in September of last year, in a conversation about the PNoy government that was riddled with questions from a British filmmaker newly met, i found myself talking about the disappointment that is Malacanang. the palace with a three-headed communications office that takes pride in being connected to the people, and yet has proven time and again to be releasing either the wrong information, too much information, or just not speaking up when it should.
that conversation led to many things, though an interesting tangent was this: the new-acquaintance-turned-friend tells me that he had sent a proposal to Malacanang in the mid-2011 to do a docu-film on a-day-in-the-life of PNoy, an inside story of the Palace and the President’s life kind of thing, much like those done for and on Obama. the proposal had landed on the lap of employee #1, who works within one of them communications offices, who had seemed interested in the project, and promised to take it up with his superior. my filmmaker friend was optimistic.
ah, but not surprisingly, he couldn’t reach this Malacanang contact when it was time to follow up on the project. worse, and funnily enough, this Malacanang contact runs into my friend at a restaurant and backs out and runs off. tumakas na lang, like a little boy caught doing a crime.
recently i find out that, in fact, the pitch for this same proposal had landed on the lap of another Malacanang employee, #2, part of another communications team altogether, or at least one that had a different boss from Malacanang employee #1. Malacanang employee #2, like #1 was optimistic, too. in fact, so optimistic that when he recently heard that a docu on Malacanang and PNoy was going to premiere, he thought he would be seeing the friend who had pitched it.
in January 2012, this press release came out:
For the coming National Geographic Channel (NGC) documentary, “Inside Malacañang,” filmmaker Marnie Manicad gives viewers a peek into the country’s most tightly guarded address – the official residence and workplace of President Benigno Aquino III.
the coincidences astound me. the gall, too.
we might not be able to point the plagiarism finger — a concept is one thing, working from that concept is another. and my tendency is (to some extent) absolve the ones who are now coming out with the docu — it’s possible that they had not known of the original proposal for the same concept. the crux of the problem is in the ethics operating in the communications maze of Malacanang: a proposal was made for a project, one that they did not properly reject or say no to. so many months after, someone else is doing a version of the same project, the proposal of which landed only on the desks of Malacanang’s communications offices. why should this be swept under the rug of there’s-nothing-we-can-do?
at the very least, we must ask this question: across which hands did that proposal and pitch move? who should be held liable for this version now about to come out, the concept for which was pitched by someone else in the middle of last year? even if we grant the possibility that there was a second proposal, same concept, that was preferred over the first one, the communications people should have known to inform relevant parties properly of the status of the project. it’s the decent, professional thing to do.
we let PNoy’s Malacanang get away with many things, by not speaking up, or because we might be called out for sourgraping. but in fact in cases like this one it’s the communications teams that should be called out for being unprofessional, and unethical, and just operating on hubris it seems. they always seem like they could do no wrong. of course usually it just seems like kabastusan rules! right in the halls of Malacanang.