The litmus test between journalism and propaganda, as has been established by praxis, is intention. The intention of journalism is to tell the truth, however uncomfortable it may be. Propaganda’s intention is to manipulate public opinion by presenting news only according to a favorable point of view of the presenter.

The Office of the Press Secretary of the current Malacañang does not belong to the journalism genre. After the Filipino audience was shocked at the sparsely filled United Nations General Assembly hall last September 21 for the speech of the Philippine president, it would appear that the sight of the desolate auditorium was painfully unacceptable to the Marcos administration.

When the palace press office does damage control, it trespasses into the world of propaganda rather than truth dissemination. It released a video marked RTV Malacañang entitled “RECAP” of the president’s address to the 77th UN GA. But the speech was interspersed with videos showing overhead views of the audience hall filled by listeners instead of empty seats.

The fact-checker online news organization Vera Files fact-checked the video in its Verafied series and even found the Philippine president seen sitting on his seat in one of the inserted videos while his voice was ostensibly speaking. The palace lie was caught.

That Trixie Cruz Angeles was never in the journalism profession is not an excuse. She is paid by us taxpayers to disseminate the truth. The problem lies in her past experience under the Duterte regime, which was nothing to crow about as far as truth telling was concerned. As an openly avowed partisan among Duterte Diehard Supporters, she ventured into propaganda blogging and got into the team that assisted (damage controlled?) Mocha Uson’s unquotable blunders.

Her stint at the Presidential Communications and Operations Office was a time of marked propaganda. Even the Philippine News Agency (PNA), government’s top disseminator of news by the way, was reduced to a propagandist. This is not the job mandate they are paid for.

Consider when Sara Duterte accompanied her father to the enthronement ceremony of new Japanese emperor Naruhito in October 2019. The PNA’s news article of her attending the dinner for heads of states and government representatives was sugarcoated beyond what it really was — just a simple attendance at the dinner tendered by the new emperor and empress.

The PNA embellished it into something bigger than that. Sara Duterte accompanied her father to the Japan event by acting as surrogate first lady. That was her role and nothing more than that. She was neither authorized to hold diplomatic talks with the Japanese emperor nor with then prime minister Shinzo Abe. But what did the PNA do? It wrote an overly fantastic news article dated October 23, 2019 headlining: Sara Duterte had talks with Japan’s imperial couple, Abe.

It said that she “had the opportunity to meet with and talk to Japan’s new imperial couple and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe” to make it sound like it was a formal sit-down talk. Nothing of that sort happened. The event was a court banquet and the Japanese imperial couple or the prime minister did not hold formal talks with any of the visiting representatives.

It embellished what was simply a meet-and-greet with the imperial hosts as they stood at the entrance to welcome each of the guests, which consisted of crowned heads of Asia, Europe, Africa and the Pacific, presidents and prime ministers, and other state representatives. Watch the few seconds of that actual event. Sara was merely substituting for her father who had earlier left Japan because of a “searing back pain.”

And then the PNA encroached into the untouchable: “Mayor Sara was an eye catcher in her pink terno and appeared to be enjoying herself with attendees . . .” It reduced itself into a fashion and lifestyle commentator. Very cheap.

What was begun by the Duterte presidency is what is being sustained now by Trixie Cruz Angeles. These are neither accidental boo-boos nor slip-ups. These are deliberate attempts to present a pseudo reality when the reality is insufficient to provide them a favorable view of their principal the president. It creates a self-made enemy by denying the validity of the palace press office’s own responsibility.