Walang paglagyan ang disgusto at galit sa ipinalabas na video ng Presidential Communications Office (PCO) nitong May 31.
And then you realize that this is also absolutely no surprise. Under Martin Andanar, I went from being hopeful about the PCO (not once, but twice!), to utterly and absolutely dismayed and disgusted by the lack of vision, intelligence, smarts, and all-around common sense.
Early into this government, say August 2016, the policy seemed to be radio silence. I thought it was just Andanar trying to figure out what to do, two months in. At the same time, he needed to rise to the occasion of someone like President Duterte, who hit the ground running. Or whose mouth was — is — faster than his brain.
Ultimately too, all we need is information. It is Andanar’s job to give us that. But in August we were faced with issues from the growing number of dead in the drug war to the claim of Freddie Aguilar that he was promised the NCCA, and the PCO had absolutely nothing to say.
In October, the President made that huge mistake of making a comment about being Hitler, and likening drug addicts to Jews. The President quickly admitted his mistake and apologized. Mocha Uson, pre-PCO job, though, went to town and made things worse:
Mocha Uson posted a social card on her page on October 2 with the photos of reporters Karen Lema and Manuel Mogato, calling them “The Real Culprits Behind the Fuss Over Pres. Duterte’s Hitler Comment,” and which asserts that: “Irresponsible Journalists Must Be Punished.” She captioned this social card: “Kaaway ng Pagbabago!”
<…> When the President himself admitted to this mistake, he effectively absolved these two reporters of any wrongdoing. In fact, both Lema and Mogato merely reported exactly what the President said, context included.
Yet not one apology from the President’s followers — least of all Mocha. These are the same followers who, in a span of three days, had already effectively questioned the credibility, called for the punishment of, and threatened the lives of these two journalists.
It was Andanar’s job to rein in the ka-DDS. But he didn’t know enough to even do that, didn’t even know to take the side of the President on this one. So many months later, we would all find out what Andanar thought of Mocha, and why we couldn’t expect him to anything at all with regards reining her and the ka-DDS in:
“Mocha is an artist. She is one of the biggest artists we have in the country. She’s been in the show business world <sic> for more than a decade already.”
That’s a direct quote from the Secretary of Presidential Communications, ladies and gentlemen, with its baseless inexplicable use of the word “artist,” a misinterpretation of the notion of “biggest,” and a grammatical error thrown in for good measure.
By November 2016, I was done giving the Andanar a chance to get his act together — paid as he is by taxpayers’ money. I did an analysis of the PCO, which revealed that while he wanted to change and simplify how the PCO functions (Daang Matuwid had that infamous three-headed, three-office(d) monster after all), he also had no idea what kind of change was needed, or was required.
We observed that the online version of Official Gazette has already deviated to <sic> its mandate. It has become a lifestyle magazine of some sorts <sic>, politicizing most of what is supposed to be factual, disallowing proper context to every historical piece <sic> and laws <sic>.
Other than the grammar, it is clear here that Andanar has no idea what the previous administration was doing with Official Gazette, and how it functioned for the public, who needed information and could go to one website for all of it. That’s what updating the Official Gazette is about, that was an important change. Look at it now, and Andanar has made it into nothing but a list of executive orders, laws, and memorandums, because THAT is what it was originally defined as by laws that were written in 1902 and 1941.
Which made me wonder in November: if Andanar wanted to go back to the law, then government should not be using social media. Yet in place of real functioning and functional websites, the PCO was using Facebook like it can even collate and deliver information properly. Obviously he also has no idea what social media is for, and why websites remain critical to any government, organization, group worth its salt.
But Andanar was a great pretender, and with a President like Duterte, this was the time when the PCO could just get away with just constantly and consistently saying that the public and media were taking the President’s statements out of context.
Yet at this point, if people were taking the President out of context, that would be because Andanar himself was not doing his job of building and establishing context.
In fact, later in November I would find that Andanar was using PCO’s official Facebook page, and PCO itself, not so much to support the President, but to make himself the star of the show. Case in point: it was filled not with Presidential or Palace statements, but with Andanar Statements.
At this point it was also clear that Andanar had no idea that troll discourse and the ka-DDS was making things worse for the President, because they were muddling issues into notions of bias and dilawan, even when the President himself was one to apologize for mistakes. At this point, official Malacañang statements were being released by the ka-DDS as well (some putting their own logos on it), because there was no actual official government website that was doing this job.
To say Andanar was already dependent on government trolls, allies, and social media army at this point, five months into his job, would be an understatement. And therein lies the problem:
Ah, but Andanar thought Mocha was the biggest star. He also thought it okay to release transcripts of the President’s speeches, but instead of clarifying the parts we don’t understand during Duterte’s live delivery, Andanar thought it okay to just put <inaudible>. Never mind that it is those parts that make it easy to take the President out of context — which was the main problem with his communications.
But what to do when you have someone who thinks it okay to go on live television and tell the world that he’s “reading between the lines” about the resignation of VP Leni from the Cabinet? Andanar was obviously clueless about the fact that a communications head who reads between the lines ends up telling the public to read between the lines as well, giving us the freedom to imagine a million things about one event, instead of pegging it down to fact.
This was Andanar in the first six months of his PCO. This was Andanar being given a chance, losing that chance, losing all common sense really, about how he should and must function especially in light of a President like Duterte.
And it only gets worse. ***