By Rigoberto D. Tiglao
DON’T fall for the Yellows and US media’s portrayal of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa as a poor, helpless journalist being persecuted by the powerful state apparatus of the Philippine government.
As an American citizen, she is protected by the most powerful nation on earth. Its embassy indeed issued a statement right after her arrest that said that it hopes “her case will be resolved quickly in accordance with relevant Philippine law and international standards of due process.”
But Ressa is being protected not just by her government. Pierre Omidyar, one of the US’ richest men, and founder of eBay (with its subsidiary Paypal) and now also a Hawaii and California property tycoon, will be paying for Ressa’s lawyers.
The shadowy tycoon’s Omidyar Network and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) which he funds “have set up a $500,000 legal defense fund for Ressa,” according to a two-part investigative article in mintpressnews.com, a website that has gained a reputation as an independent news outfit with formidable research skills (Read the article here: https://www.mintpressnews.com/ebay-founder-pierre-omidyar-is-funding-a-global-media-information-war/255199/).
It was also Omidyar Network which, together with North Base Media, that saved Rappler from going under in 2015 when the two entities invested P100 million into the firm, which had been nearly abandoned by its initial funders.
But that got Rappler into deeper trouble as it was clearly a violation of the constitutional prohibition on any foreign money in, and management of, a media company. As a result, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) early last year ordered Rappler dissolved. Rappler has appealed to the Court of Appeals. (One of North Base Media’s founders, Sasa Vucinic, is believed to have been involved in the destabilization of Yugoslavia that led to its disintegration in 1992. Three years after, Vucinic set up the Media Development Investment Fund with seed money from billionaire George Soros, who has been well-documented to have an appetite for regime change in countries that break away from US vassalage.)
Rather than crusader for press freedom in the Philippines, Ressa and her Rappler are part of a network to advance US interests in the globe, under the guise of spreading democratic principles.
Who is Omidyar? The mintpress.com article authored by respected investigative journalists Alexander Rubinstein and Max Blumenthal pointed out:
“Behind the image he has cultivated of himself as a ‘progressive philanthropreneur,’ Omidyar has wielded his media empire to advance the Washington consensus in strategic hotspots around the globe. His fortune helped found an outlet to propel a destabilizing coup in Ukraine; he’s helped establish a network of oppositional youth activists and bloggers in Zimbabwe; and in the Philippines he has invested in an oppositional news site that is honing corporate surveillance techniques like a ‘mood meter…to capture non-rational reactions.’ Meanwhile, he has partnered closely with the leading arms of US soft power, from the US Agency for International Aid and Development to the National Endowment for Democracy — acting as a conduit for information warfare-style projects in countries around the world.”
“Pierre Omidyar has partnered closely with many of the US-funded outfits that fulfill the role the Central Intelligence Agency used to play during the Cold War in backing opposition media and civil society in countries targeted for regime change,“ the article claimed.
The second part of the investigative piece also pointed out: “While quietly partnering with USAid and a firm at the forefront of the fight to keep the agency ‘relevant,’ Omidyar, along with a select group of fellow billionaires, is also performing a critical service by providing a private funding channel for cultural vehicles that advance the agenda of Western foreign policy.”
The article also disclosed: “Omidyar’s political empire consists of a web of organizations overseen by its center of administration: the Omidyar Group. Each outfit appears to be an independent entity with its own staff and directors. Taken together, however, these organizations pursue a mission that reflects the vision of the billionaire behind it.”
It listed seven such entities, with Omidyar Network described as follows:
“With offices in Washington, Silicon Valley, and six foreign countries, the Omidyar Network propagates the neoliberal ideology of its billionaire namesake through ‘impact investing’ and a ‘property rights’ initiative. Outside the US, the Omidyar Network funds an array of foreign media outlets, like Ukraine’s Hromadske and the Philippines-based Rappler, that have participated in pro-Western information warfare-style campaigns against ‘rogue’governments. In Zimbabwe, where the Omidyar Network supports a series of oppositional youth organizing initiatives through the Magambe Network, an Omidyar employee was arrested, accused of attempting to stir up a revolt through online organizing, and ultimately released.. .This February 12, Rappler editor-in-chief Maria Ressa was arrested as well, accused of ‘cyberlibel.’ The Omidyar Network and the Omidyar-funded Committee to Protect Journalists have set up a $500,000 legal defense fund for Ressa.”
