(UPDATED – 3:09 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines — Staunch Duterte supporter and blogger Sass Rogando Sasot confronted British Broadcasting Corp. Southeast Asia correspondent Jonathan Head Monday afternoon at the International Media Center in Pasay City, where local and foreign reporters were covering the ASEAN Summit, raising questions about BBC supposedly giving a “minor blogger” and Duterte critic Jover Laurio a platform on the international media network.
Sasot and Head came across each other when the latter approached Communications Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson to greet her, who was with Sasot.
“Tell me, Mr. Jonathan, how is it possible that Jover Laurio, a very minor blogger in the Philippines, was featured by the BBC in order to defend herself against the people who outed her identity, but not someone like me whose social media following is way, way higher than her, whose Facebook engagement is way, way higher than her, and who you have even interacted on Facebook?” Sasot asked.
Laurio is behind Pinoy Ako Blog, which is often critical about the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I know that in order for you to be interviewed by a big platform like BBC, you should have been given access. It’s either that you were really, really famous, that you are a decision-maker of a country, you are a celebrity, and you’re gonna be given this platform. But Jover Laurio is none of that. The only link to that is that she is being protected, sponsored, financed probably by the Liberal Party of the Philippines,” Sasot added.
Head repeatedly said that he would rather continue the conversation with Sasot elsewhere.
“We can have this conversation for a very long time. Can we find time over where we actually can engage and talk together?” he asked.
They then asked for each other’s schedules and found that Sasot is going to Davao on Tuesday, while Head will be in Manila until Wednesday.
The conversation returned to the topic of Laurio, and Sasot said that Pinoy Ako Blog “was slandering and libeling people along the way, especially those who are critical of the Vice President of the Philippines.”
She added, “And the BBC and the international media do not care about this anger. All you care about is whether is the president has a paid troll network or not. And you have insulted not just me but millions of followers and supporters of the president.”
“Do you know that a lot of overseas Filipino workers are doing everything in order to combat the lies being peddled by mainstream media, including Rappler, Inquirer, ABS-CBN?” she continued. “And I know that international media is only getting its feed from these people because they have power, resources, and connections to do this. You know, a lot of people are insulted that you are only covering one side of the story.”
“That’s not true,” Head replied. “We have covered many sides.”
Sasot also said the media (it is unclear if she was referring to the BBC) also compromised her safety by publishing her address.
Despite the tension, with Sasot even bursting into tears at one point, the two ended on a polite note.
“It’s nice to talk to you,” Head said.
“Yeah, nice to talk to you,” Sasot replied.
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