POSTSCRIPT / September 25, 2022 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Tricky media lesson relearned: Don’t lie!

After that disastrous attempt to misinform the public about the meeting of US President Joe Biden and President Ferdinand Marcos in New York, it may be somewhat difficult now for Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles to continue functioning effectively.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles gives misleading details about the Biden-Marcos meeting on Sept. 20 in New York. Photo: pna.gov.ph

The falsehood that she spread, that several world leaders requested to meet with Biden but only Marcos merited a sit-down dialogue, was verifiable at her level, but she failed to check its veracity before passing it on to the media.

Was her statement a deliberate attempt to mislead the public into believing that the President is exceptionally important to his US counterpart? Was her announcement just another PR stunt, a promotional lie, or a hangover of her blogging days?

How can we now believe other information issued by her office? Do we impose the ridiculous requirement that henceforth the Press Secretary’s statements be made under oath on pain of perjury?

As for the substance of the Biden-Marcos dialogue, pardon me if I give more credence to what the US president said on Twitter:

“President Biden @POTUS –·Today I met with President Marcos of the Philippines. Our nations’ relationship is rooted in democracy, common history, and people-to-people ties, including millions of Filipino-Americans who enrich our nation. Our alliance is strong and enduring.”

Also, the White House readout of the meeting said that Biden reaffirmed the US’ “ironclad” commitment to the defense of the Philippines. (That commitment is presumed from the allies’ Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 although its text does not say “ironclad”.)

The readout said further that they also discussed opportunities to expand bilateral cooperation on a wide range of issues, including energy security, climate action, and infrastructure.

The White House said Russia’s war against Ukraine and its implications for energy prices and food security, was also discussed. They likewise touched on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the crisis in Myanmar, and the importance of upholding human rights.

* * *

At least “human rights” was brought up by Biden, according to the White House. The sensitive topic was accentuated by the US visit coinciding with the anniversary of the September 1972 declaration of martial law by the elder Marcos.

It breaks one’s heart to see youth activists in Manhattan demonstrating and calling out the US’s seemingly being oblivious to human rights violations. The visit resurrected videos and other media reports of wanton violations of human rights during the martial law regime.

Even Marcos’ own national security adviser, UP Prof. Clarita Carlos came out and spoke vehemently on TV against the President’s silence on the subject. She cited with bitterness her activist classmates’ disappearance during those dark days.

The term “human rights” appeared only twice in the 2,400-word speech that Marcos read at the 77th United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. Toward the end of his 21-minute fast reading, he said superficially, without elaboration, in separate paragraphs:

* “We need to reaffirm the wisdom of the founders of our United Nations. This means transcending our differences and committing to ending war, upholding justice, respecting human rights, and maintaining international peace and security.”

* “The Philippines’ United Nations Joint Program on Human Rights is an example of a constructive approach that puts our people, not our politics, at the center of this work.”

Those were the only mention that the late dictator’s son made in his UN address of the burning issue of human rights violations then and now.

* * *

We in media sometimes ask, more as a matter of editorial style, how to call the president in the first mention in a story. It seems Marcos himself answered the question in his UNGA77 speech.

He started by laying down his credentials as he appeared before the body for the very first time. He said:

“I am Ferdinand Marcos and I am the President of the Republic of the Philippines.”

To me, that settled the editorial room question of how to refer to him in the first mention in a story. In his own words, he is “President Ferdinand Marcos”.

It’s curious why he did not insert “R.” or “Romualdez”, or add “Jr.” (But we did not expect him to put back the “II” [read that “the second” as among royalty] seen a few times in old news and articles about him.)

Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles may want to explain why the President suddenly cropped his name, dropping the ”R.” as in Romualdez, and the “Jr.” highlighting his being the namesake of the late dictator.

* * *

Here are some exhibits, based on White House readouts, showing other heads of state/government also meeting with Biden on Tuesday. He met with:

* Prime Minister Liz Truss of the United Kingdom, again expressing condolence for the loss of Queen Elizabeth II. He said it was “an honor for my wife and I to be able to pay our respects at her lying-in-state and attend the state funeral in London… I was amazed and overwhelmed by the affection of the British people and the world.”

* Prime Minister Kishida of Japan, discussed the importance of advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific, and emphasizing the importance of strengthening and modernizing their countries’ security alliance. Biden thanked Kishida for Japan’s $1.08-billion pledge to the Global Fund’s Seventh Replenishment.

* President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea, reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the US-ROK alliance and ensure close cooperation to address the threat posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, discussed cooperation on a broad range of priority issues including supply chain resilience, critical technologies, economic and energy security, global health, and climate change.

* President Emmanuel Macron of France, reaffirmed their continued support for Ukraine’s defending itself against Russian aggression, discussed efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, as well as the two countries’ cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and the challenge posed by China.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 25, 2022)

* * *

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