April 29, 2019

How much has Vera Files, PCIJ, Rappler, CMFR received from CIA offshoot?

Just how much funding have Vera Files, PCIJ, Rappler, and CMFR received from the US government-funded CIA offshoot National Endowment for Democracy (NED)?

Here's data from none other than NED itself.

But before that, let's get to know NED a little more.

NED as a CIA “Successor and Collaborator”

In his 2008 piece entitled “NED et. al.: The CIA’s Successors and Collaborators” published in both the Canadian Centre for Global Research and Globalization (Global Research) and the French Le Monde Diplomatique, Hernando Calvo Ospina wrote [GlobalResearch]: 
“When a scandal in the 1980s revealed the CIA’s 35 years of international manipulations, President Ronald Reagan established the National Endowment for Democracy as a more discreet and less controversial instrument. It had the same purpose – to destabilise unfriendly governments by funding the opposition... Although legally an NGO, the NED was funded from the State Department budget, subject to congressional approval”
Quoting former US Department of State official William Blum, Ospina wrote:
“What was done was to shift many of the awful things [done by the CIA] to a new organisation, with a nice sounding name. The creation of the NED was a masterpiece. Of politics, of public relations, and of cynicism.”

An Admission from NED’s founder

No less than NED's founder -- and NED itself -- admitted the claims in Ospina's article.

Asked about NED in a 1991 interview with the Washington Post, NED founder and theoretical planner Allen Weinstein said [WaPo]:
“A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” 
This is corroborated by no less than NED's official website in the “History” section of its “About” page [NED], part of which states: 
“In the aftermath of World War II…. U.S. policy makers resorted to covert means, secretly sending advisers, equipment, and funds to support newspapers and parties under siege in Europe. When it was revealed in the late 1960’s that some American PVO’s were receiving covert funding from the CIA to wage the battle of ideas at international forums, the Johnson Administration concluded that such funding should cease, recommending establishment of ‘a public-private mechanism’ to fund overseas activities openly.” 
PVO means “Private Voluntary Organizations”.

NED's Official Awarded Grants Database

NED has a database of grants that it has so far extended to Philippine organizations, and these include grants to four prominent Duterte Administration critics, namely: 
  • Vera Files, 
  • Rappler, 
  • Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), and,
  • Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).
Vera Files and Rappler are the two fact-checkers of Facebook in the Philippines. Let’s itemize each grant. Note that each dollar-denominated grant is also converted into Philippine pesos using a modest exchange rate of 51 pesos to a dollar.
To see NED's Awarded Grants Search Engine, click here.

A screenshot of NED's Awarded Grants Search Engine, hosted by NED's official website

It appears that National Endowment for Democracy (NED) Awarded Grants Database shows only grants awarded from 2014 onwards. It doesn't provide data for NED grants prior to 2014. 
This is in light of another discovery this evening that PCIJ and CMFR have already been receiving NED funding even before 2014, according to USAID's database, which includes NED grants.  
I will publish an update in a few hours to reflect the amounts PCIJ and CMFR received prior to 2014.
Rappler and Verafiles, according to the same USAID database, did not receive grants before 2014.

NED funds Vera Files: ($ 197,600 / Php 10.1 million)

NED has been funding Vera Files annually since 2016, a very interesting year since it’s the also the year when Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte entered MalacaƱang.

The grant database shows Vera Files has so far received US$ 197,600 (Php 10 million) over the past three years, as shown in the consolidated NED database entry on Vera Files below [SOURCE: NED | Archived]:

Project Title: Promoting Accuracy and Transparency in Public Debate
Award Amount: $70,000 (2016); $80,000 (2017); $47,600 (2018)
Description:To promote accuracy and accountability in public debate. The grantee will develop a fact-checking initiative that will monitor, verify, and report on the accuracy of statements made by politicians and government officials. The fact-checking team will publish the non-partisan assessments on its website and promote the articles in traditional and social media to raise public awareness and foster more informed political discourse. It will also invite the public to submit fact-check requests.

NED funds Rappler ($ 142,000 / Php 7.2 million)

NED started funding Rappler in 2018 with $142,000 (Php 7.2 million).

According to NED’s grant database [SOURCE: NED | Archived]:
Project Title: Understanding and Addressing Disinformation's Impact on Democracy
Award Amount: $142,000 (2018)
To strengthen awareness and understanding of disinformation. The organization will focus on capturing and analyzing data on the disinformation ecosystem to facilitate research on how disinformation spreads online and how this dynamic affects democracy. It will work with other newsgroups and key stakeholders to systematize and expand collaborative fact-checking as well as support awareness and education efforts that seek to broaden knowledge on disinformation.

