March 30, 2017

Fitch Ratings and #MediaBias: ABS-CBN twists good news to make PH look bad

How newswriters spin good news about the country to make the country look bad.
I was browsing through my news feed when I stumbled upon a recently published ABS-CBN News article entitled, “Fitch affirms PH investment grade score under Duterte”.

The article's first line reads:
“Fitch Ratings... affirmed its investment grade rating with a positive outlook on the Philippines, citing sustained economic growth momentum under President Rodrigo Duterte.”
Fitch evaluates sovereign credit ratings every six months, so the the last Fitch press release was on September 2016, covering the last three months of Pres. Aquino's term and the first three months of Duterte's.

Hence, I was immediately delighted because this is the first six-month evaluation period that's fully within Duterte's presidential term.

But then, the same ABS-CBN News article stated:
“However, 'weak governance standards,' a narrow revenue base and per capita income and human development that are below the median for economies with similar ratings constrain the Philippines' score, Fitch said.”
Yes, ABS-CBN said the credit rating agency cited the country's “weak governance standards”, and it even used quotation marks to emphasize the point.

That line saddened me, of course, as it seems to not-so-subtly reference the alleged 7000 body count from the War on Narcopolitics, which originated from Rappler's 7000-EJK hoax.

Then, I wondered, “Did Fitch really say 'weak governance standards'?”

So I went to Fitch's site to check the press release for myself.

Parang may karga na naman 'tong article e.

Fitch's Official Press Release

I went to Fitch.com and checked the official press release entitled, “Fitch Affirms the Philippines at 'BBB-'; Outlook Positive”.

The paragraph where that line was lifted from reads:
“The ratings remain constrained by relatively weak governance standards, a narrow government revenue base, and levels of per capita income and human development that are below the 'BBB' median.”
Thus, I cannot help but ask:
Why did ABS-CBN emphasize “weak government standards” through quotation marks, while quoting the other factors – verbatim – without quotation marks, and why did it leave the crucial adverb “relatively”?
As you can see from the Fitch press release, “weak governance standards” was listed alongside the other factors without any clear distinction on which is more important than the other. ABS-CBN newswriters, however, not-so-subtly emphasized it as if Fitch declared that it's the most serious constraint.
Moreover, the adverb “relatively” is crucial in painting a clear picture of what Fitch said about the Philippine governance, a crucial adverb that ABS-CBN news decided to drop.

Relatively, which means ”in relation, comparison, or proportion to something else” is crucial because it clarifies whether Philippine Governance is weak as it is, or if it is weak compared to other similar sovereign states.

Think of it this way...

According to "Forbes Philippines 50 Richest", the three richest Filipinos individuals are Henry Sy ($13.7b), John Gokongwei ($6.8b), and Lucio Tan ($4.9b), and rounding up the list are Juliette Romualdez ($155m), Michael Romero ($150m), and Luis Virata ($145m).

Thus, among this group of 50 richest Filipinos, Virata is relatively poor, as the other 49 on the list posted higher respective net worths. Clearly, Virata is by no means destitute, i.e. Virata was labelled “poor” only because everyone else in the list were richer.
And the same thing applies to the Fitch press release. Fitch said the Philippines suffers from “relatively weak governance standards”, a description that Fitch also used for Malaysia [Straits]. Surely, Malaysia, despite its domestic problems, is nowhere near being failed state.

Pero syempre, ABS-CBN writers and editors will just reply, "EH, BASTA!"

Semantic nitpicking?

Interestingly, reports by its local rivals Businessworld, BusinessMirror and GMA News didn't forget to quote “relatively”.

ABS-CBN's failure to quote “relatively” and its choice of emphasizing “weak governance standards” could have been easily attributed to innocent typographical errors and not from the news writer's biases, if not for the fact that the same article stated:
A "deterioration" in governance standards and political instability could cause a downgrade of the positive outlook to stable, Fitch said.
Kung hindi pa ba naman halatang ipinupukpok sa atin 'yan, ewan ko na lang.Moreover, ABS-CBN all-too-conveniently forgot to quote the part where Fitch said:
“The president's election campaign focused on improving law and order and promoting social justice, and he has maintained those priorities since taking office. Macroeconomic performance has remained strong despite the increase in incidents of violence associated with the administration's campaign against the illegal drug trade while domestic political stability has been maintained.
Yes, despite the alleged increase in violence, Fitch still said the Philippines enjoys domestic political stability... and ABS-CBN didn't report that.
SIDE NOTE: Alan Peter Cayetano 
Malacanang insiders informed me that Fitch representatives interviewed local officials recently, in preparation for their March 2017 report. 
The same person told me that Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez told Fitch that they must interview Senator Alan Peter Cayetano before they leave for Hong Kong. According to my source, Dominguez told Fitch that even if Cayetano is not an economist, he's the best person to talk to when it comes to the War on Narcopolitics. 
Suffice it to say, Cayetano might just have helped improve our economic prospects despite the negative propaganda from the opposition, including fake statistics from the Vice-president Leni Robredo.

Intentionally Negative Wording?

ABS-CBN's drama doesn't end there.

I checked Fitch's September 2016 statement about Philippine Sovereign credit, which said the Philippines had a BBB- credit rating with a stable outlook [Star]. Thus, it can be said that the country's credit rating has shown signs of improvement after six months as the March 2017 press release said we now have a BBB- credit rating with a POSITIVE outlook.

Despite this, ABS-CBN not only failed to mention that development in the article's title, but also in the article's body.

Curiously, during the last time Fitch changed our outlook from “stable” to “positive” in 2015 under the Aquino presidency, ABS-CBN optimistically titled its article,”PH seen to get credit rating upgrade from Fitch”.
  • Would it kill ABS-CBN's news writer to use an equally optimistic title, or 
  • Would ABS-CBN news editors kill that writer if he did, or most importantly, 
  • Would ABS-CBN's owners kill its news department if it did?
I don't know if it's just me, but the the writer's inclination to cite only the negative parts of this report suggest an agenda.

All of these is Duterte's fault: he is not an Aquino. #Sarcasm. For one, PNoy-era DBP wrote off P1.6 billion in Lopez loans [Inq], and Duterte is clearly unwilling to extend ABS-CBN a similar favor.

At this rate, maybe Duterte should really let ABS-CBN's franchise automatically expire in 2020

Despite these heavily-spun articles, mainstream media men still wonder why they consistently receive major ass-whooping in social media. 

Oh, wait! Varona insists that all uproar in social media is just "manufactured noise".

Sige 'teh, ikaw na. [ThinkingPinoy]

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