Cayetano slams BBC for 'unfair depiction of democracy in PH'

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano slammed the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) on Wednesday, October 3, for recently airing a documentary about democracy in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

The BBC documentary titled "Philippines: Democracy in Danger?" shows the thousands killed in Duterte's drug war, the resurgence of the Marcoses, the persecution of Duterte critics like Senator Leila de Lima, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, and former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, as well as the moves against media outlets like Rappler.

The documentary by Howard Johnson, Philippine correspondent of BBC, was aired on September 29.

In his statement on Wednesday, Cayetano claimed that the BBC documentary "amounts to nothing more than anti-Duterte propaganda, more worthy of tabloid journalism and gossip than the venerable institution that we thought BBC was."

Cayetano said the report "misleads viewers" about Duterte's anti-drug campaign, as he said it "is actually making Philippine society safer, healthier, and more prosperous for the Filipino people." 

He said it "makes little mention of the magnitude of the drug problem in the Philippines," and did not factor in the Duterte administration's moves "against police officers and other government personnel involved in the illegal drug trade."

On De Lima, Trillanes, and Sereno, Cayetano said the BBC documentary "overlooks the fact that all 3 have been given and continue to be given their day in court." They also "remain free to criticize the Duterte administration." 

Cayetano: Philippine media not persecuted

On the state of Philippine media, Cayetano said the report "falsely claims that the media in the Philippines is being persecuted." 

"Those who read our newspapers, watch our television programs, listen to our radio broadcasts, take part in dialogue through social media, and read online publications (including Rappler, which like other media outlets, can freely publish and criticize the policies of the Duterte administration) can observe that the press is anything but inhibited in the Philippines," Cayetano said. (READ: Philippines down 6 spots in 2018 World Press Freedom Index)

Cayetano then urged the BBC "to present an accurate and balanced view of the issues about the Philippines in the future."

"More importantly, we believe that by doing so, BBC will be able to regain the trust of its audience in its journalistic professionalism and repair the damage it has inflicted on the Philippines and the Filipino people as a result of this one-sided documentary," Cayetano said. 

The BBC documentary was a recap of issues under Duterte's watch, and mostly made no new revelations as far as the Philippines' local audience is concerned. 

The Philippines' statement on Wednesday, however – signed by the country's top diplomat himself – shows the country's growing sensitivity to international criticism. The Philippines, after all, is seeking to boost trade with the UK, where the BBC is based, while the BBC has as its audience the world's newsmakers. 

The Duterte administration, too, is fixing its image as it faces complaints before the International Criminal Court. –

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at