outlets right after voting because he began the interview by referring to the diagrams Malacañang had released days ago, accusing journalists and media groups of conspiring to discredit him.
Without any prodding from reporters present, who all wanted to ask about the elections, Duterte spoke of his need to avoid "fake news" by referring all questions about the diagrams to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
In the middle of the interview, when reporters asked about his senatorial candidates possibly dominating the elections, Duterte found a way to relate the question to his beef against the media.
Mentioning his daughter Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, who endorsed pro-Duterte candidates, Duterte said she should not seek the presidency because media would "destroy" her like they did him.
"I am publicly warning her, the presidency will not educate you. It will just destroy you, especially with the kind of media now, paid hacks. They are hyenas and they themselves know they are dishing lies," said Duterte.
Amid Malacañang's release of the "ouster plot matrix," the Manila Times (run by Duterte's special envoy Dante Ang) published an article accusing Vera Files, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), and Rappler of accepting funds from the United States.
These media groups are included in Malacañang's diagrams.
The media organizations shot back at the accusation, saying there is nothing illegal with accepting foreign funding and pointing out that the Duterte administration itself has accepted billions of pesos of funding from the US, China, and Japan.
For example, the Presidential Communications Operations Office had announced in March that it will receive P150 million worth of equipment from China on top of an earlier donation worth P140 million.
The Philippine military continues to benefit from defense equipment given by the US. The Chinese government has given at least two bridges to the Duterte government for free, amid dozens of loan and financial assistance deals.
PCIJ, Vera Files, and Rappler are also media outlets that have not shied from critically reporting on the Duterte administration.
Rappler and Vera Files regularly fact-check statements of government officials. Rappler has extensively covered the President's bloody crackdown on illegal drugs. The PCIJ recently published a report on the wealth of Duterte and his family. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.