For lack of a succinct term, I call Omidyar an “ideological imperialist,” a billionaire who seeks not only to impose the American neoliberal ideology on Third World nations, but to set up entities in such countries by locals who disseminate his worldview. Here, National Endowment for Democracy has been a funder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and Vera Files.
Another website funded by Omidyar, The Intercept has actually been playing tag-team with Rappler to demonize Duterte in order to build up American public opinion against the President, the usual part-one tactic of the US “deep state” to remove a leader in some country that has declared its independence from the US.
It was The Intercept that disclosed to the world in May 2017 the confidential telephone conversation between President Trump and Duterte. The article was titled: “Trump called Rodrigo Duterte to congratulate him on his murderous drug war: ‘You are doing an amazing job.’” The piece was subtitled: “A call with a killer.”
To protect itself from legal liability for violating our wiretapping laws, Rappler gave the transcript of the conversation it got from Yellow stragglers at the foreign affairs department to The Intercept to first publish. It then reported it, claiming it was merely re-publishing the report of that US Omidyar outfit.
The investigative piece also noted that it was at the Committee to Protect Journalists’ (CPJ) annual event that Ressa was given a press freedom award. But the CPJ is also heavily funded by Omidyar, just as Rappler has been. “It was another case of logrolling between two members of the billionaire’s media empire,” the article noted.
I have written many columns on Rappler since 2016 because I had sensed then, after Omidyar and North Base Media invested in it that year, that the website had metamorphosed from being a platform that supported the regime of President Aquino 3rd (especially his project to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona) to one financed by American interests, and advanced the US imperial worldview in the Philippines.
This was especially so after Duterte openly declared his independence from US vassalage, and drew closer to the superpower in the region that the Americans hate so much, the People’s Republic of China. Rappler has been the main venue for the anti-China views of such personalities as former foreign affairs secretary Alberto del Rosario (whose bungling led to our loss of Panatag Shoal to the Chinese) and Justice Secretary Antonio Carpio, who has been practically saying that China will be invading the country in our lifetime.
This Ressa brouhaha is not about press freedom. It is really the nation’s struggle to free itself from the clutches of the American eagle, as it tries to control in our country even the newest form of mass media, the Internet, which probably would become the most dominant media influencing public opinion.
In response to former Special Assistant to the President Bong Go’s potshot at an unnamed critic, who he said had the gall to criticize President Rodrigo Duterte even if the person wasn’t a Philippine citizen, Ressa tweeted: “Pilipino po — at hindi po tinatago … unlike the fantasies of your minions. Have never hidden my dual nationality. And since I reclaimed my PH citizenship in 2004, I enter & exit the PH getting both passports stamped.”
While she made the tweet a day after my column revealing her US citizenship, Ressa most probably hadn’t read my detailed exposé on her, and therefore thought she could fool people. Her tweet is a total lie.
First, as any dual citizen would know, a traveler can have only one passport stamped here or any port of entry in the world. You might even be arrested if you show two passports indicating your different nationalities in some countries.
Second, and more importantly, my sources had disclosed that since she became a citizen shortly after her family migrated in 1973 to the US, she has been using four US passports, religiously renewing each one after it expired after 10 years. Out of her 500 arrivals and departures in the Philippines, she used a Philippine passport only once — in 2004, after she got to be a Philippine citizen — suspiciously within a week, I was told, after the dual-citizenship law took effect that year.
Was it an expression of patriotism for her to get Filipino citizenship?
ABS-CBN sources claim that she was told by the network’s lawyers to better get Filipino citizenship fast as she was already working as its News Division head for a few months — without the required work permit for a foreigner. The network’s lawyers were also worried that somebody would file a suit as the Constitution not only bars foreign money in a media outfit, but also foreign managers.
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**The original copy of this article appeared in The Manila Times and was re-posted here with the authorization of the Author ***