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CHR head Gascon should be impeached

May 22, 2019

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

ONE of the first things the new Congress should do is to kick out of office Commission on Human Rights chairman Chito Gascon, one of the remaining hold-outs of the Yellow Cult in this government.

A Liberal Party stalwart, Gascon has been using his position to spread lies to the world about the country, in effect claiming that Filipinos are afraid, immoral, or stupid that they have allowed their government to undertake massive human rights abuses, and even applaud the Duterte regime.

While impeachment is unfortunately the only official way to remove Gascon since the CHR is a constitutional body, we cannot allow Gascon to spread for another three years his lies about the country. Instead of championing human rights in the Philippines, which is the CHR’s constitutionally assigned task, he has used his post to spread lies about the country to the world.

I realized, and was shocked at, the damage Gascon has been doing to the country’s image when even a moronic New York-based comedian peddled Gascon and the Yellows’ lies in a recent stand-up comedy skit.

The comedian claimed: “According to the Commission on Human Rights, since Duterte took office in 2016, the death toll from extrajudicial killings (EJKs) is 27,000, which is horrific.” That means, the comedian claimed, that more people were killed here in 2018 “than in Iraq, Somalia, or the Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Bloody

Yep, that’s how bad the Yellows and their US-funded local journalists have depicted the situation in our country. That we’re such a bloody place worse than those countries wracked by civil wars for years.

I initially couldn’t believe the CHR would claim that figure so I checked the article from which that comedian got that information. According to the screen that accompanied his skit, it was the respected British newspaper The Guardian in a Dec. 19, 2018 article.

The article was titled “Duterte’s Philippines drug war death toll rises above 5,000,” which was about the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s report that 5,050 suspected criminals involved in illegal drugs were killed in gun battles with law enforcers from July 2016 to November 2018.

Buried down in the piece though, the article reported: “Chito Gascon, the chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights, said the toll could be as high as 27,000.”

Wow.

Does Gascon have any proof for this estimate?

Nothing. None at all.

What got my goat is that a few sentences after citing that “horrific” figure and quoting the news website Rappler as declaring that the “EJKs” represent the “worst human rights crisis in the Philippines since the 1970s and 1980s,” the comedian says: “And this is more shocking: As the body count rises, so does Duterte’s popularity. According to a recent poll, Duterte’s approval rating is 81 percent.”

Immoral

He explains this: “A lot of Filipinos support Duterte because he cut taxes, provides free college tuition, and builds infrastructure.”

This asshole comedian’s implication is clear: Filipinos are immoral, they don’t care about horrific killings as long as they are bribed.

Gascon’s kind of lies of course wouldn’t have spread without such strident anti-Duterte journalists as Maria Ressa, head of news website Rappler that first exaggerated the casualties in Duterte’s war against illegal drugs as early as September 2017, and Sheila Coronel of Columbia University.*

The dynamics of opinion-making in the US is that its media swallows hook, line and sinker reports by people whom they consider as “one of their own’, and in their laziness (or because they cover so many other countries), they don’t bother to fact-check reports of “their people.” After all, in their newsrooms, the Philippines is just one of the many countries they report on. That is, if you’re a newspaper editor here, would you spend time and resources to check for instance if the New York Times’ reports on Venezuela are accurate?

The comedian and his source Gascon (inset)

Misinterpretation

Ressa was a CNN reporter with expertise on the Abu Sayyaf for a decade until she was given the pink slip when she allegedly couldn’t deliver after she was stationed in Indonesia. It was Rappler which first padded the number of drug personalities killed, claiming that from July 2016 to January 2017 these amounted to 7,080.

While that number was the result of a gross misinterpretation, probably deliberately made, of official reports (it included other homicide cases which were not related to the anti-drug campaign), and even after I in a column and the police itself incontrovertibly showed how it was false, Rappler has not corrected it to this day. It was Rappler’s false 7,080 figure that the Yellows, especially Vice President Leni Robredo, repeated again and again in Hitlerian fashion to be believed by the Western press.

They then used this false figure of 7,080 as the EJKs in one year of Duterte’s anti-drug war, and multiplied it by over three times for the period from July 2016 to 2018 to come up with that 27,000 figure Gascon claimed to the Guardian.

Coronel headed the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that was bankrolled by the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ The Open Society, and the US State Department through the National Endowment for Democracy. She moved to the US in 2006 to become the director of The Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, and in 2014 became the academic dean of its Graduate School of Journalism.

Coronel helped the propagation of the grossly padded figures on the deaths resulting from Duterte’s anti-drug war when she wrote in the journal Democracy’s June 2017 edition that “the drug war, which Duterte officially launched on his first day in office, has claimed the lives of as many as 9,000 suspected drug dealers and users.” If you were an editor of the New York Times or the Washington Post, would you doubt the report of a dean at the journalism school of Columbia University, considered by many as the best for that profession?

Well I did, and asked Coronel in July 2017 through Facebook Messenger where she got that 9,000 figure. She replied; “Numerous news reports quote that figure.” She provided the links to these “numerous news reports,” which led to articles that took off from Rappler’s first false report. One article was even on the police’s debunking of Rappler’s reports. This kind of lazy and irresponsible reporting, from a Columbia University journalism school dean, and former head of its investigative journalism unit, and about her home country.

Renowned

Coronel didn’t reply when I asked her why a supposedly renowned investigative journalist like her wouldn’t first investigate if these “news reports’” figure was accurate before reporting it in her article. She didn’t clarify to that journal that her 9,000 figure was based on biased sources.

In 2018 though, Columbia University’s Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism which Coronel formerly headed, bankrolled a joint project of the Ateneo and La Salle universities called the Drug Archive, intended to document the casualties in the anti-drug campaign by compiling media reports on individual killings.

The Archive reported in its website that there were 5,021 drug-related deaths from news reports between May 10, 2016 and September 29, 2017—nearly half of the 9,000 drug-related EJKs Coronel reported in June 2017. The Archive couldn’t even say how many of those 5,021 were killed in firefights with the police or were found in the streets with the murderers unknown.

I emailed last month this Drug Archive (drugarchive.ph@gmail.com) to ask them if I could take a look at their data bank, which they had boasted about. No reply at all.

These university people obviously don’t know the meaning of an “archive,” which is a place where records are kept, which anybody can access, not just their people.

Email: tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

Facebook: Rigoberto Tiglao

Twitter: @bobitiglao

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