Where we always wondered—and laughed— about the fact of this government’s three communications offices, now it all makes sense: it is a measure of how much this government worries about its image.
But also anyone who worries that much about his image must be failing to measure up to some standard, seeing as there is a need to balance things out with good news?
Or good deeds.
Yesterday, I discovered the wondrous e-newsletter called “Daylight: Good News About the Philippines and Filipinos” over at the Malacañang’s Presidential Communications Development & Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO). It apparently began in 2011—if we are to believe its archives—and is space for featuring “key accomplishments of various government agencies, and includes select articles on government initiatives, as well as excerpts from major speeches of the President.”
All very exciting.
In the beginning it looked like a report card: BIR revenues are up, the Diskwento Caravan goes nationwide, DOH delivers free cervical screening! The issue of “Daylight”I happened upon is one dated February 10 2014.
It has a quote from the President himself, an excerpt from one of his numerous speeches: “I am convinced that as long as we all work together, as long as each one of us remains active in the grand task of nation-building, and as long as we never forget to take strength from our benevolent God, who has seen us through all our hardships, then we can weather any storm, and sail our ship of state together further into the light of day.”
He forgets of course that no matter how hard a nation works, if its government does not know to put systems in place that will actually and truly affect change, then all that hard work is for naught. And no, you do not tell the people of Eastern Samar that they must work with government at this point: government has to show these people that it cares about them enough not to build substandard bunkhouses.
Speaking of Haiyan’s aftermath, it’s also apparently good news that 10,000 affected households “will receive emergency cash grants under a joint project of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Cash grants amounting to $100, about P4,370, will be given to each eligible household.”
This will be happening through the DSWD’s Pantawid Pampamilya Program, and one wonders how it will “change beneficiaries lives” exactly. Four thousand bucks is not a lot in the context of overpriced goods; we must also remember that rebuilding materials are being sold to people by government itself through its discount caravans.
So, you give people money to spend, and they use this money to buygoods from a government project that sells discounted goods to survivors of the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the world.
In what world is that good news?
Before thank yous
It was sincere enough in the beginning, talking about saying thank you to the world for all its help in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Kicked-off by an article by Gang Badoy, it was merely a reminder to say thank you – how long does that take really, and how little it demands of us.
But having the Department of Tourism take on #PHThankYou was the worst move. Because then it lost its sincerity and truthfulness, then it became a campaign not just to say thank you, but also to sell the Philippines … because it is more fun here, and people know how to be grateful.
Look at those images that have since come out of the DOT’s thank you campaign: the words “The Philippines says thank you” can easily be replaced with “It’s more fun in the Philippines!” Look at those images and find that they sell nation and its people, shamelessly and with nary any irony.
Thank you world! Look at our beautiful blue waters! Thank you world! Look at our women’s bright smiles! Thank you world! Look at our beaches with white powdery sand.
The video doesn’t do it any better: it is images of beaches, of carabaos and horse-drawn kalesas, of kids playing basketball and girls drinking palamig. It is what we sell of nation all the time, and here we are saying thank you via those same images.
It is so ill-conceptualized, and absolutely embarrassing that we must thank the world in this way, at this point. Right now, when all we have to show for our rebuilding efforts are unlivable and inhumane bunkhouses. Right now, when what government has put in place in places devastated by Haiyan are its discount caravans and dole-out programs. When we have a rehabilitation czar who has only talked about getting the private sector to participate in rebuilding, instead of the government taking it on full throttle.
When we have yet to actually account for the foreign aid we have gotten, when we have yet to actually break these down in a proper accounting, when we have yet to be truly transparent about where funds for post-Haiyan rehabilitation and rebuilding go. The Philippines is grateful for the world’s help, but it sure has yet to do anything that will prove we deserved that help, or that the aid has reached those who need it most.
Taking this gratefulness and making it into a tourism campaign, putting it on billboards all over the world?How shameless.
Right now, it seems, all we’re worried about is making sure that our image remains that of a country with scenic beaches and a smiling populace with good news to share.
One realizes that the prettier the propaganda looks, the more insidious it is.