THINKING PINOY is one of the most outspoken bloggers in the country today. His honest criticism against those who oppose President Rodrigo Duterte has even attracted individuals and groups who want to silence him. He has been receiving death threats especially after the #LeniLeaks scandal.
Before he revealed himself to his readers last week, I was able to sit one-on-one with TP or Rey Joseph Nieto. I wanted to know who he is and what motivates him.
Question: Who is Thinking Pinoy?
Thinking Pinoy: Doon po sa aking website, I describe myself as, “A labanderong marunong mag-Google.” Pero on a more serious note, I describe myself as a regular Filipino pedestrian who likes writing about his political opinion based on what he reads and based on common sense. Ganun po si Thinking Pinoy.
Question: What motivated you to write?
Thinking Pinoy: Kasi po, karaniwan po nung nababasa ko na political opinions, I don’t really agree with. So I decided to write stuff started on my own. At first, I didn’t really care about politics, but when the campaign period for the 2016 elections started, there was something different in the air. So I suddenly felt like, you know, maybe I should start a blog. And if 500 people read it a week, I’m going to be contented. I just got surprised that it got this big.
I started Thinking Pinoy during the last week of November 2015. I got about 10,000 to 15,000 hits on the first article. I just wrote every now and then, nothing too serious. I remember that time when I published yung issue about Mar Roxas and his Wharton degree. It got so viral that my website crashed 21 times in one day. It got over a million hits. That was jus the second week of December. That was when I realized, “Oh, this is real.” I just decided to continue writing since then.
Question: Before you and Sass Rogando (another blogger) came out with #LeniLeaks, can you name the top three posts that was memorable for you and your readers?
Thinking Pinoy: The first one would be the Jalosjos article. That was at the peak of the Duterte rape-joke issue where I said that I am disappointed with Duterte for cracking that rape joke, but I am more disappointed at the three other people – the three other candidates – who condoned rapists, in particular, Romeo Jalosjos. That went viral.
There was the other one, Sampalan sa Julio Vargas, that went viral. Basically, what I did there was to analyze Trillanes’s arguments and evidence and I enumerated the flaws. And I think it helped a lot and explained to the readers that what Trillanes gave us was hogwash.
The last one I think would be the South China Sea issue and (Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary) Perfecto Yasay. There was a time when the Permanent Court of Arbitration released the decision (on the West Philippine Sea) and everybody was expecting a jubilant and a gleeful Yasay. Instead, we saw a downtrodden and depressed Yasay on camera. People were so confused why. So what I did was to explain to them why Yasay looked that way: it was actually to prevent and avoid making China feel that we’re rubbing the decision in their faces, among other things. It also went viral.
Question: Being viral means you have a good relationship with your readers. How would you describe your relationship with your readers? How do you make them come back to you?
Thinking Pinoy: I don’t do anything deliberate. I don’t have any game plan as to how to retain my readers. All I do is, first, I write articles as honest as I could. What I tell my friends is I never consciously mislead. Kasi, when you say you don’t mislead, that’s conceited. Kasi we have our own set of biases. Everybody has biases. But I never consciously, deliberately mislead.
Number two, I always write articles with verifiable sources kasi hindi naman pwedeng ako lang nagsabi. Ayoko ng ganun. Kailangan, I allow my readers to maybe see the sources and they can come up with their own conclusions. I encourage critical thinking sa aking mga readers. That’s why I have a lot of readers who read my blogs but do not actually subscribe to my conclusions. They actually come up with conclusions of their own.
Number three, I keep the language as simple as possible. I want to be accessible to the biggest chunk of the population.
Lastly, I put in some of my humor. I make it funny. Because politics by nature is too toxic. So if you’re too serious, people are going to get bored. So I crack a joke here and there. I think my readers appreciate that.
Question: Do you consider yourself as a blogger or an independent writer? How do you label yourself?
Thinking Pinoy: It doesn’t matter as long as the people are reading my articles. So I don’t really care about the labels. Basta I write. If you read it, thank you.
Question: When people give you information, meron ka bang process of verifying? How do you work on leads?
Thinking Pinoy: If there’s a new issue that comes up, for example, ‘yong gold issue sa Thailand. Sometimes, there are claims that are just too absurd and harboring on conspiracy theories. Normally, I just thoroughly dismiss them. Sometimes, there are very useful leads na too controversial naman.
I actually wait for another source to say the same thing. Then I make sure that those two sources don’t know each other and have no means of communicating. I wait for corroborated testimony. Or if somebody sends me an actual document suggesting something dark or serious, that’s when I start researching. So hindi pwede ‘yung may nagsabi lang na isa, irereport na. Mahirap ‘yun. Kaya may nasasabihan na fake news.
The second part of the interview with Mr Nieto will be next week. I asked him about #LeniLeaks, his response to accusations of being a paid troll, and the risks of being a Pro-Duterte blogger.