Wednesday ∗ 20 Jul 2016

From #WestPHSea dispute to … impeachment? #mediacrisis

Not that it isn’t being pointed out by more and more people, which has also made our mainstream media practitioners totally defensive, but there are some glaring media mishaps that seem important to mention — before we (i) forget, and just so it’s here for future reference.

The Karen Davila Headstart interview with Justice Antonio Carpio on July 14 2016 happened as expected. They talked about the West Philippine Sea dispute, the decision of the international arbitral tribunal in favor of the Philippines, and where to go from here. I will not talk about the line of questioning of Davila, or the answers of Carpio, but everyone should be reading Sass Rogando Sasot, from whom I’ve been learning a lot about this dispute and have been sent in various directions towards understanding this whole thing better. (Here’s a good start, too.)

What I will direct you to is this transcript of the Davila-Carpio interview, where you will find one question that comes from left field, and barely even make sense. 

Davila: Last words Justice Carpio. Anything you want to say to the Filipino people, to Malacañang who could be watching right now?

Carpio: I think even without the ruling, the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines has been defined under UNCLOS and our laws. The exclusive economic zone is called exclusive because it is exclusive to the coastal state, to the Philippines. That’s why you cannot have joint development with another country because international law and national law said it’s exclusive. Why do you want to share what is exclusively yours?

What you should do is ask other countries if they have the technology to help you develop it but they are your contractors. You pay them. You can pay them in cash or in kind but you don’t give up your sovereign rights over this. It is sacred. And you cannot do that, you cannot give up those sovereign rights because the Constitution prohibits that. No president can give it up.

Davila: He can be impeached?

The “he” Davila refers to of course is President Duterte, which is strange, because even this part of the conversation that is about joint developments with China begins when Davila asks not about President Duterte, but about former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her engagement with China.

There is also this fact: the last time President Duterte even talked about joint developments with China, the court had yet to decide on the West PH Sea dispute. In fact, it seems that it was only during the campaign that candidate Duterte spoke about joint developments with China. As President, he has repeatedly said they would await the decision of the arbitral tribunal.

Note too that as candidate for president, Duterte dared do what no other candidate could do: mention the US in relation to this dispute. Here, via the Wall Street Journal, May 4 2016:

“I will bide my time,” he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview in January <2016>. “But if nothing is moving after 2 to 3 years, I will say this cannot go on. There are no talks going on because the U.S. and its allies want multilateral talks, and China wants bilateral talks. I would say to China that I’m ready to talk.”

He added: “You want to talk? OK. You want joint exploration? OK. You don’t claim it, and we won’t claim it.”

Davila could’ve asked about the US, about the President’s assertion here that the US meddled in this issue with China and our shared waters. But she didn’t — and that’s another story.

That she had the word “impeachment” on her mind though is worth remembering. Because to have brought that into this conversation, to have let that slip, (at least to me) was telling of where exactly Davila stands with regards this President.

For sure she didn’t miss the black propaganda that had the dominant party talking impeachment during the electoral campaign — they had a “reason” for impeaching whichever candidate might win, excluding Roxas of course.

Now, two months since we got ourselves a new President, the talk of impeachment is still alive and well, appearing as “harmless” comments on Facebook statuses of Liberal Party endorsers / followers, even in ones that talk about Robredo “preparing” for taking on the highest position in the land (yes! pak ambisyosa ganern!)

Davila’s slip, in that sense, should come as no surprise. At least it reminds us that as far as media is concerned what we should be listening to is not so much what is said, but also what is silenced, but maybe also and most importantly, what slips through built-in filters.


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