VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Gov’t video on CPP- NPA riddled with disinformation

A video introducing the government’s task force to end communist insurgency contains several erroneous details, from the state of the Philippine economy in the 1960s to the use of a wrong logo of the country’s economic planning agency.

Upon a reader’s request, VERA Files Fact Check reviewed the four-minute clip of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) posted June 26 on the Philippine News Agency’s Facebook page.

NTF-ELCAC was created by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to “ensure efficient and effective implementation” of the government's policy to “attain inclusive and sustainable peace.” The group operates under the Office of the President.

According to the caption in the post, the video shows what the NTF-ELCAC is, what it says about the Communist Party of the Philippines and New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), and what the “communist group's destructive effects since its inception” are. The footage has been viewed over 770,000 times in the past four months.

VERA Files Fact Check has identified four claims in the video -- two false statements on the country’s economy and two images used wrongly.

On PH having the second biggest economy in Asia next to Japan in the 1960s

Statement

Noong 1960s ang Pilipinas ay pangalawa sa may pinakamalaking ekonomiya sa buong Asya na sumusunod sa bansang Japan (In the 1960s, the Philippines has the second largest economy in the entire Asia next to Japan).”

Source: Philippine News Agency, WATCH | The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, June 26, 2019

Fact

This is false.

Data from World Bank show that the Philippines was not the second largest economy in Asia in the 1960s.

In Southeast Asia alone, the Philippines placed second to Indonesia in terms of economic size, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), from 1960 to 1969.

World Bank data also show that if compared with East Asian countries, including Japan and China, the Philippines ranked fourth in terms of GDP during the same period.

From 1966 to 1969, however, South Korea surpassed the Philippines in terms of economic size, pushing the country’s GDP rank a notch lower.

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Source: World Bank, GDP (in millions) in selected countries, 1960-1970 (constant 2010, U.S. dollars).
No data available for Mongolia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste.

Data from the late economic historian Angus Maddison, a world scholar on quantitative macroeconomic history and founder of the Groningen Growth and Development Centre, also show that the Philippines was not the second biggest economy in Asia during the 1960s.

The Philippines was the second biggest economy in Southeast Asia from 1960 to 1969, and was the fourth biggest when considered with East Asian countries.

However, there are inconsistencies between the World Bank and Maddison’s data. The latter’s data show that in 1960, China, not Japan, was the largest economy in the region, and that Japan became the biggest in terms of economic output only from 1961.

They also show that Vietnam and Taiwan had bigger economies, ranking 7th and 8th respectively in the region, compared to Malaysia and Hong Kong.

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Source: Angus Maddison, GDP (in millions) in selected countries, 1960-1970 (constant 1990, Geary-Khamis dollars).
No data available for Brunei and Timor Leste.

In terms of GDP per capita or average income per person, World Bank data show that the Philippines ranked fourth next to Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia in 1960.

In 1965, the country’s GDP per capita ranking had gone down two places, outpaced by Hong Kong and South Korea. It remained in sixth place in the region by the end of 1969.

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Source: World Bank, GDP per capita in selected countries, 1960-1970 (constant 2010, U.S. dollars).
No data available for Mongolia, Taiwan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Brunei and Timor Leste.

Maddison data also reveal that Japan had the biggest GDP per capita in the region from 1960 to 1969.

The Philippines ranked fifth in terms of GDP per capita from 1960 to 1963, following Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. Its ranking fell to sixth from 1964 to 1967, before settling to seventh in 1968 and 1969.

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Source: Angus Maddison, GDP per capita in selected countries, 1960-1970 (constant 1990, Geary-Khamis Dollars).
No data available for Brunei and Timor Leste.

On PH economic downfall in the 1980s

Statement

Natamasa ng Pilipinas ang pinakamalaking pag-unlad ng ekonomiya mula 1972-1979 ngunit sa pagsibol ng CPP noong December 26, 1968 at NPA noong March 29, 1969, isang rebolusyonaryong organisasyon ang itinatag ni Jose Maria Sison na naglalayong pabagsakin ang gobyerno at patuloy na humahadlang sa pag-unlad ng Pilipinas sa loob ng (50) limampung taon

(The Philippine economy reached its peak from 1972-1979 but when the CPP was formed on December 26, 1968 and the NPA on March 29, 1969, a revolutionary organization was founded by Jose Maria Sison that aims to topple down the government and continues to hinder the Philippines’ growth for (50) fifty years).”

Source: Philippine News Agency, WATCH | The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, June 26, 2019

Fact

This is misleading.

Studies cite external issues, the country’s huge overseas debt, and the assasination of former senator and staunch Marcos critic Benigno Aquino, Jr. as the causes of the economic downfall.

The economy did reach its peak between 1972 and 1979, or during the early years of the Martial law regime, growing 8.9 percent and 8.8 percent in 1973 and 1976, respectively, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

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The economy, however, suffered a recession toward the end of the administration, contracting by 7.3 percent in 1984 and 1985.

