Mar 1 1992

Off-Base in the Philippines

In covering the vote by the Philippines senate to close the U.S. naval base at Subic Bay, major U.S. newspapers contrasted the clamor of “anti-American nationalists” with the silent majority who wanted the bases to stay.

“Opinion polls show that two-thirds of [Filipinos] prefer that Subic Bay remain,” wrote the Chicago Tribune‘s Uli Schmetzer (9/10/91). “Polls…show upwards of 65 percent of Filipinos in favor of keeping the U.S. military presence in the country,” according to the Washington Post‘s William Branigin (9/18/91). “Opinion polls suggest overwhelming public support for the treaty,” reported the New York Times‘ Philip Shenon (9/18/91).

The only trouble with these polls is that they later turned out to be imaginary. According to the Los Angeles Times‘ (9/23/91) Bob Drogin, “Embassy officials and Aquino aides leaked poll results to reporters purporting to show that 68 percent, 72 percent, even 81 percent of the Philippine people were pro-bases. The polls, however, never existed. ‘I made the numbers up,’ one American now concedes.”

The papers that embraced the fraudulent polls did not offer retractions after the L.A. Times‘ revelation. The New York Times, in fact, repeated the disinformation two days later: “Polls indicate that the public strongly supports the American bases,” Shenon wrote (9/25/91).