Friday ∗ 21 Apr 2017

TIME 100 and Duterte’s communications

For a government – and a President – that has had a tendency to blame media, local and international, for covering only the drug war and not much else about what else is happening in the Philippines, it surprises that government even engaged at all with the Time 100 poll and the President’s inclusion in that list.

Because Time Magazine – as expected – has been at the forefront of putting the drug war in international news, and has been very very critical of it, too. Their articles on the drug crisis, and ultimately on President Duterte, both online and in print, have been far from flattering.

This is the frame against which the President is being measured by an international media outfit, and it should’ve been clear from the beginning that if and when he is included in that final list, it will only shine a harsher light on the drug war and its victims, and the summary executions on our streets.

Missed opportunity
Andanar etal should’ve been able to anticipate what the outcomes would be, and they should’ve been able to make grand statements about how they do not support the magazine’s inclusion of the President in the Time 100 list, given the basis for the said inclusion. Because that list has always been about people who have been influential, for “better or for worse” – and the Time Magazine’s coverage of the President is clearly about the latter.

They might have also looked at the instances in which “controversial” leaders are included in the list. In 2014, editor Nancy Gibbs wrote about the Time 100:

“The TIME 100 is a list of the world’s most influential men and women, not its most powerful, though those are not mutually exclusive terms. Power, as we’ve seen this year, can be crude and implacable, from Vladimir Putin’s mugging of Crimea to North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s summary execution of his uncle and mentor Jang Song Thaek. Those men made our list, but they are the outliers, and not just because we generally seek to celebrate the best work of the human spirit. The vast majority of this year’s roster reveals that while power is certain, influence is subtle. Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip. You don’t lead by hitting people over the head, Dwight Eisenhower used to say. That’s ‘assault, not leadership.’” <emphasis mine> (Time.com, 24 Apr 2014)

It’s clear, isn’t it, how and why President Duterte was included in this list at all, and how his becoming a part of it (the list comes out today, April 20), will be framed?

It’s also clear that this was a missed opportunity for PCO, when it could’ve taken a stand against the Time 100 list from the get-go, putting its foot down and saying, no, we do not want your coverage, we do not want your inclusion of the President on your list, when we all know what you think of him, and the kind of coverage you do about his governance.

But of course we didn’t get that from Andanar’s team.

Mishaps
Instead Malacañang has tried to spin the results of the Time 100 online poll.

But first it took offense at the magazine itself saying that the President is known for using “social media to promote his agenda and has reportedly paid people to push him to popularity online” (Time.com, 30 Mar), something that was based on a BBC.com article that actually had named sources talking about the presidential campaign of 2016. Abella overreacted, stating that: “Accusing him of using paid writers, they wantonly paint Mr Duterte as manipulating social media to boost his popularity in the online Time poll” (Inquirer.net, 1 Apr).

The Time article does not talk at all about paid writers. And the use of social media to boost popularity of anyone – including of government – is not a bad thing at all. In fact, there should be a government budget for social media. It’s a question of what they’re using it for.

Abella-Andanar did no better when the Time 100 poll results came out with President Duterte at number one. Instead of already taking a very critical, distant stance about the result, Abella tried to spin it by saying this means the President is “admired” by many, and that he is a “kindred spirit” to Filipinos, and that this is about how “he has prioritized public interest first and foremost, especially the needs and aspirations of the poor and common people” (PCO, 17 Apr).

But the Time article on the poll result expectedly focused solely on the President’s drug war, with links to a Reuters article on the creation of a drug war super agency, the Time photo-essay on the drug war, and a Time Q&A with VP Leni Robredo.

In another expectedly thoughtless move, Andanar shared this Time article about the poll result, but captioned it: “ignore the inaccurate information inside.”

This begs the question: if Time Magazine delivers inaccurate information about the President and his drug war, why are you even engaging with the Time 100 poll result? More importantly: if you are the President’s Communications Secretary, why are you sharing a link that to you holds “inaccurate information”?

You wonder when this communications office will get a handle on things and start doing its job. Also: when will Andanar get a grip. ***

Published in The Manila Times, 20 April 2017.

Posted in: bayan, conversations, gobyerno, iconography, kalalakihan, komentaryo, media

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