POSTSCRIPT / January 18, 2000 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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It's actually gov't plotting  the downfall of the press

FROM Cebu, reader Samuel B. Lim reports: According to some people, there are three businesses that are doing well under this administration and all have to do with “lord” — Gambling lord, Drug lord, and Praise the lord!

To that, we say Amen!

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PRESIDENT Estrada looked pathetic mouthing charges against the alleged “3Ds” of the press – Disinformation, Disaffection and Destabilization – and charging that media-based demolition groups are plotting the downfall of his administration.

It is doubtful that Erap himself thought of that onomatopoeic “disinformation, disaffection and destabilization” line. It must be that some media adviser with literary flair just concocted it for him, and poor Erap must have gulped it down without at least a chaser.

In their frantic search for an excuse for their failure to tame the press and temper adverse public opinion, the President’s boys lumped together the mainstream press and the partisan press at the fringes, then had their Boss indiscriminately fire a shotgun blast at them.

It seems to us that there is, on the contrary, an administration-based group plotting the downfall of the media.

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DON’T ever think that the administration is that helpless. The government has control over a big sector of private media, which includes sequestered trimedia and newspapers owned and operated by cronies and by businessmen dying to please the President.

In addition, the government maintains a formidable public trimedia infrastructure that reaches even to foreign shores.

Name any media weapon and the government has it. When we launched our recent survey on what people think were the reasons for the precipitous drop in the popularity rating of the President, the government’s writing brigade jumped into action.

It’s no longer annoying, but is in fact amusing, that we keep receiving bunched mail obviously written by the same teams tasked to pad surveys such as ours with pro-Erap responses.

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ONE can spot at a glance the crudely organized responses. The letters come from the same machine, use the same writing style, use fictitious names of senders, and while supposedly written from far-flung places were actually mailed and postmarked together in the same post office.

In the case of email, they use the same email facilities, the same writing style, and are sent in one burst using the same Internet service provider – yet carry (fictitious) names and addresses scattered all over the archipelago.

Their email text is then printed from the same machine, tucked in similar envelopes with the same stamps pasted in exactly the same position on the envelopes and mailed from the same post office on the same date.

Another common characteristic is that the bunched envelopes arrive rather late, meaning that these propagandists cannot even act fast enough despite their resources. We advise them that we have stopped tabulating the responses long ago, so that much of their late mass mailing was wasted effort.

* * *

IT’S amazing that the President of the Republic of the Philippines was made an unwitting participant in this clumsy propaganda effort.

The organized mailing harped on the same tired theme: The critical press is biased and operating in collaboration with shadowy groups out to the discredit and destabilize the Estrada administration.

Days after the letters were mailed and their anti-media message presumably delivered, Mr. Estrada came in strong with a major statement mouthing the same belligerent line against the press contained in those letters. Coincidence?

It’s so crude and so clumsy that only an Erap Estrada could be inveigled into lending the prestige of his office to the campaign.

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TALKING of mail service, last Dec. 27, 1999, Deputy Gov. Alberto V. Reyes of the Bangko Sentral wrote us seeking our help in assuring the public that the banks are Y2K-ready. He was reacting to our earlier negative suggestion that depositors better have enough cash before Dec. 31, 1999, to last them two weeks

His letter was mailed Jan. 4, 2000!, and we got it from our pigeonhole only the other night (Jan. 16). If the bite of the Y2K Bug were for real, maybe his letter may not have reached us considering that it was mailed days after the crossover to 2000.

Without prodding from anybody, however, we called attention on Dec. 28 to the banks’ announcements (mostly in ads in the STAR ) that they were not only Y2K-compliant, but would remain open during the holidays to serve clients during those critical crossover days.

* * *

WE told you last week that the yoyo had announced on radio that Concord (Constitutional Correction for Development) is still alive, that it will be taken up after Congress has disposed of its priority agenda, and that in the meantime an information campaign for charter amendments will be pressed.

Some incredulous friends refused to believe that the yoyo actually rolled back after being roundly praised for supposedly shelving Concord – until the same yoyo confirmed our report in a startling speech at Clark Field last Saturday.

The flip-flopping has become so confusing that newspapers may soon have to run a daily update, like they do on the daily dollar-peso exchange rate, on the latest version of official presidential statement as of press time.

* * *

WE continue to print here excerpts from selected responses to the Postscript survey on the question “ What are the three main reasons for the drop to five percent of the net approval rating of President Estrada in the latest survey of the Social Weather Stations?”

Remedio Galura, 72, 34C P. Burgos St., Sta. Ana, Taguig: (1) His Midnight Cabinet. (2) No brains. (3) All the leeches, all the kapit-tuko, who would not drop off even though they are full up to their throat.

Joaquin M. Abalajon, J.R. Torres Subd., Bacolod City: Root cause is the failure to provide enough economic developments to generate more jobs, due to cronyism, rampant smuggling tax evasion, anti-agrarian policies, and the delay in availing $11-billion foreign aid.

Virgilio B. Bas using address: (1) Unattended expectations on jobs and food promised for the masses. (2) Local governments don’t carry out Erap’s pro-poor programs. (3) Business in the doldrums, unemployment rising.

Florence Lopez, 38, Bacolod City: Persons or groups behind commissioned popularity surveys who understand how media can be used are using the same to serve their own purpose. Generally, many expected President Erap to work miracles and uplift their living conditions in a flash, and when he was unable to do this because of various reasons like empty coffers, they were disappointed.

Simplicio F. Rivera, 42 San Francisco St., Kapitolyo, Pasig City:(1) Loss of trust in the President. His acting contrary to his promises indicates insincerity. (2) Graft and corruption. (3) Lack of managerial skills, harmony in the Cabinet.

Retired pharmaceutical marketing executive, 52, Camella Homes 2, Muntinlupa City: People see him as unpresidential, mabarkada. He makes utterances unbecoming of his position, gets easily piqued by criticisms, and makes decisions based on what the barkada says, thus his urong-sulong style. Has created more tycoons among his cronies than any previous presidents except Marcos, contrary to his campaign slogan “Erap para sa mahirap.”

SRI, 67, female, Pasig City: (1) Graft, corruption and greed of mistresses, relatives, kumpares and cronies that have resulted in worsening of poverty. (2) Concord. (3) Gross ignorance, incompetence and unpresidential behavior.

CQU, 34, male, Cauayan, Isabela: (1) Oil price increases. (2) President surrounded by incompetent and self-serving advisers. (3) Fickleness and his knack for making undignified remarks.

Prof. Jose S. Quevedo Jr., University of Southeastern Philippines, Davao City: (1) Most media outlets are critical and biased against the President. (2) The demolition job being waged by the previous administration and their allies to discredit the President for exposing their corruption during their term. (3) The anti-Estrada stance of Cardinal Sin that creates divisiveness.

Corazon Almonte , 67, Camagong St., Prance: (1) Destabilizing efforts of opposition. (2) Critical press. (3) Poor losers in the last presidential election.

Tibo Acosta using inreach address: To be a good artist one needs exposure to the arts at a young age. To be a craftsman usually takes years of apprenticeship. Erap has nothing but Low-Waist Gang, Asiong Salonga movie experience. True, he became a mayor during the time of the despot Marcos. But what do you expect from an inept, unqualified, unsure-minded, and uto-uto person who is swayed by people who have more knowledge but all self-serving? Filipinos just realized a leader is not just being pogi, siga, or macho.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 18, 2000)

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