PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON Ernesto Abella quoted Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo as saying that 10 people were reported dead and 20 wounded after an IED ripped through a crowd in Hilongos, Leyte on Wednesday evening.
10 short hours later Taguiwalo made a clarification on the matter say that infact there had been no fatalities. Taguiwalo clarified to news outlet Rappler by text message that the information sent to her was “unofficial.”
The unnofficial news went understandably viral, especially considering the number of killings that have taken place in the country in the six months since President Rody Duterte took office.
This really does raise a number of very serious questions about how it is that people within the government communicate with each other and what formal channels are in place for announcements to the public.
Incidents such as these have the potential to cause huge social unrest in a country that is already reeling as a result of inconsistent information coming both from the office of the president and other organs of the government of the republic.
If we look at the White House as an example, there is a dedicated Press Corps which are gathered together to received carefully prepared statements from a press secretary. Statements which are deliberately written not to cause undue upset and unrest in the community.
Flip the coin and it appears that in the case of the Philippines, not only does PRRD not have a speach writer but he is also a fan of making sweeping statements which he then recants.
It would appear that this is a culture which is present throughout his administration. Philippines Lifestyle News reported on the fatalities in good faith, as did a number of other outlets. Since the retraction has been issued by the government, we have now been accused of spreading fake news.
The reality of the matter is that it is not us, or any other outlet that is deliberately doing this. We stand by our responsibility to inform the public, and our journalists (quite rightly) take what the government says as official statements.
It is things like this that are causing the polarization of the country. It is things like these that are causing news outlets to lose credibility. I would like to say, for the record, on behalf of the team at PLN that at no stage was it our intention to mislead anyone, the Malacañang does not need any help to do that.