POSTSCRIPT / April 5, 2011 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Mea culpa that readers thought I was resigning

VAGUE MESSSAGE: Before more confusion sets in, I want to state that I have no plans of leaving the Philippine STAR.

I am constrained to say this to correct the misimpression left by my saying last Sunday: “Before I bow out of the scene, maybe I should gather in a modest book the more significant ‘Postscript’ columns I have written over the decades.”

Friends called/texted and readers emailed me to ask why I was resigning, adding that they wanted me to continue writing the way I do. Some of them even thought I was being kicked out, an impression that was not fair to the Star.

Ironically, in that column I was talking precisely of communication problems and troubleshooting with the use of the four basic elements of communication (Source, Receiver, Message and Medium).

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MEA CULPA: The miscommunication resulted from my sending a message that was not clear. My saying “Before I bow out of the scene…” was misinterpreted. Some readers thought I was leaving the paper or was being eased out.

My original draft actually said, “Before I leave this world…” (as in “Before I die”!). That sounded morbid, so I rewrote it. But it is true that, before I go, I want to produce a volume gathering the best of my Postscripts.

Pursuing my request to readers aired last Sunday, may I ask you to please email me the subject or title or date of any Postscript that you particularly liked. That will help me select what to include in the book. Thank you.

For easy review of past Postscripts, please go to the Archive of my website. No need to log in or register.

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TWO HEADS: Still on communication, President Aquino said in Iloilo City last week that his Communication Group could do a better job of spreading the word about the many good things that his nine-month-old administration has done for the people.

He was explaining why his satisfaction rating has slipped – 13 percentage points in the Social Weather Stations and five percentage points in the Pulse Asia surveys – in the past three months.

Undersecretary Abigail Valte, one of several Palace spokesmen, also said over radio, “We take this (rating drop) as a sign to improve, but it’s not (entirely) the fault of the ComGroup.” I concur, in part.

She was referring to the group functioning with two co-equal heads: Secretary Ricky Carandang whose duty is to create messages and Secretary Sonny Coloma who is tasked to disseminate those messages.

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CONFUSED SETUP: After one year of the Siamese twins trying to function together, maybe the President should consider placing the ComGroup under one, not two, heads. One of them should be subordinated to the other.

The ideal is to have the production and propagation of government information under one Secretary who will be totally responsible for the unified effort. In the present confused setup, it is difficult streamlining the process and pinpointing responsibility.

Despite his P1-billion budget being fed to a gigantic network that includes the Philippine Information Agency and state-run broadcast media NBN-4, RPN-9, IBC-13 and dzRB, Coloma would still be ineffective if the messages made by Carandang are amateurish.

Or Carandang, a Yellow propagandist imbedded at ABS-CBN in the 2010 presidential campaign, would be frustrated if, despite what he thinks are his expert strategizing and message-making, Coloma bungles the dissemination part.

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UNTAPPED NETWORK: President Aquino blamed the drop in his ratings on the “good news” not reaching the target publics. As is said in the public relations business, PR is two-fold – doing something good and talking about it.

The President seems to have noticed that while he has been doing enough good things for the people, the Gospel according to him is not being propagated effectively by his apostles.

It is good that Valte reiterated what some of us in this oldest profession have been saying all along – that the Herculean propaganda job is not the exclusive task of the ComGroup of Malacañang.

Lying untapped, and unappreciated, is the vast information network of the bureaucracy. Every department and agency in government has an information office sufficiently staffed and equipped to pursue a respectable information campaign within its turf.

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PICK COLOMA: The President should order his ComGroup to integrate this vast network into Malacañang’s propaganda machine.

This structural grafting was done during the regime of then President Marcos, and there is no reason why the Aquino administration cannot do the same or improve on it.

The department information offices and their adjuncts around the country have their own budgets already. Additional expense for integration should be minimal.

But there should be just one headman managing this expanded information machinery. The surest way to defeat the effort is to have two heads banging at the top.

My opinion will not matter, but I think Coloma will be the better manager.

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PERSONAL GAIN: The President was a pitiful sight telling his audience in Iloilo about Atlantic Gulf’s $10-billion contracts, the 4,000 engineers it can hire, the billions saved in his cutting benefits of executives of state firms, the 400,000 indigent families receiving welfare doles, et cetera.

He complained that the good news does not hit the front pages. Why blame newspapers? I thought television is his darling medium. Ask the TV networks to carry the good news, and not just distract the people with endless entertainment.

As for appreciating economic benefits, this is a personal matter. Stories about Atlantic Gulf, jobs and doles are meaningful only to those who directly benefit from them. To the rest, it is all irrelevant.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 5, 2011)

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