A propaganda?: Chinese embassy’s ‘Iisang Dagat’ music video gets dislikes and take down requests

April 27, 2020 - 7:22 PM
This is a still image from the music video "Iisang Dagat" uploaded by the Chinese Embassy in the Philippines last April 23. (YouTube screengrab/Chinatown TV)

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines‘ tribute music video for the health workers and frontliners in the battle against the novel coronavirus titled “Iisang Dagat (One Sea)” was criticized online and perceived as China’s latest propaganda attempt over the West Philippine Sea row. 

Screenshot by Interaksyon

The tribute music video was uploaded on Chinatown TV’s YouTube channel last April 23 and has since gained more than 550,700 views, as of writing.

“Iisang Dagat” was performed by Filipina “jukebox queen” and Camarines Sur vice-governor Imelda Papin, Chinese diplomat Xia Wenxin, Filipino-Chinese singer Jhonvid Bangayan, and Chinese actor Yubin. 

It was written by Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian. 

The music video featured statements of support for China from President Rodrigo Duterte, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Health Secretary Francisco Duque and other high-ranking government officials. 

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines said that the video supposedly sought to highlight the partnership and mutual support between China and the Philippines in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.  

The embassy said the music video is dedicated to COVID-19 frontliners, however, specifically acknowledged the “China Medical Expert Team to the Philippines.”

“This original music composition and video “Iisang Dagat” (海的那边)goes out to everyone who has contributed to the fight against the epidemic from both countries, especially the China Medical Expert Team to the Philippines,” the music video’s description read.

The Chinese Embassy in the Philippines jointly produced the tribute music video with Chinatown TV, and Guizhou Xinpai Media Company.

Universal Records Philippines, meanwhile, denied its involvement in the production of the video after its name was mentioned as one of the contributors on music video’s description.  

The company said its name was posted without their consent, which was misleading to the public.  

“Contrary to what is included in its YouTube caption, the company did not participate in the production and promotion of the said song,” the record label’s statement read.

“Prior to its release, an invitation was sent out by Chinatown TV for the label to help in the song’s promotion, which was respectfully declined by the label, “ it added. 

Negative reception

When the video’s release reached local social media, several Filipinos immediately launched an online initiative asking YouTube to take it down.

They encouraged those with YouTube accounts to press the dislike button and report the music video directly to the video streaming platform’s management.  

As of writing, the video earned over 2,200 likes and more than 155,000 dislikes. 

Twitter account @MangingisdaSays, a marine life advocate, meanwhile, shared screenshots of previous reports showing alleged harassment and poaching of important resources in the West Philippine Sea perpetuated by Chinese fishermen. 

The user described the production of the song as an “insult” to the Filipino fisherfolks.  

China is a traitor and will never be our friend. No friend steals from you while you are still battling a pandemic,” the Twitter user said.  

Appearances of the invalidated nine-dash line  

In October 2019, the invalidated nine-dash line that marked an expansive area of the South China Sea which China claimed it has historical jurisdiction over appeared on an animated movie called “Abominable” and on an episode at sports channel ESPN. 

The nine-dash line had been legally invalidated by the landmark ruling at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands in July 2016, in a case brought up by the Philippines. 

The tribunal also found China’s activities such as conducting massive land reclamation and stealing of important marine creatures as violation of its commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

The animated movie, which was produced by Shanghai-based Pearl Studio and Dreamworks Animationfeatured the nine-dash mark in a map in one of its scenes, screenshots of which were shared and criticized on social media.  

Several countries affected by the sea dispute, including the Philippines, eventually banned “Abominable” in their respective cinemas.  

The episode at ESPN, meanwhile, also showed an old China map with the nine-dash line.

The television network later used a different map in a succeeding broadcast following backlash from it.  

Before the release of “Iisang Dagat,” the Philippines filed two diplomatic protests against China, according to a tweet by Locsin on April 22. 

Locsin said that China pointed a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship and declared a Philippine territory as part of Hainan province, thus violating international laws.  

Free speech?

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque invoked the freedom of speech in defending the controversial video against critics.  

“Sa ating saligang batas namanlahat tayo mayroon tayong karapatan na malayang pananalita. Ang isang video na kasama mga awitin ay kabahagi ‘yan ng  karapatang malayang pananalita,” Roque said 

Section 4 of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution states that “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.” 

On the other hand, celebrated singer Papin and her daughter Maffi Papi Carrion also defended themselves for the former’s involvement in the song, accusing her of being a traitor.  

Papin recounted that the Chinese Embassy approached her and told her that it was for unity during the health crisis. 

“Hindi puwede maging traydor ang isang Imelda Papin. Hindi naman tama na sabihin iyon. Hindi naman nila ako binayaran. Ako po ang pinakiusapan, at ang intensyon ng kanta ay para magtulungan tayong lahat,” Papin said in an interview over Dobol B sa News TV. 

Carrion, meanwhile, expressed her disappointment on Twitter to those who threw scathing remarks against her mother. The tweet had since been deleted.