Photo from GMA News YouTube account.
RODRIGO ROA Duterte talked big about ending corruption in government even during his 2016 campaign. But four years into his term, he has definitely shown a soft side for some officials, holding them to standards less harsh than those he has held others.
CMFR noted how most of the media simply recorded what the president had to say to attest to the integrity of two Cabinet officials, DOH Sec. Francisco Duque and DPWH Sec. Mark Villar, as media reported issues hounding certain areas of their jurisdictions.
When Duterte announced on October 27 the creation of a "mega task force" to investigate allegations of corruption "in the entire government," it was played up by the Palace as a "legacy." In the following weeks, the president took time to name personnel and officials of the Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs and Department of Transportation, who he suspended or dismissed for corrupt practices.
In response to his call, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica provided him the names of 12 congressmen allegedly involved in corruption within DPWH. Less than a month after issuing his supposed campaign against corruption, Duterte backed off from naming these lawmakers in public during the weekly Monday night briefing on November 23, saying that he could not authorize their investigation as he had no jurisdiction over the legislative branch of government .
Critics, including several lawmakers, immediately called attention to the president's apparent inconsistency in holding officials accountable. The media did more than repeat the president's words, but went on to review the context of the supposed anti-corruption policy, and recalling Duterte's first year in office.
CMFR monitored reports from the three major Manila broadsheets (Manila Bulletin, Philippine Daily Inquirer and The Philippine Star); four primetime newscasts (ABS-CBN 2's TV Patrol, CNN Philippines' News Night, GMA-7's 24 Oras and TV5's Frontline Pilipinas); as well as selected news websites from November 24 to November 26, 2020
Duterte's refusal to name the congressmen received due prominence from media, landing on the front pages of the print and primetime newscasts monitored by CMFR.
News accounts framed the story from a critical angle, with reports highlighting the following issues:
The Inquirer noted that the president had "no qualms" about publicizing his narco-list of public officials in 2016, which included judges and lawmakers in Congress. Rappler recalled that the president was criticized for releasing the list before the 2019 elections and using them to scare politicians. PhilStar.com added that in 2016, the president also made public a narco-list of judges and lawmakers.
News reports cited Senators Panfilo Lacson and Leila de Lima who questioned the reason for the president taking action on the case of the lawmakers. De Lima recalled the investigation by executive agencies against former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada and incumbent Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. over the "pork barrel" scam. Lacson also pointed out that the president had accused De Lima of being part of the drug trade inside the Bilibid prison.
Another report by Rappler noted that the president publicly falsely accused
then senator Antonio Trillanes IV of keeping funds in an account abroad. The administration "voided" the amnesty that had been previously granted to Trillanes by the previous administration, in an attempt to throw him in jail.
The claim on non-jurisdiction only added to Duterte's inconsistency.
"If I cannot investigate the congressmen, then I have no authority to be releasing their names, that they are involved, per investigation by the [Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC)]," the president said in the televised address last November 23.
Media, however, presented legal experts who discussed executive jurisdiction and authority to investigate:
Lawyer Jesus Falcis, one of the hosts of TV 5's public affairs program Boljak, pointed out that while the president cannot file and prosecute the cases, the executive branch can still investigate and gather the facts. Falcis cited the "faithful execution clause" in the Constitution, stating that the president should faithfully execute the laws.
GMA 7's late-night newscast State of the Nation with Jessica Soho interviewed legal expert Pacifico Agabin and Constitution framer Christian Monsod who also argued that it is within the president's power to investigate the charges.
Agabin, a former dean of the UP College of Law, called selective justice "unconstitutional and in violation of substantive due process." Monsod, who was a member of the Constitutional Commission in 1987, said that graft and corruption violates many laws. Monsod stressed that when the president says that he has no jurisdiction, officials who "over-defer" to him may follow, resulting in a breakdown in the rule of law.
Such reporting fulfills the requirements of factual and contextual accuracy. It is this kind of reporting that is so necessary when an administration trades in so much self-serving propaganda. Such reports check the false claims made by public officials, especially when the president is involved.
This is the kind of reporting that helps the public understand more fully how those in power manipulate the public mind to suit their purposes.