Duterte supporters rally behind him on social media

The recent Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings, with all its drama, may just be another day in the colorful world of Philippine politics, but the testimony of Edgar Matobato certainly caught the attention of the international community.

Matobato, who claimed to be a former member of the so-called "Davao Death Squad", said during the hearing that they killed about 1,000 people from 1988 to 2013, upon orders of President Rodrigo Duterte himself.

His testimony made it to the headlines of international media outlets such as the BBC, The Guardian, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

But word on social media is circulating that the Senate hearing was supposedly intended for the international audience as an "organized, well-orchestrated black propaganda" against the Duterte administration.

The black propaganda is allegedly fueled by "oligarchs" who are "threatened by and unhappy with many of the President's pronouncements."

Seemingly intent on countering what it claimed to be propaganda, the social media message now doing the rounds says: "Some groups are resorting to black ops after the government waged a serious war against the players in the multi-billion illegal drug trade which has become a huge threat to the lives, wealth, and power of several narco-politicians and big time drug lords."

The New York Times' latest video on Matobato, it said, was a clear example. It claimed the video was pre-taped before Matobato even faced lawmakers. It also pointed out that the video was "readily available" with English subtitles.

"Other foreign news outlets were also provided with one-sided information and testimony of the incredible witness as he vilified the President. Foreign press were either fed or were only able to pick up one side of the story – and that is, the bad side of the story which some groups want the international community to see and to believe," the message read.

The groups behind the black propaganda allegedly want to incite the international community to protest, and want the United Nations, the United States, and other countries to "interfere."

Counter-offensive

To counter this supposed black propaganda, the President's supporters called on Filipinos to share "the other side of the story" – that is, "relevant positive experiences and opinions" about Duterte and his campaign against illegal drugs – to international media organizations.

The message even listed the addresses of several media outlets, including Bloomberg News, Reuters, CNN, ABC News, The New York Times, Associates Press, and The Guardian.

The post encourages supporters to write to editors, to visit these websites, to check comments on "malicious and misleading articles about our government" and to rebut those comments "nicely but intelligently," with "reliable statistics whenever possible."

It is not clear who started the post now circulating online, and which groups of "oligarchs" the post is referring to. 

One thing's clear, however: unlike his supporters, the tough-talking President has – so far – opted to remain silent on Matobato's allegations. But his followers are clearly out to win the communications war. – Jee Geronimo/Rappler.com