January 11, 2017

#LeniLeaks is about Leni, “Our Lady of Naga”

Sass Rogando Sasot's first post about a leaked OVP email, followed by my article, “#OustDuterte: Inside Leni Robredo's international propaganda machinery”, is what launched the #LeniLeaks scandal. Since then, the #LeniLeaks scandal has gotten so big, it took on a life of its own.

Administration officials have issued various warnings to various oppositionists. Oppositionists have issued various denials and alibis. And as for netizens... Ugh, where do I even start?

I think that after five days of nonstop bickering, it's time to put things back into perspective. Why? Because almost everybody is talking about the wrong issue, almost everybody is attacking a strawman.

Let's get started.

#LeniLeaks Origins

The #LeniLeaks issue started with Sass Rogando Sasot's discovery of a forwarded email published in the Global Filipino Diaspora Council (GFDC) Yahoo! group message board. In the GFDC board message, former Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) chair Imelda “Mely” Nicolas published an email from a certain “Pete Silva”,  an email that contained instructions from the OVP.

I am sorry to burst the bubble of conspiracy theorists, but the GFDC is NOT some clandestine organization, as it has been mentioned several times in news articles and press releases in the past. In 2014, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas described GFDC as “the first global network of overseas Filipinos from 25 countries [CFO],” and the said organization has been visible in mainstream news for a long time [Star, ABS].

Yes, GFDC is an established worldwide network of overseas Filipinos, a network led by several people who happen to wield a disproportionate amount of influence given their economic, social, and political backgrounds, several people who staunchly support the oppositionist Liberal Party, and who staunchly criticize the administration.

According to the leaked emails, the GDFC believes in the following assumptions:
  • that the Marcoses are evil
  • that Duterte is evil
  • that Leni is (or can be) an awesome leader
Now, let me clarify two things.

First, on “Disproportionate Influence”

I used the term “disproportionate influence” because GFDC's anti-Administration, pro-Leni, anti-Marcos leaders, who happen to be filthy rich or incredibly powerful or both (e.g. Loida Nicolas-Lewis), claim to be the voice of overseas Filipinos[MB] at large, even if they are not. For one, Duterte and losing VP candidate Marcos overwhelmingly won in the May 2016 Overseas Voting. Marcos, in fact, got almost twice as many votes as Robredo [Inq].

So who does GDFC represent? Apparently, GDFC's board's own interests.

And how many members does the GFDC board have? Sixty-two.

Ergo, disproportionate.

Second, on Criticism and Free Speech

Criticizing the administration is a perfectly legitimate exercise of free speech. My issue, however, is what GFDC leaders can do if their statements fall on deaf ears. You see, unlike the vast majority of Filipinos, GFDC leaders have the influence and finances to make things happen.

I think this is best described through an analogy: imagine you have a gossipmonger neighbor who's spreading a particularly disparaging rumor about you.

If you're a regular minimum-wage earner, the best you can do is to confront that gossipmonger and possibly give him a whack or two and that's it. You have neither the time nor the money to file a libel or slander case. But if you're rich and powerful...

You get the drift.

Why call it #LeniLeaks?

That is exactly the point why I TANGENTIALLY discussed the #OustDuterte issue. The problem, however, is that National Media – and even the government – decided to focus on the ouster issue at large instead of the central topic, which is a the VP undermining the government through a propaganda machinery that, at least partially, benefits from public funds.

Yes, the central issue is the existence of a well-oiled, well-funded, well-organized propaganda machinery, led by no less than the Office of the Vice-president.

And where did we discover its existence? The Leaked OVP email.

Hence, #Lenileaks.

And for those who don't read a lot, #LeniLeaks is a portmanteau of “Leni Robredo”, our alleged vice-president, and “Wikileaks”, a (in)famous whistleblower site.

And this issue is what the Office of the Vice-president continually evades, similar to how single women evade issues like unwanted pregnancies.

