By Charlie V. Manalo | Manila Standard
"Or, how lies can win you the Nobel Peace Prize."
Funny—it seems that press freedom advocate and Nobel Peace Prize awardee Maria Ressa is now under attack from netizens from, guess what,—peddling of fake news.
Last week, Ressa’s media outlet, Rappler, conducted an online survey using emojis to let people vote on their preferred presidential bets: A shocked emoji for Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard-bearer Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr., a heart was assigned to independent candidate Leni Robredo, the laugh emoticon, to Panfilo Lacson, the like emoticon to Isko Moreno, and the care emoticon to Manny Pacquiao.
However, when a netizen tried to check on the details of the Rappler’s survey result, it failed to give any details on the heart emoji, or the votes cast for Robredo. But by activating a virtual private network or VPN, one can access the data on those who clicked the heart emoji and it bared that all those who voted for Robredo were from India as manifested by their names.
Clearly, someone, with the imprimatur of someone responsible in Rappler, had decided to manipulate their own survey result by buying Facebook likes,” a scheme employed by some businesses.
According to tinuiti.com, you can buy Facebook likes from “hundreds of sites out there that promote paying for likes — and for cheap,” which include Buy-Cheap-Social.com, Boostlikes.com, or even Fiverr, for as low as $5 for 10,000 likes.
But then, the same website says buying as while “you get what you pay for” totally rings true, meaning you get the number of likes you paid for, “you’ll end up with an unqualified, disengaged audience — or even fake likes from fake accounts.”
Facebook defines fake likes as “external services that sell packages of likes from fake accounts or people without real intent by offering a certain number of likes for a flat fee.”
And that’s what happened to Rappler’s survey. By “buying fake likes,” they got the number of likes they paid for but ended up with a totally disengaged audience from India.
The irony is, even if it had resorted to buying fake likes, the survey was taken down after Marcos emerged on top with 250,000 votes to Robredo’s 192,000 votes.
Rappler then issued a statement saying it had to take down its survey as it did not meet its original objective. But what really is its objective? To project Robredo winning, which they failed to do so?
Anyway, it seems Rappler had not yet learned its lessons. A few days later, it published a story saying 4,000 vehicles joined Robredo’s caravan in Bicol. Apparently, Ressa has no idea what a convoy of 4,000 vehicles looks like. It’s more than enough to fill up the North Luzon Expressway. A caravan of 4,000 vehicles on Bicol’s main thoroughfare would paralyze traffic in the province for a day.
And even after some netizens posted pictures of the actual caravan showing a little more than 30 vehicles, Ressa still refused to apologize.
Again, Ressa was caught peddling lies when Rappler fact-checked an article claiming the famous Bangui Windmills in Ilocos Norte was Bongbong Marcos’ project.
In its so-called fact-checking report, Rappler averred this was not BBM’s project, even without bothering to check the origin and eventual implementation of the project and that the same was done by a private company – NorthWind Power Corporation.
In his column last Tuesday, fellow Standard columnist, former Congressman Jonathan dela Cruz, ably explained this saying that while Northwind was the project developer, “the project was essentially a kind of public-private partnership set up in the 1990s during Marcos’ second term as governor of the province.”
“It was he who broached (actually hammered) the idea for the local electric cooperative, INEC, to issue a “take off” document (a kind of power purchase agreement) to ensure the usage of the plant’s output. It was also BBM who got the DENR and the other government agencies to assist in securing the leases on the project site involving 28 huge windmills, fast track permitting, securing the areas and otherwise ensuring that the project gets implemented in the soonest possible time. It was also BBM who assured the project developers and the Danish government who provided the grants and low-interest loans as well as the supplier, VESTAS, that everything will be properly and responsibly handled to set up Southeast Asia’s first wind farm. In short, he was not only present at the project’s establishment. He was, for all intents and purposes, the proponent,” dela Cruz’s lengthy explanation.
Still, no retraction from Rappler.
But what could we expect from Ressa? These are not the only instances she was caught peddling lies.
In 2019, she was convicted of libel for publishing a story claiming businessman Wilfredo Keng had links to illegal drugs and human trafficking and that he had lent his car to the late Chief Justice Renato Corona who at that time, was facing an impeachment trial. She tried to demonize Corona at the expense of an innocent bystander.
In the same year, she was found to have violated the foreign equity restrictions in mass media under the Constitution when it was revealed she allowed its foreign investor Omidyar Network (Omidyar) to hold Philippine Depositary Receipts or PDRs.
While PDR is a financial instrument that foreign entities can buy into for financial returns in a local company but not in the form of dividends which are tied to ownership, Ressa gave Omidyar voting rights in Rappler’s shares with which she cannot deny Omidyar had gained part ownership and control over her media entity.
She even bloated the victims of President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug war to 27,000, ABS-CBN’s employees to 11 million, and declared before the whole world there is media suppression in the Philippines. Just how can she claim media suppression when she had been peddling lies all along and yet she still has to spend a day behind bars or see her media entity closed?
Now, is it fair to ask me and other media practitioners, particularly columnists, on why we are not celebrating Ressa’s Nobel Prize? I’d rather give Manny Mogato a space in my column for his hard-earned Pulitzer Prize. Deep in my heart I know he deserves that -- even if I don’t know him personally.
But more importantly, I would rather write what I believe is the truth, rather than sell lies to gain so-called prestigious awards. That is the path I have chosen. To write is to choose.