Disinformation

[Rappler’s Best] US does propaganda? Of course.

Glenda M. Gloria

This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

[Rappler’s Best] US does propaganda? Of course.

Nico Villarete/Rappler

'The US military, like its counterparts from the so-called axis of evil, is neither incapable of disinformation nor unskilled in propaganda'

Angela Bofill, my generation’s senti icon, passed away at the age of 70 last week. Her songs’ lasting stirrings in our hearts reverberated on the Rappler site; her death was the most read story on the day we published it on Saturday, June 15. “Break it to me gently,” crooned a Bofill classic for those whose loves have started embracing others.

But there is no breaking it gently when it comes to hard-nosed investigations that jolt us back to reality. Published on Friday, June 14, a Reuters story reminded us that the US military, like its counterparts from the so-called axis of evil, is neither incapable of disinformation nor unskilled in propaganda. What did Reuters find out? 

  • In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US military engaged in a secret operation to discredit China’s vaccines.
  • It deployed an armada of phony accounts that targeted Filipino audiences who were fed with fake online posts about the ill-effects of Chinese vaccines and masks. The psy-ops campaign eventually expanded to the rest of Southeast Asia. 
  • The US defense department gave a go-signal for the operation despite objections from American diplomats based in the region, who warned at the time about the impact of such a campaign on Filipinos desperate for vaccines.
  • The tactical goal of the operation was to counter China’s information operations against the US on the pandemic, but the strategic motivation was to chip away at China’s “growing influence” in the Philippines under then-president Rodrigo Duterte.
  • A lawmaker has urged the House of Representatives to initiate a probe into the matter.

I think we need not spell out the core lessons that could be derived from this story given the current geopolitical context involving the West Philippine Sea (WPS) – lessons especially for the civilians engaged in the issue and the journalists covering it.

Tensions between Manila and Beijing over the WPS again surfaced on Monday, June 17, when the Chinese coast guard accused a Philippine supply ship of dangerously approaching a Chinese ship, resulting in a minor collision off Ayungin Shoal. 

On the legal front, the Philippine government made another bold but strategic move to protect the country’s seas. It filed before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf a claim over an extended continental shelf (ECS) in the WPS. It’s a process that began more than a decade ago, said the Department of Foreign Affairs. 

  • Former Supreme Court senior associate justice Antonio Carpio made a strong push for this in 2019, saying that the filing of the claim helps reinforce the country’s 2016 legal victory over China. In this piece, Carpio cites it as one of five ways that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can fend off Chinese intimidation in the South China Sea. 
  • The recent filing marks the second submission of the Philippines on an ECS entitlement. The first submission was in 2009 related to Philippine Rise, then called Benham Rise, an area off Aurora province that’s bigger than Luzon. In 2012, the UN body confirmed that it’s part of the Philippines’ continental shelf and territory.
  • Two years after the victory, a group of Filipino researchers sailed and reached the shallowest portion of Philippine Rise, which is said to contain minerals and natural gas. “It felt a lot like [what] Magellan felt,” said the leader of the team. Read about their expedition here.

Whatever it is, the ties between Manila and Beijing go beyond the seas.

Rappler’s business reporter Lance Spencer Yu recently joined a media delegation to the Envision 2023 Global Partners Conference in China. His story asks a difficult question given the miserable state of our tourism industry: Should the Philippines start rolling out the red carpet for Chinese tourists?

Outside the economy, China has also been assisting the Philippines in the latter’s moves to weed out illegal offshore gambling dens. Rappler’s investigative reporter Lian Buan cites such efforts in this story on the rise of a shady offshore gaming company. Last Friday, China again urged the Marcos government to shut off existing offshore gambling firms in the Philippines.

Indeed, as in Angela Bofill’s many musings about relationships, this one is truly complicated. – Rappler.com

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Glenda M. Gloria

Glenda Gloria co-founded Rappler in July 2011 and is currently its executive editor.