Several news reports aptly described it as President Rodrigo Duterte’s blind item.
A blind item is a device used by newspapers and broadcast news programs to arouse curiosity by giving information that could not meet the standards of news but is worth sharing. It is used in entertainment, business, and the political sections of news. It is gossip that can have impact because people like to listen to gossip even if they know the information is not the whole truth.
The point of a blind item is to let the people know about it, think and talk about it, which is all that the gossipmonger wants without the responsibilities of accuracy, fairness and attribution.
Duterte succeeded in capturing the imagination of people who then rushed to conclusions as to the identity of the person being gossiped. His blind item last Thursday, November 18, 2021, was of a presidential candidate who allegedly is a cocaine user. He said this person came from a wealthy family and has an influential last name but with a “weak character.” “Bakit ang Pilipino parang lokong-loko na supporting? Magtanong lang ako sa inyo. Ano ang ginawa n’yan? Nagdo-droga ‘yan, cocaine ang tirada n’yan,” Duterte said. (Why are Filipinos fooled into supporting this person? Let me ask you. What has he done? He’s using drugs, cocaine.)
Some of the presidential candidates last Friday reacted to Duterte’s claims by asking why he did not file charges against this person. Vice President Leni Robredo who is running for President said that if Duterte has the evidence, the aspirant should be charged. That’s how this should be handled according to the law, she added. Lawyer Vic Rodriguez, spokesperson for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., said they did not feel alluded to by the President.
Duterte could have made an official declaration on a presidential candidate as a drug user. He has the police and the intelligence forces. He has a budget to investigate and prosecute, yet he decided to go the blind item route.
Effective to a degree that he wanted the issue in the national consciousness, but gossiping is not the act of a President. The information is not even worthy to use as a blind item in a newspaper because editors know that even blind items have standards of verifiability. If the identities of those involved are withheld, there must still be a way of identifying them. It will not pass as a blind item worthy of publication also because the matter is serious and involves the future of the country. His editors would instead push that the information is pursued as a news report.
The people are Duterte’s editors and they say he should pursue the information about the candidate.
The presidential candidates are not the only ones asking Duterte to file the charges. The people demand that the aspirant be prosecuted and that they be spared the consequence of a wrong decision this election.