OPINION: Pro-Duterte group gave reporters and bloggers 'gas money' for attending its presscon

Raïssa Robles

Posted at Apr 21 2017 01:15 PM

Part 2 of two parts

Click here for part 1 

The Duterte administration has gone out of its way to target and deride professional media. Facebook propagandists such as Mocha Uson and Jimmy Bondoc, as well as their thousands of followers, regularly belittle journalists as “presstitutes” and “bayaran.” They claim the mainstream press shouldn’t be believed because all reporters are on the take.

Yet when those Duterte supporters and propagandists (including entertainers-turned-government officials) held a press conference on March 28, they apparently didn’t hesitate to pay off the media they mocked.

The press conference held at “a hotel along Timog” Avenue in Quezon City, Bondoc said, was supposed to discuss the April 2 rally in Luneta and featured six Duterte supporters, four of them public officials by virtue of the fact that they were appointed to their posts by the president (they should look up the terms “sinecures” and “sharing of spoils”). At some point during that event, the journalists, as well as bloggers, were given “gas money.”

The proof is there in black and white. Listed in the breakdown of expenses that Jimmy Bondoc posted on his Facebook page were the following:

“Gas money? What does gas money mean?”, I asked Jimmy Bondoc, now an assistant vice president in charge of the Entertainment Department of PAGCOR, the state regulatory agency for gambling, which is directly under the Office of the President.

Bondoc explained it was intended for the journalists who had to take public transport like taxis.

I told him, “sa aming journalists, suhol yon. We never accept.” In my profession, taking (and asking) money from sources — variously called “lagay”, “suhol”, “coffee money” “for the boys” and “envelopmental journalism” — is a gross ethical breach, if not an outright corrupt practice.

Bondoc admitted he’d been told the same thing on FB, where someone commented that it would have been better if they had not given reporters “gas money”.

At first, Bondoc claimed he was a newbie when it came to holding press conferences and had mistakenly believed giving money to the press was standard procedure.

Then he blurted out to me, “kaya pala yung mga ABS(CBN) – to their credit – binalik.”

From what he had posted in the tally of expenses, it would seem that “some”, and not just the ABS-CBN TV crew, had refused and returned the payoffs.

Bondoc told me it was for him “a lesson learned”. However, he said he had done it for “humanitarian reasons”, especially for the radio journalists, for whom he expressed pity.

He also added that besides, what they had given was far less than the P5,000 to P8,000 per reporter usually being handed out, which he described as the going rate.

But later, he defended the “gas money” that his group, the D.A.V.A.O. Movement, had given to the media and the bloggers.

“It’s not suhol,” he insisted.

I told him that in my industry, it was.

Bondoc promised he would not do it again.

This payoff incident, done so very casually, flabbergasts me in so many ways.

First, there is currently a systematic and deliberate attempt on the part of Duterte supporters, particularly Mocha Uson and her ilk, to denigrate professional media.

Second, they keep hammering on the theme that #changeiscoming.

Third, they keep calling media “bayaran” but in truth and in fact, they themselves don’t hesitate to pay off. By doing so, they demonstrate a very cynical and hypocritical view of their so-called crusade to change Philippine society.

And fourth, four government officials were holding that press conference where the payoffs took place: MRTCB board member Mocha Uson, Bondoc of Pagcor, Arnell Ignacio of Pagcor, and Tourism Undersecretary Kat de Castro.

Watch the video here:

 

Did they all approve of the “envelopmental journalism” that the D.A.V.A.O. Movement was resorting to? Could we then say that government officials were contributing to the corruption of the press?

UPDATE:

Critics (i.e., howling trolls) have been belittling part 1 of this report, claiming it is inaccurate about the March 23 press conference. The trolls have been repeatedly jeering that the March 23 presscon was only for the purpose of announcing that an impeachment complaint against Vice President Leni Robredo would be filed and that it had nothing to do with the Luneta rally.

With various degrees of condescension, trolls told me to view a video.

Well guess what? I did. And what video makes clear is that the March 23 presscon also tackled the April 2 #palitbise rally at the Luneta. It was brought up by lawyer Bruce Rivera, a co-organizer of the D.A.V.A.O. Movement that raised the funds for the #palitbise rally through Gava gives. Watch the video below starting at 46 minutes up to 48 minutes and 21 seconds. 

Duterte supporters have also claimed that the video reveals that the crowdfunding by the rally organizers was mentioned by De la Salle University teacher Antonio Contreras. True, it was mentioned, but as I said in Part 1 of my report, the name of the crowdfunding platform Gava Gives was specifically kept out of the picture. Watch the same video starting at 48:24 up to 49 minutes and 14 seconds.

However, I would like to correct myself in this paragraph in Part 1 which reads:

First, during a press conference held on the #palitbise rally on March 23, 2017, Jimmy Bondoc’s group hid from the press the fact that the organizers were actually raising money for the rally through the crowdfunding platform, Gava Gives.

It should read as follows:

First, during a press conference held – on the PLANNED IMPEACHMENT OF VICE-PRESIDENT LENI ROBREDO AND THE #palitbise rally – on March 23, 2017, Jimmy Bondoc’s group hid from the press the fact that the organizers were actually raising money for the rally through the crowdfunding platform, Gava Gives.

In the March 23 press conference, Contreras did say that they had already gathered money amounting to P1.6 million through crowdfunding. But he failed to mention the crowdfunding platform, which was exactly my point.

Perhaps because Contreras was afraid that publicity in the professional media would result in further hacking of Gava Gives.

Others have sneered that nothing was hidden since Gava Gives was “public” and viewable online by anyone.

My answer is, those who said that do not know how the Internet works. There are almost a billion websites online today. See – How many websites are there? 

At that time, Gava Gives – a start-up – was as public as a star at the edge of the universe. It’s there, yes, but if it isn’t specifically mentioned, along with its URL, it is invisible.

There are people from the Middle East who have insulted me saying they knew about it and they gave donations.

My reply to them is, why did only 1,122 contribute to Gava Gives when President Rodrigo Duterte has supporters in the hundreds of thousands in the Middle East? Is it because they did not care or they were hard-up? Or – perhaps – they did not know about Gava Gives?

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.