When 2017 started, Martin Andanar was on his seventh month in the Presidential Communications Office (PCO).
The Communications secretary wanted to welcome the year with a bang, so he decided to listen to pro-government troll discourse and be afraid of a yahoogroup. You got that right. A yahoogroup. In the year 2017. For what to him was a “national issue” involving the names of Filipinos in America and a staff member of VP Leni’s office, in purported conversation that was not only using a yahoogroup in the time of Viber and Telegram, but also apparently, a yahoogroup that could so easily be accessed or hacked.
This piece of “news” about a destabilization plot came from what we now know to be fake news sources, as fueled by pro-Duterte troll discourse. It is decidedly blind, it is fiction-writing based on the flimsiest of sources if not totally without basis. And the Communications Secretary was believing it, hook line sinker.
On January 8, Andanar said: “It has really become a national issue. I said even before it becomes a national issue, as one of the President’s men, I am concerned about this. I need to know about the veracity of the reports.” (Philstar.com)
On January 9, he said: “Number one order of the day is to check the veracity of the document; kung ito ba talaga ay bonafide Yahoo conversation, at number two, kung bonafide siya, kung ito ba talagang personalities ay kasama nga, kung sila ba talaga iyun.<…> This is a process na ang makakaalam lang nito, ang makakapag-imbestiga ay mga online forensic experts. Makikipag-tulungan na rin ang Yahoo.” (ABSCBNNews.com)
Mago-online forensics pa!
Here, Andanar revealed his utter cluelessness about social media in general, as he unthinkingly believes what pro-Duterte supporters are doing on social media — incite fear, create fake news, make mountains out of molehills — and presumes this to be a “national issue.”
He also dares call out VP Leni:
“As leader of the opposition, she (Robredo) has the moral authority to talk to her ranks who are noisy in social media to respect the mandate of the President.” (Philstar.com, January 8)
And yet, he himself, as Communications Secretary REFUSED and still refuses to speak to his ranks who are noisy on social media, disrespecting anyone at all who is critical of the President, throwing around abusive and violent threats, and spreading falsity every chance they get. Instead of being critical of pro-Duterte followers too, Andanar was supportive of this enterprise — not once reining them in — and at the start of the year, actually justifying what they were doing by turning it into a “national issue” that required “online forensics” — which would of course require public funds.
You’d think Andanar had already lost it, but he was only about to. Later in the month he would absolutely lose it, and speaks to Duterte’s “anonymous trolls” who for him have been vicious and relentless:
“For those trolls who are out to destroy our government, you all go to hell.”
Spoken like a Communications Secretary whose paycheck is paid for by the people — including those who are critical of the President. This, from the same man who thought it okay to have an opinion column with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, when he is obviously in-over-his-head just trying to get a handle on his job.
At this point, it was clear to me that Andanar might be one of the most incompetent government officials we have, if not the biggest waste of public funds. We could do no worse than Andanar.
But HE could do worse. Of course! In February, he went on a downward spiral, lying through his teeth, insisting on a destabilization plot, and fighting with the Senate press corps by claiming they were paid hacks. He was responding to the press conference and testimony of one Arturo Lascañas against then Mayor Duterte. In the process Andanar revealed he had no idea how to do his job.
On February 20, he claimed that Mayor Duterte was cleared by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) of involvement in the Davao Death Squad; this was a lie, and was denied by the CHR the following day complete with official documents.
Andanar also claimed Lascañas was part of the “protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration.” In the days after, national security officials, from National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon to National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, and even AFP Chief of Staff General Eduardo Año, denid that there was a destabilization plot against the President.
He then insinuated that the Senate press that covered the Lascañas press con had received cash:
“Kaya ito po ay kasama na rin po sa plano, at mayroon din po tayong mga natanggap na mga report, na as much as 1,000 dollars ang ipinamigay dito sa presscon na ito, hindi ko na lang po papangalanan yung aking source, pero mayroon daw pinagbibigyan ng ganito kalaking halaga ng pera para lamang i-cover ito” (February 20, phone interview with Pinky Webb).
In the uproar after his claim, with the media in a rage, Andanar refused to apologize because he said he didn’t say anyone received the cash. But only an idiot would think that his statement, in and by itself, was not an insinuation of the same. After all if there were $1000 dollars being given away, what would be the point of that if no one was receiving it?
Besides, Andanar practices reading between the lines, among many other dysfunctions unbecoming of a Communications Secretary. Yet here we are being told to only take what he says literally.
After this stunt, Andanar would mostly fall silent — but of course we were still paying for his salary. They were also apparently prepping for the ASEAN Summit, which had the worst communications strategy — if it existed at all — and failed tremendously at informing the public about why it is relevant to us and the region at all. Oh no, Andanar cannot for the life of him work with information, much less content development and planning.
But in late April, he was in crisis. Malacañang wanted to celebrate President Duterte topping the Time Poll for Time 100, forgetting that the sole reason he was even part of that list is because of the war on drugs that has officially killed approximately 2500, but to which is unofficially attached at least 7000 deaths.
So what did Andanar do? Once Time announced that Duterte had topped the poll, he shared the link and said “Ignore the inaccurate information inside.” Which is stupid: if you want people to ignore inaccurate information, you don’t share the link to it at all. Which is the same as this: if you didn’t want a spotlight on the war on drugs and its dead, you should have told your supporters to stop voting for Duterte in that poll.
But of course Andanar did not know to do that.
To some extent, I wasn’t surprised with the appointment of Mocha Uson as an underling of Andanar — the best and brightest will only choose the best and the brightest to work with. That is true too for people who are the total opposite of the best and brightest.
It also does not surprise that this video came from Andanar-Mocha’s tandem at the PCO:
The logic, the rationale, the concept itself, is the kind of discourse that filled the pages of pro-government trolls, and rabid Duterte supporters, ever since Martial Law was declared in all of Mindanao. It paints Martial Law as something that we should not fear, because it will save us from all evil. Mocha herself was posting photographs and polls, pushing her followers to respond to questions about whether they think Martial Law is needed or not, a blatant manipulation of social media opinion in support of Martial Law. She says her Facebook account (note that is NOT a blog) is not necessarily that of the PCO’s — and yet it is solely because of her work on that account that she is even in a government position at this point.Andanar is in a grave so deep, there’s no getting out at this point. He has a regular podcast gig with Mocha, where the latter apparently praised him to high heavens in the first episode, saying that it is only Andanar who has allowed for PCO to be functional.
She obviously knows not what Presidential Communications is about, neither does she have a sense of history — or any sense — about who the public is that the PCO is supposed to be talking to, and how it should be functioning for everyone, not just Duterte supporters. But Andanar doesn’t care. Mocha’s stroking his ego, and he thinks she’s the biggest artist.
All is right in their world, and these two are wasting taxpayers’ money.
One wonders when the President will see that incompetence is just as bad as corruption. ***