The problem with doing pressers at dawn is it changes the news cycle and creates a lot of loose interpretations by people who listen to it half-awake and tired. Fact checking also becomes more problematic to a media establishment that has been used to being spoon fed. Lead coverage has likewise shifted to online since breaking news with traditional media seems unable to adjust to a different working environment.
By now we know there are no slow news days with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (PRRD). Often, major pressers come in end/start of the week and mid week. Major announcements are also made in presidential visits of military camps or major sectoral events outside of Metro Manila. If one will just observe PRRD’s style, one could discern when he is serious and when added statements are just elaboration or elucidation of points. He will emphasize what are important by repeating things and will just make a quick retort on what are just running commentaries, not serious at all. But on the presidential pulpit, once announced, become serious policy statements, and that is when the problem kicks in.
Thus, so many things have been said in the latest presser, foremost of which was, Duterte’s job is to “protect the innocent, law-abiding citizens.” No debate on that. He made reference to the life of a policeman, doing his job honestly, would need help in providing lawyers for cases filed against them and considering how long trials are, hence, making the police destitute during the pendency of the legal cases. These will have to be looked into in conjunction with the PNP, PAO and the Judiciary. For the battle against illegal drugs is not just a battle by the Executive Branch but by all branches. The sooner a multi-branch approach is pursued, the better for all.
Then there is an urgent need of putting together the data needed to have a common view on things. Duterte said there are “three million addicts in this country…It is a pandemic…So what am I supposed to do as President?” That statement gave us a rare official view of how huge the problem is. A problem not dealt with by the previous administration. Duterte is losing the fight in terms of international media. Our campaign against illegal drugs is now branded as extra-judicial killings (EJK). The Duterte communication team just allowed itself to fall into the trap by not disaggregating the 1,000 killings in terms of percentages in the overall campaign; in terms of classification (rub out, paramilitary, legal operations, etc.), location, and modus of execution. Without which, the killings have readily been cited as EJK. The Duterte communication team has failed to present the other side of the coin, PNP members being killed in the line of duty. It has also failed to communicate the impact of the campaign on supply and demand as well as price of illegal substance. Such interdictions have actually increased the price of shabu peddled on the streets.
Duterte’s statement regarding the United Nations is nothing new. He has taken such position during the campaign. It is not also the first time that a leader of a nation would say that, but it seems wrong to say that the UN has not done anything in the Philippines. Still, the outburst cannot be undone easily. The country was one of the only four Asian nations to join the UN in 1945. The threat to leave the UN only boxes the leader in accepting the framing that he has violated human rights protocol and has put to danger the foreign policy of the nation.
Looking on other issues, PRRD is not even attempting an incremental approach to changing things in the country. He has done a lot in his first 50 days and his plate is full: from his fight against illegal drugs to MNLF-MILF, CPP-NPA-NDF peace negotiations; former President Ferdinand E. Marcos’ burial; constitutional revision via CONASS; overhaul of the bureaucracy; fight against corruption, political and economic elites; telcos to improve service; mining; smuggling; food security and agriculture; restoration of death penalty, among others. Hence, when all these issues collide, political capital is eroded. One needs a huge capital to pursue change and that is where strategic decisions need to be made in every battle. The multi-decked approach may not be able to hold the system together. Duterte’s invincible currency may just reach its end by what his opponents call a December offensive.
Consider this: de Lima is now the poster girl of the Duterte administration. It is a reprise of their old animosity dating back to the rice smuggling and human rights issues. de Lima was one of the guardians of Pres. Benigno Aquino III’s gate. She has been in every controversy Aquino 3rd has been in since Day One. Unravel de Lima, Aquino 3rd is exposed. From CJ Corona to PGMA to the Luneta hostage taking, media killings, Napoles, DAP and PDAF, Mamasapano, etc. de Lima provided the legal cover and her reactions to PRRD’s expose is unbelievable considering she is a lawyer and was CHR and DOJ head respectively.
The other card that needs to be played well is putting together the infrastructure road map of the country. With the absence of said road map, we are holding on to mere promises articulated by Budget secretary Ben Diokno as the “golden age of infrastructure” where they will jack up infrastructure spending up to 7 percent of the economy by 2022. He further stated that “government will spend close to P900 billion on hard public infrastructure next year to make up for years of “neglect.” That the rollout of infra projects will be done “simultaneously, not sequentially,” small, medium and large projects in all regions. DPWH secretary Mark Villar has also been quoted as saying “the Duterte administration will order non-stop or 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week construction work on most urban-based projects to fast-track infrastructure buildup.” But until we see the roadmap and hard decisions made by December, we are like floating on water lilies.
In the last Center for Futuristics forum at the Asian Institute of Management, various issues were discussed. What struck those who attended was that there was unanimity on the character of the leader we have today. He has huge political capital and strong political will to surgically do what needs to be done. He is of different mold and has a reversed work ethic but he will die trying his earnest to get things moving. The other side of it is Mindanao supports his favorite son, Bisaya is rallying and it appears some elements among the elites are shaking the trees too strongly to their detriment.
Finally, propaganda is different from persuasion. Propaganda is a “form of communication that attempts to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. Persuasion is interactive and attempts to satisfy the needs of both persuader and persuadee.” Persuasion attempts to evoke a specific change in the attitudes or behaviors of an audience. The change sought is a specific response from the audience. In a communication process, propaganda “is the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. By revealing the introduction and production of Masa, a tabloid publication of the administration, are you sending the right message? Should government be in the business of tabloid publication?
And there is also communication in what is not being said. “Brevity is the soul of the wit.”