PCOO’s ‘gold standard’
What a state the nation is in. The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) shares patently inaccurate posts by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-Elcac) on the shock closure of the media network ABS-CBN, and then, through the resulting flak, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar blithely announces that the resharing was “done without the usual vetting process.”
The posts are taken down but Andanar makes no explanation beyond saying that the reshares are by no means official.
“The issue regarding ABS-CBN Corp.’s network franchise remains within the purview of Congress,” he says.
President Duterte’s spokesperson Harry Roque chimes in. He says the NTF-Elcac posts claiming that the ABS-CBN franchise was not renewed because of “franchise violations” and “legal issues” that the network had failed to address emanated neither from his office nor from the NTF Stratcomms — “hence, not the official statement of our office.”
What in blazes is going on?
For insulting the public through this unseemly discharge of the PCOO’s function, for reposting the NTF-Elcac’s call for Filipinos to be wary that communist insurgents might use the ABS-CBN shutdown to discredit the government, Andanar offers no apology, just a claim that the officer who shared the posts had been identified and a formal instruction had been issued to his staff that all crossposts on the PCOO’s social media pages be strictly limited.
In September last year, Congress approved a 2020 budget of P1.698 billion for the PCOO, 12 percent higher than the budget for 2019. A Philippine News Agency report quoted Andanar as saying that with the additional funds, he expected all PCOO agencies to “again level up”: The PCOO will “improve the quality of reporting” of its news agencies including PTV News, Radyo Pilipinas, etc. It will “widen its audience reach.” It will “strengthen its information campaigns to show the ‘gold standard’ of governance under the Duterte administration.”
In the welter of words from the government’s chief talking head, this declaration could also be mined: “With more budget, that means we can program these funds to effective tactics and strategies to really reach the masses and reach the international community without fake news, without disinformation.”
And here we are in this unmerry month of May, when the terrors of the COVID-19 pandemic constantly make clear how important it is to public safety and wellbeing that an efficient communication center is in place, dispensing accurate information of life-or-death consequence to a beleaguered constituency. The traditional and social media have stepped up to the plate to take on the role.
The first operate on integrity, commitment, and a bold determination to keep their heads above water; the second are more enthusiastic, more unbridled, than the first. Social media, after all, make up the last great free-for-all, on and from which could be planted and harvested bumper crops of precious data — but requiring of users a keen eye to discern the work of a huge troll army, now said to be energized by fresh funds.
And the PCOO? On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Andanar enjoined the country to “work together… to eradicate biased information, misinformation, disinformation and fake news…,” and said the Duterte administration “will continue to endeavor towards the continued promotion of press rights and freedom.”
Can it be that a cabal is running rings around this man, and he is ignorant of it? Last month, PTV News reported that “communist NPA terrorists” or CNTs “swooped down” on Sitio Bangon, Barangay Guinmaayohan, in Balangiga, Eastern Samar, around 9 a.m. of April 7 and made off with relief goods intended for the residents. “More hardship befell the people” as a result of the raid by the CNTs, per the report that elicited the condemnation of Malacañang and the Army.
But Balangiga Mayor Randy Graza, as well as Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management officer Judith Duran-alde and Barangay Guinmaayohan Captain Adela Ogale, denied that such a raid ever happened. The relief goods were distributed “peacefully,” said Duran-alde, and “all the intended recipients received the food items,” said Ogale.
Who’s pulling the public’s collective leg — on taxpayer money?
On top of everything else, there’s “Wow China,” a program aired on weekends by the “combined forces of China Radio International and Radyo Pilipinas 738 AM,” and which is intended for Filipinos to “get to know our Chinese brothers for better relations and friendship.”
Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS) chief Rizal Aportadera, called upon to comment, urged the public “not to create confusion, cultivate fear and anger, or propagate divisiveness at a time when the country needs us to be united.” The PCOO, PBS’ parent office, can perhaps take heed.
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