Sometimes, we columnists are gifted with more interesting material than we can explore and write about.
1. Before I could act on my resolve to go to Luneta to observe a possible clash of rallies between anti-Marcos and pro-Marcos forces, the heavens intervened. The much ballyhooed Black Friday protest was discombobulated by the rains (engendered by a typhoon that entered the Philippine area of responsibility), leading many to call off their plans to attend, and many legislators to dismiss it.
It appears that it was the prayer rally of the Marcos camp that was answered by the heavens. The camp opted to say prayers instead of meeting head on the anti-Marcos protest at the park.
2. Reaction to my pearl of the orient column (“Adopt ‘pearl of the orient’ as PH brand and national slogan,” (Times, November 24, 2016)), has been overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. The column may have also stumbled into a possible scandal and anomaly that must be investigated.
There was only one dissenter, who mistakenly suggested that Hong Kong has taken the “pearl of the orient” nickname. This is nonsense. One HK restaurant that tried to use the name, but it probably no longer exists.
3. My thesis that Sen. Leila de Lima is in meltdown is being confirmed in spades. She is now the definition of radioactive.
Her driver-bodyguard–lover, Ronnie Dayan, testified at a House hearing that De Lima not only took drug payoffs amounting to millions, she also cheated on him and took on two other lovers.
Socked, D5 told media she will no longer remarry.
Her Senate LP colleagues no longer want to be seen with her.
4. In Colombia, government and FARC rebels have signed a revised peace deal, that will save the historic breakthrough that moved the Nobel Prize Committee to name the Colombian president as Nobel peace laureate for the year.
This could provide some impetus for a genuine peace deal between the government and Filipino Muslim rebels next year. If President Duterte wins the Nobel prize, some Filipinos will kill themselves.
Pearl branding idea touches a nerve
My proposal for the Philippines to adopt “pearl of the orient” as its national brand and national slogan has touched a nerve.
Filipinos and foreigners alike are enthusiastic for the idea. They have sent me a ton of e-mail to express support and provide ideas. One foreign business executive got so excited, he started toying around with possible graphics, designs and various advertising and marketing ideas to make the image makeover work.
There was a lot of research material that I could not include in the column for lack of space. More on this later.
But I should mention now, if belatedly, that the pearl is in a sense already part of our tourism program. The logo of the Department of Tourism depicts the Philippine pearl.
Midnight bidding of tourism contract
The most serious offshoot of the column is the information relayed to me by one reader that the previous administrators of the Department of Tourism conducted a midnight bidding of the tourism campaign contract.
The bidding was staged during the election campaign period. At the time, the Department was still headed by Mr. Ramon Jimenez, Jr.
Several large advertising agencies are said to have participated in the bidding.
The bids were opened a few days after the election. And McCann Worldgroup Philippines is reported to have submitted the winning bid. There is clearly something rotten and crooked here. The DOT regime at the time was conducting a bidding of a contract that would be the concern and responsibility of a new presidential administration that would not take office until June 30, 2016.
It clearly could not bind the incoming tourism secretary, who had not yet taken over the affairs of the department.
A lawyer tells me that he smells here a conspiracy to defraud the government. Both government officials and bidders joined together in rigging the bidding for the tourism campaign.
This is a double strike against the administration of President Benigno Aquino III and his straight-path boast.
He accused President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of issuing scores of midnight appointments before leaving office. He tried to depict the appointment of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona as a midnight appointment of Arroyo, even after the High Court affirmed it.
But here is the Aquino administration conducting a midnight bidding of a contract that preempts his successor and could run into billions in coming years.
Clearly, we have here an instance where the past administration is seeking to tie up the hands of the new administration, and could be trying to profit from the arrangement.
The objective may only have been to ensure that the new government would maintain the “it’s more fun in the Philippines” campaign.
Instead, this illegal scheme will now compel the total repudiation of the fun campaign, and the adoption of a totally new campaign.
Duterte should be informed
I submit that this issue should be raised all the way up to President Duterte, because a vital national and public interest is involved. He should know because some people tried to put one over him with this scheme, and the new tourism brand will be a kind of identity card for his presidency, that will stick throughout his term.
I submit also that if the government will make the theme of “pearl of the orient” as the term of reference for a new competitive bidding for the tourism campaign, advertising agencies and communications consultancies will enthusiastically take part in such a bidding and come up with great ideas.
The winning campaign will do our people and our country proud.
And I predict that the Philippines will achieve 10 million tourist arrivals by 2020, well before the end of DU 30’s term in 2022.