NED funds PCIJ ($ 242,631 / Php 12.4 million)

NED has been funding PCIJ since 2014. PCIJ has received $242,631 (Php 12.4 million) to date.

According to NED’s grant database [SOURCE: NED | Archived]:
Project Title: Fostering Transparency and Accountability through Investigative ReportingAward Amount: $50,831 (2014); $56,000 (2015)
To strengthen the media's role in fostering transparency and accountability by building journalists' capacity to analyze and report on governance issues and campaign promises of elected officials. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism will conduct four investigative journalism workshops for media representing Luzon, Mindanao, Visayas, and Metro Manila and provide fellowships to select participants to write more in-depth investigative reports as follow on to their trainings.

Project Title: Strengthening Investigative Reporting on Democracy and Human Rights
Award Amount: $60,800 (2017) 
Description:To strengthen the media's role in fostering transparency and accountability through investigative journalism. The organization will conduct trainings to develop journalists' understanding of policies related to human rights, access to information, and democratic governance as well as sharpen their skills to undertake investigative reporting on these issues. Participants will follow up by producing in-depth stories on a range of democracy-related issues. The organization will also develop its own series of investigative reports on human rights and government policies.

Project Title: Investigative Journalism to Strengthen the Public Discourse on Democracy and Human Rights
Award Amount: $75,000 (2018)
To bolster the media's ability to promote transparency and accountability and strengthen public discourse on democracy and human rights through investigative journalism. The organization will produce investigative reports on democracy and rights issues; organize public forums to deepen discussions on the topics of the reports; and conduct trainings to develop journalists' understanding of policies related to human rights, democratic governance, and impunity as well as sharpen their skills to undertake investigative reporting on these issues.

NED funds CMFR ($ 349,034 / Php 17.8 million)

NED has been funding CMFR annually since 2014 and it has received $349,034 (Php 17.8 million) to date.

According to NED’s grant database [SOURCE: NED | Archived]:
Project Title: Promoting Responsible Journalism and Press Freedom
Award Amount: $76,000 (2014); $76,000 (2015); $76,000 (2016); $98,517 (2017); $22,517 (2018)
Description:To advance press freedom and promote responsible journalism. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility will monitor media practices, raise awareness of media freedom violations, and organize a conference to highlight professional media practices.

NED hikes funding during Duterte Administration

President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in 2016. A known US critic, Duterte has made it clear from the onset of his term that he wants a independent foreign policy [TheDiplomat], characterized by lesser dependence on the US and greater co-operation with China.

This is a total departure from the historically pro-US stance of all of Duterte's predecessors since 1946, or when the US recognized Philippine independence, as discussed in the 09 September 2016 ThinkingPinoy article "Duterte's Philippines breaking away from the United States?"

And true enough, NED since 2016 hiked funding for Philippine media outfits that strongly criticize the Duterte Administration.

Funding Stats

NED’s database shows only CMFR and PCIJ were funded with a total of $258,831 prior to 2016, broken down as follows:
  • CMFR: $152,000
  • PCIJ: $ 106,831
On the other hand, the four organizations – CMFR, PCIJ, Vera Files, and Rappler – received a total of $672,434 of funding since 2016, broken down as follows:
  • CMFR: $ 197,034
  • PCIJ: $ 135,800
  • Rappler: $ 142,000
  • Vera Files: $ 197,600
Here are some notable observations:
  • NED funding for PCIJ during Duterte’s term is 29.6% more than all previous years combined.
  • NED funding for CMFR during Duterte’s term is 27.1% more than all previous years combined.
  • Total NED funding for these four outfits during Duterte’s term increased by 159.8% compared to all previous years combined.
  • Rappler received $142,000 in 2018 alone, which is more than NED’s total funding received by PCIJ since its inception.
  • Vera Files is the biggest recipient of NED funding among the four.

Should you bite the hand the feeds you?

NED has awarded a total of $931,265 (Php 47.5 million) to these four organizations. Moreover, over two-thirds of this amount ($672,434 / Php 34.3 million) was awarded from 2016 to 2018, i.e. during the Duterte Administration.

I have always wondered why Rappler, PCIJ, Vera Files, and CMFR have been very critical of the Duterte Administration since Day One. 

In light of the massive funding these four outfits have been receiving from the US Government, however, I finally stopped asking why.

Quoting American writer Upton Sinclair [QI]:
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
Will these four outfits ever dare to write anything that’s blatantly against US interests?

Do the math. [ThinkingPinoy/RJ Nieto]


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