POSTSCRIPT / February 6, 2020 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Manipulating facts worsens nCoV risks

WHEN Malacañang’s primary information agency twists indicator facts to achieve an ulterior propaganda effect, the masses who are engrossed with making a living are unable to know the true state of the nation and are thus easily manipulated.

The Duterte Cabinet launched on Jan. 17 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City a “Duterte Legacy” campaign reporting the administration’s supposed accomplishments in the last 3.5 years.

A Duterte Legacy infographic was also circulated on social media by the Presidential Communications Operation Office. Not a few observers noted, however, inaccuracies in what looked like a disturbing attempt to misinform and mislead.

We are calling attention to this sneaky move, partly because in the management of the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak, disinformation could hide the nature and extent of the epidemic and the administration’s response to it.

President Duterte should not allow his deferential attitude toward China, where the epidemic started in its Hubei province last December, to color his approach to the problem – to the extent of manipulating information and misleading the public.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said Monday in a TV interview on ONE News’ “The Chiefs” that some of the Legacy numbers that could mislead the public were not shown to him before PCOO published them.

Pernia, who heads the National Economic and Development Authority, also said the data should have been presented in a proper context.

In a separate interview on “The Chiefs,” Executive Director Sonny Africa of research group Ibon Foundation, noted for instance that Duterte Legacy credited 64 airports to the administration.

Africa said: “Even that 64 airports, that’s ambiguous. The impression that it’s trying to create is under Duterte’s watch, 64 airports were built. If we check government data, there are over 80 airports in the country. Are you saying 64 of these 80 were built under Duterte”?

He added: “It’s a sort of pattern of disinformation using government funds.”

Several readers were incredulous. Sun Rise said: “Bridges 2,709 = 1.85 bridges per day are completed in four years LOL maybe including footbridges. Classroom = 71,803 = 49.05 classroom per day for the entire four years. OMG. High-Value Target 8,105. Lowly drug pusher classified as HVT.”

Mu sashii: “5.9M Filipinos lifted out of poverty???”

Leonardo Esmero: “I expected Duterte’s legacy would at least be maintaining a reasonable inflation rate. But then came 6.7 percent inflation, 30 percent rise in food prices, and 50 percent increase in rice prices.

“I thought he would also curb shabu use but instead he even admitted the situation got worse with 7 to 8 million addicts from 1.8 million when he took power.”

Writing for, JC Punongbayan, a PhD candidate at the UP School of Economics, noted:

“Inflation record — The Legacy infographic cited an inflation rate of 0.8 percent, supposedly the slowest pace since May 2016.

“Inflation refers to the pace by which prices rise over time. Low inflation is generally good: it basically means you can buy more with the same income you have. Although an inflation of 0.8 percent sounds low, there are problems with this number as presented in the Legacy.

“First, it’s unclear how they arrived at it. The infographic claims to be updated as of Jan. 9, 2020, but the last time inflation clocked in at 0.8 percent was in November 2019. In December 2019 – the latest month with available data – inflation actually inched up to 2.5 inflation.

“Second, and more to the point, 0.8 percent hides the fact that in 2018 we experienced some of the highest inflation rates in almost a decade. This was due to a number of domestic and international factors, but in large part to administration policies.

“Jobs record — Duterte Legacy also claimed that Build, Build, Build, the government’s flagship economic project, generated nearly 4.2 million jobs.

“This statistic is implausible. As of October 2019, there were 4.22 million people employed in the construction industry. Does Duterte Legacy mean to say BBB created nearly as many construction jobs as there currently are?

“At best we can say from the Labor Force Surveys there were 719,000 more construction jobs in October 2019 than in July 2016 when Duterte came into office.”

The research group IBON Foundation was among those who called out Malacañang’s PCOO for “reverting to a really crude propaganda tactic of repeating a lie often enough for people to believe it.”

Some items in the Ibon’s version of what it said was a more truthful Duterte Legacy:

* 5.9-percent growth for full-year 2019.

* P7.9-trillion outstanding debt, growing twice as fast as under Aquino.

* As many as 350,000 rice farmers at risk of displacement by rice liberalization.

* 27.2 million Filipinos are in non-regular, agency-hired and informal work.

* 12.4 million Filipino families try to survive on P132 or less per person per day.

* Around 4.7 million unemployed Filipinos in 2019.

* P537 NCR minimum wage is just 48 percent of P1,025 family living wage needed for a family of five.

* No fewer than 156 Lumad community schools closed.

* P558-billion fiscal deficit in 2018 equivalent to 8-year-high 3.2 percent of GDP.

* Around 58 percent of healthcare expenses by Philhealth members are paid from their own pockets.

Ibon cited its sources as: Philippine Statistics Authority, Bureau of the Treasury, Philhealth, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, and Save Our Schools Network.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 6, 2020)

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