One would think that by now, the international media like The New York Times, would have learned their lesson and learned it well regarding Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte.
In yet another example of its naive reporting, NYT grabbed a local story in which Duterte on Friday suggested that 19 police officers accused of killing a politician should spare themselves a lengthy trial and plead guilty because he planned to pardon them anyway.
It seems the international news media is always quick to pick up stories that would make for a juicy, sensational headline such as this one.
Sure, NYT, you can believe everything that comes out of Duterte’s mouth. After all, whatever he says happens, right?
As far as we know, he hasn’t taken a speedboat to disputed territories in the South China Sea to directly confront the Chinese. We haven’t seen bodies of drug lords and users dumped in Manila Bay. He hasn’t abolished Congress like he said during his presidential campaign. The Philippines hasn’t cut ties with the United States nor burned down the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Oh yes, he said all those things.
But more than just reporting on Duterte’s rhetoric (many of which he himself has described as hyperbole), I expect a respected newspaper like NYT to provide more context and do a little more research to enhance its stories.
Case in point: the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines grants the power of pardon to the President. Duterte did not make up that law, the lawmakers did.
Section 19. Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.
So even if at some point Duterte makes good on his statement, it is a power granted to him by the Philippine Constitution — the exact same power granted to the President of the United States under the U.S. Constitution. And may I add, a power most if not all U.S. Presidents have exercised.
Today, starting at noon Manila time, there will be a huge rally in support of granting Duterte “revolutionary powers.”
Before you report yet again that Duterte is seeking those powers, let me just inform you know that it is the people — not the president — who want those powers put in place.
And if your reporters are smart enough to do a little research, they will also learn that revolutionary powers have been invoked by former President Cory Aquino whom the Americans see as a poster lady for U.S.-style Democracy.