In the book “The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies and Challenges, former Philippine Competition Commission chair and former economic planning secretary Arsenio Balisacan and Australian National University professor Hal Hill said the country’s economic downfall was not caused only by political uprisings triggered by Aquino’s assassination, but was mostly due to the country’s debt crisis.

The government borrowed outside extensively from 1970s to 1980s to fund a number of infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, hospitals, and cultural establishments. Balisacan and Hill said this strategy “was unsustainable since the funds were generally not invested productively, and by the early 1980s the country had essentially hit its borrowing limits.”

From $2.7 billion in 1975, external debt ballooned to $24.4 billion in 1982.

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Balisacan and Hill said:

“In the second decade of the Marcos administration, the development strategy changed to one of adventurous overseas borrowings. This came unstuck owing to a combination of reckless investments, ever-increasing cronyism and corruption, rising community disaffection (especially in the wake of the 1983 Aquino assassination), and external misfortune. The culmination was a serious political impasse and a deep and prolonged economic crisis that set the country back more than a decade, and from which recovery has been slow and painful.”

Source: Oxford University Press, The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies, and Challenges, 2003.

This came at a time when the United States suffered a recession in 1981, pushing the U.S. Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, which had an impact on the country’s dollar-denominated loans.

By that time, the country turned to the International Monetary Fund in 1984 for more financial assistance. The loans, however, had a number of conditions, including the peso's devaluation, which further hurt the country’s growth prospects.

In his book An Analysis of the Philippine Economic Crisis, University of the Philippines economist Emmanuel de Dios said “different and often competing explanations have been put forward for the occurence of the country’s economic debacle.”

But in conclusion, De Dios said:

“...while external difficulties were certainly a necessary condition for the present crisis, the major explanation for its occurrence must lie in the character of economic policies and of policymaking by the leadership. The Aquino assasination, on the other hand, simply tore through the already-weakened fabric of the economy.”

Source: University of the Philippines Press, An Analysis of the Philippine Economic Crisis, 1984.

On the use of indigenous people photos allegedly killed by the NPA

One of the photos used in the video is a cadaver of slain Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) executive director Emerito Samarca.

This is misleading. Samarca was reportedly murdered by elements of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group on Sept. 2015, and not by the NPA as the video implies.

Then Surigao del Sur governor and now 2nd District representative Johnny Pimentel called the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group, operating in several areas in the province, as a “monster created by the military.” In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the armed forces to stop paramilitary groups, including the Magahat-Bagani group, from operating amid peace talks with rebel groups including the CPP back then.

A document given by ALCADEV to VERA Files shows the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Lianga, Surigao del Sur had issued warrants of arrest with criminal case for robbery, grave coercion, murder, and arson against members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group on Sept. 22, 2015, for the death of Samarca and two IP members, Dionel Campos and cousin Juvello Sinzo.

However, on July 26, 2019, the same RTC ordered the lifting of the warrants of arrests issued four years ago against the suspects “for further investigation.”

On the use of the wrong logo for National Economic and Development Authority

The NEDA logo used in the video is wrong.

The National Economic and Development Authority or NEDA is the “country’s premier socioeconomic planning body,” and the “authority in macroeconomic forecasting and policy analysis and research.” It is one of the 18 government agencies mandated to form the NTF-ELCAC.

The logo that appeared in the video, however, is that of the National Eating Disorders Association, a nonprofit organization in the United States.


Sources

Philippine News Agency, WATCH | The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) on the CPP-NPA, June 26, 2019

Official Gazette, Executive Order 70

On PH having the second biggest economy next to Japan in 1960

World Bank, GDP and GDP per capita (const. 2010)

Groningen Growth and Development Centre, Angus Maddison 1926-2010

Groningen Growth and Development Centre, Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1-2008 AD

On PH economic downfall in the 1980s

Philippine Statistics Authority, Philippine macroeconomic data 1970-1990

Oxford University Press, The Philippine Economy: Development, Policies, and Challenges, 2003.

University of the Philippines Press, An Analysis of the Philippine Economic Crisis, 1984.

UP Diliman School of Economics/BusinessWorld, The truth about the economy under the Marcos regime, Nov. 17, 2015

On indigenous people photos used

Frontline Defenders, Killing of Emerito Samarca

Philstar.com, Lumads begin week-long camp-out in UP Diliman, Oct. 27, 2015

Inquirer.net, ‘Lumad’ killings extrajudicial, says CHR, Sept. 20, 2015

Inquirer.net, Militia in lumad killings a ‘monster created by military,’ Sept. 6, 2015

Human Rights Watch, Philippines: Paramilitaries Attack Tribal Villages, Schools, Sept. 23, 2015

Official Gazette, President Duterte orders military to stop paramilitary groups amid ongoing peace talks, Sept. 23, 2016

On wrong NEDA logo used

National Economic and Development Authority, About Us

National Eating Disorders Association, About Us


(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)

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