But how did the email imply the existence of a “propaganda machinery”?

Well, let's look at the email first.

The OVP Socmed Email

Pete Silva's email, as forwarded by Mely Nicolas and supposedly from the Office of the Vice-president's social media arm, contains a set of detailed instructions on how to do damage control in the aftermath of the #NasaanSiLeni controversy, i.e. the PR nightmare that followed VP Leni Robredo's decision to go on a US vacation despite having known that a super typhoon was about to hit her hometown.

To refresh your memory, the said OVP email reads:

--------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Facebook
Date: Wed, 4 Jan 2017 at 12:05 AM
Subject: New message from Pete Silva
To: Imelda Nicolas

Pete Silva
Pete Silva 11:35pm Jan 3

Good morning!

Pro BBM/Duterte groups and influencers have launched simultaneous attacks on VP Leni starting 12 midnight today (Please check Maharlika, Sass, and Mr. Riyoh).

Here are some of the issues that need immediate response from our communities:

1. Late visit for the victims of Typhoon Nina + VP Leni’s “rehab is slow” statement.
-The attacks from their camp:
A. Everything she’s doing now is too late and just for a PR Spin.
B. VP Leni has no right to say the rehab is slow because she was not even there.
C. PRRD has visited way before she did.

-The Responses:
A. VP Leni has always been on top of things. The team was mobilized even before Typhoon Nina hit. She has organized and mobilized private efforts to donate for Bicol, Marinduque, Batangas, and Mindoro.
B. She does not have the mandate and financial capacity to do this, but she has made sure that efforts are consolidated and communicated the needs of the victims to the donors.
C. The dissatisfaction with VP Leni does not come from Bikolanos. It comes from troll influencers (Mocha, Sass, Thinking Pinoy) who NEVER organized or mobilized efforts to help out the typhoon victims.
C. VP Leni cannot shoulder everything. The national government (and other agencies eg DSWD) is the one who needs to step up.
D. Rehabilitation is different from relief operations. It needs building houses, electrification, and making sure that sources of livelihood pre-typhoon are working. We need to call out the national government on this, and take the offensive against their camp for having a simplistic view of the problem.
E. Compare the Duterte and the Robredo visit in Bicol. Digong just gave a speech for the “ceremonial giving of donations”. He did not go to the far flung areas to know their concerns. He never interacted with his constituents. He went there with the media only because he needs to be seen there. VP Leni, on the other hand, visited far flung areas and met with the people. She is on ground zero. 

2. The BBM Camp has released several memes to have a “show of force”. Their messaging is to make their memes viral to make it appear like more people voted for BBM as the real VP.

Our attack:
-Flip the memes and show unflattering pictures with controversies of BBM and use their “the real VP” narrative. (suggestions: Cocaine addict, fake diploma, did not graduate college, Sandro is stupid – not even from Oxford which they are claiming)
-Call out BBM and ask where he was during Typhoon Nina (he was in Balesin! ITO BA ANG REAL VP???).
-Use the photos of BBM supporters during the Luneta rally and/or Duterte youth during the Marcos burial rally. The messaging should be: they’re numerous online, but they never deliver the real bodies needed when the battle is offline. They are a fake and paid army.

We would also like to request you and your communities to coordinate with us whenever a new campaign is launched for them and/or against her. You are a very crucial ally in protecting the truth, democracy, and the real mandate of the people. Let us continue fighting the good fight.
--------- End of Message ---------
A post with identical content also exists on the Facebook page “EDUCATORS FOR LENI ROBREDO” [FB].

Now, what does this email mean?

