Palace dismisses NY Times journalists as 'hack writers'

MANILA, Philippines – After the New York Times (NYT) published a series of content critical of the Duterte administration's drug war, the Palace called the newspaper's journalists "hack writers."

Describing the specific articles and documentary as "obvious demolition work," Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said: "One can only conclude that certain personalities and politicians have mounted a well-funded campaign utilizing hack writers and their ilk in their bid to oust PRRD (President Rodrigo Roa Duterte)." (READ: NY Times: Hit PH with trade tariffs over deadly drug war)

His statement was sent to media on Monday, March 27.

He was referring to 3 pieces by NYT that dealt with the drug war: a news feature entitled "Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman"; an editorial, "Accountability for Duterte," written with Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano and Jude Sabio, lawyer of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato; and a documentary, "When A President Says, 'I'll Kill You.'"

Alejano was the first to file an impeachment complaint against Duterte. Sabio is poised to file a case with the International Criminal Court, alleging Duterte can be held accountable for crimes against humanity.

Abella blasted NYT for giving an international platform for Matobato's "unsubstantiated claims."

He said NYT's accusation about the administration's bloody drug war "flies in the face of the very high approval PRRD enjoys."

Despite consistent criticism from international human rights groups and foreign and local media on the bloody drug war, a December 2016 survey found that 83% of Filipinos trust Duterte.

But a December 2016 survey showed that, while his drug war is popular among Filipinos, a majority (78%) were worried they could be its next casualties.

Another survey, released in October 2016, also showed strong support for the drug war, but found that a majority of respondents (71%) want drug suspects to be arrested alive.

In a previous statement, Abella described the feature "Becoming Duterte: The Making of a Philippine Strongman" as a "well-paid hack job for well-heeled clients with shady motives."

"One gets the feeling NYT is not interested in presenting the whole truth, only that with which they can bully those who attempt an independent foreign policy," he had said. 

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar also previously weighed in on NYT's pieces about the drug war. He blasted the newspaper for reporting "lies" and writing "fake news." –

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at