Monday ∗ 14 Nov 2016

Is silence Andanar’s communications strategy?

Four months in and it is clear that there is nothing in Presidential Communications Office (PCO) Secretary Martin Andanar’s plan that is about (1) protecting, defending, helping out President Duterte given his daring, controversial proclamations, and (2) informing the public with important, critical, historical data when it is urgently needed.

A major problem is that Andanar believes government does not need an official one-stop portal of a website. He couldn’t be more wrong.

Because no matter what he believes about Facebook, no matter the number of Duterte devotees who like posts on social media, FB accounts cannot take the place of an official Philippine government website that the public can depend on for official government news, responses, and data. Social media is, and has always been, for information dissemination and community engagement.

For Andanar to even think that an FB page carries the same credibility, the same weight, as an official government site, only reveals that he has no idea how to run a communications office – not to mention a communications office for a President who, for good or bad, excesses and rhetoric included, is the most revolutionary one we’ve had in decades.

The problem with @PresidentialCom
In an August 20 statement, where Andanar revealed his wrong assessment of the past government’s Official Gazette, he also said:

“<…> all our social media communications of the President’s programs and initiatives for change shall be posted on the Presidential Communications Facebook and Twitter. As you have seen the past 50 days, we have been posting Change Bulletins for every bit of change that the government has done. We have also been posting video clips from Cabinet Secretaries as they explain new executive orders, and as they reaffirm their pledge to become a partner for change.”

Andanar tells us that the portal for information on government is actually the Facebook page of @PresidentialCom.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is wrong with that. FB pages can only organize information chronologically, regardless of whether these are videos, notes, or posts. As such there is no way of searching through government information by topic, or by type. No way at all to ensure easy access to data.

The fact that Facebook presumes that the most important thing on your page is your most recent post, should’ve already told Andanar that this wouldn’t work as a government site. After all, some of President Duterte’s statements are more important than his recent activities, and official Palace statements can only be more important than that one-minute video clip showing the President greeting the Holiday Inn Hotel Reception Group on their visit to Malacañang.

Yes, I kid you not. These are the kinds of videos (with no audio) that Andanar’s PCO posts on the government’s official FB page.

Imagine how the more important data just gets drowned in all the pointless information.

Content, not just form
The Notes facility of FB is what Andanar’s PCO has used to deliver information, and these are divided among: News, Press Releases, Presidential Statements, Official Directives, Statements of Ernesto Abella, Statements of Martin Andanar, Responses to Issues, Senator’s Statements on EJK Hearings, Presidential Speech Transcripts.

This list tells you that even the basic task of curating information is not something Andanar has thought about. And there is no consistency either: some days there are multiple notes, other days, it’s just empty. For the month of October? They stopped at October 6. There have been no articles for November at all.

The July numbers are expected, as this was post-SONA, and as such is filled with News and Press Releases about it. The dip in August numbers though is interesting if we consider that this was the month when President Duterte was in international news for calling US Ambassador Philip Goldberg gay, and throwing an expletive his way.    

Did the Palace post a note to respond to and clarify the wrong translation of the expletive across international media sites? Of course not.

The September numbers, while high, is also interestingly enough devoid of any distinct and concerted effort to rationalize, defend, clarify the President’s use of an expletive while answering a question about US President Barack Obama’s statement on human rights abuses in the country. This was of course covered by international media, and put the President on CNN and BBC.

What did @PresidentialCom do? They posted ONE note, lifting completely from another person’s defense of President Duterte’s statement, which clarifies the translation of p*tangina.

One wonders why Andanar could not do that himself.   

Missing communications
Not only was @PresidentialCom silent during the critical instances above, they have also been silent on the more important valid criticisms against the President. Controversial statements during his visit to China in October? Silence. Grand statements against the US on one day, and signing the EDCA the next? Silence. Flip-flopping on nuclear power? Silence.

There are no official numbers, properly categorized, for the drug war; no effort to keep us posted on those killings that are our new normal. Nothing that threshes out the peace talks for the public, nothing at length about the pivot to China and the shift in foreign policy.

They haven’t even published the President’s more controversial speeches in China – not on the FB pages or the Official Gazette website.

The more I study the PCO’s moves the past four months, the more I’m convinced that Andanar just does not know what he’s doing. He was told to simplify the three communications offices of the previous administration, and all he did was close down two offices, then pretend he knows what he’s doing with one.

How’s that for the worst change ever.

Published in The Manila Times, November 13 2016.

Posted in: bayan, gobyerno, information, komentaryo, media, pulitika, serbisyo, social media

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