Leni's Propaganda Machine

The leaked OVP email shows several things, including:
[1] The OVP itself actively instructs its supporters on how to deal with anti-Leni criticisms.
[2] The OVP is not above disparaging the national government and even private persons, just to save its own neck, in light of the statements, “We need to call out the national government on this, and take the offensive against their camp for having a simplistic view of the problem.” and “Sandro is stupid.”).
[3] The OVP uses alibis that are not backed by data, in light of the statement, “ The dissatisfaction with VP Leni does not come from Bikolanos”
[4] The OVP's use of irrelevant and pathetic alibis, such as setting the expectation that losing VP candidate Bongbong Marcos has some sort of legal responsibility to do the same things required from the OVP.
[5] The OVP has this notion their social media critics' supposed inability to set up relief efforts somehow puts OVP and its critics on equal footing.
The list goes on and on, and I think this can best be discussed in a follow-up article.

Regardless, I believe that it's clear at this point that #LeniLeaks primarily focuses on the suggestion that OVP possesses a well-organized, well-funded black propaganda machinery, something that the OVP has failed to deny so far.

But for a “Propaganda Machinery” to exist, two elements are necessary:
[1] A propaganda leader
[2] A vast network of loyalists to support and follow that leader
The existence of the first element – the propaganda leader – is already clear after the leaked email: it's the Office of the Vice-president. Even if there are other propaganda leaders, what's clear is that Vice-president Leni Robredo, who operates using public funds, is one of them.

The second element, however, remains to be shown, and that is where the rest of the Global Filipino Diaspora Council Yahoo! Group board messages come in.

As explained in a previous article, GFDC is a group whose members are highly influential, considerably wealthy, or both. I am not exactly sure if GFDC is the OVP's sole “propaganda disseminator”, but I am certain that it is one.

The anti-Duterte media blitzes of the past several weeks? GFDC has a hand in that.

The November 30 anti-burial rally? GFDC also has a hand in that.

And they even want to use the Marcos Burial Issue as a springboard for bigger anti-duterte demonstrations.

But what if GFDC doesn't get what they want? Will they just go home and cry, or will they use their vast resources to shift the tides?

And that is why I called upon the help of Malacanang to investigate this possible angle.

Again, an ouster plot is possible, but not certain, and that's why the National Security Council needs to look into it.

What's far more certain, however, is corruption in the Office of the Vice-president, as it appears to be using people on public payroll to manage an anti-government propaganda machine.

Authenticity and Admissions

Now, some would argue that the GFDC page could have been totally made up, but I have dealt with that issue in the follow-up article, “#LeniLeaks: Sec. Raffy Alunan's Challenge and Mainstream Media's Reluctance.”

Oh! And OVP Spokesperson Georgina Hernandez admitted the group's existence when she said, "The so-called leaked information came from a public Yahoo group account which means that there is transparency in this information [Star]."
Yes, the lame-brained OVP spokesperson basically admitted that messages posted on the GFDC message boards were for public consumption, but that forces me to ask two questions:

FIRST: If GFDC Yahoo groups were supposed to be transparent, then why is the GFDC message board hidden now?

The #LeniLeaks scandal seem to have caught the OVP by surprise. OVP was so unprepared that it had no time to coordinate PR damage control messaging with its stakeholders.

SECOND: Does Hernandez' admission also mean that the OVP intended the Pete Silva email for public consumption?

I do not think so, as that would imply stupidity of intergalactic proportions on the VP's part. The OVP telling its followers to call Sandro Marcos “bobo”? That goes totally contrary to LP's attempt at turning Leni into Our Lady of Naga.


This bears repeating: #LeniLeaks focuses on corruption in the OVP, with a potential ouster plot on the side.

If a congressional investigation in aid of legislation is to be conducted, I recommend that it be about potential reforms in
laws governing public accountability of government officials, especially since I predict that VP Leni will disown the unethical actions of her social media employees, similar to how Mar Roxas and Noynoy Aquino threw command responsibility out of the window after the Mamasapano Debacle.

As for the ouster plot, I'll leave that to the National Security Council. Yes, a case of sedition against GFDC is weak, but the fact remains that the emails suggests a tendency of GFDC members, with all their money and influence, to go that route.

Are we clear now?[ThinkingPinoy]

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