*Image courtesy by Spanky Enriquez
Sorry, Mr. President. It just had to be said.
I’m not saying you’re crooked. But for one reason or another, your “daang tuwid” is zigging and zagging all over town. This is not simply because some of your people are young and rash and prone to being indiscreet over Twitter. This is not even about your best friend raiding Malacañang’s wine cellars or traipsing round town with singers and models.
Personal foibles can be forgiven. The Filipino people can even tolerate some amount of stupidity. But in the administration of a man pledged to uphold his parents’ heroic legacy, a man who promised to be the opposite of his venal, shifty predecessor, there have been too many ethical lapses. There’s no sugar-coating that piece of bad news, Sir.
First, there was Undersecretary Rico Puno airily dismissing Secretary Jesse Robredo’s directive to explain charges linking the powerful subordinate and then Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Versoza to jueteng lords. This same bosom buddy volunteered that he’d been approached by jueteng emissaries, only to put on a show of amnesia during a Senate hearing.
Help me understand, Mr. President. How could someone who grimly chucked out Prisco Nilo for sins real and imagined, shrug off these ethical implications?
• That a senior official approached with bribe offers could not even be bothered to write a report or even just jot down the names of those criminals. (Last I looked bribery remained a crime in this country.)
• That a senior official could give his superior the equivalent of a dirty finger and tell the world an order is nothing more than trash paper --because he decides it is so.
This is an official who boasts that you won’t even consider canning him – even as your open, honest face shows nothing but disdain for Robredo, a man acknowledged by peers, civic groups and international organizations for both his integrity and efficiency.
Second, there’s Secretary Sonny Coloma and his non-answers to the puzzle of a Web page with 2 million fans disappearing from Facebook and then having 1.5 million of these names appearing overnight on the official Palace Facebook page.
I know you’ll spot the serious ethical flaws here :
• IT-savvy supporters, Ben Totanes and Betty Abrantes, are requested to transform the BSAIII fan page into your official Facebook campaign page.
• Later, Totanes is ordered like some peon to shut it down.
• When the page lives on in the same spirit of noisy activism that marked its early days, your government contacts Facebook to shut down the former campaign site;
• And then some of your men shanghai over a million souls.
Under any other circumstance outside of the sometimes surreal terrain of Facebook (and Malacanang), that event would be called grand theft. Most of those 2 million folk still like you and admire you, but also valued the BSAIII original page because it upheld freedom of expression.
“Batay sa aking mga narinig galing sa ibang kaibigan na naging kasama namin sa kampanya at may alam sa nangyayari sa Malacañang, ang BSAIII ay iniutos ipasara ng Communications team ni P-Noy, at karamihan ng member nito, ini-request sa Facebook na ipalipat sa “Official” Facebook Page nang wala nilang pahintulot. Hindi possible na mag-gain ng 1.4 million members ang “Official” page ni PNoy in 6 days kung walang intervention ang Facebook. Ipinalipat ito,” Totanes told ABS-CBNnews.com
Mr. Coloma has a talent for spouting a lot of hot air while saying nothing at all. Certainly, he’s a master at dodging questions.
"It is clear... that Facebook Management seeks to minimize confusion that may arise from the existence of more than one Official Facebook Fan Page for a public official —in this case, for President Aquino."
"We recognize and honor the contribution of Ben Totanes, Betty Abrantes and all the volunteers who painstakingly established and grew the BSAIII Facebook Fan Page during the last campaign. We will communicate with Facebook Management on how their concerns may be addressed appropriately. We want to continue working with Ben, Betty and all the volunteers in pursuing our common objective to support President Aquino’s good governance and anti-corruption programs and to strengthen the feedback mechanism of the government.”
Did anybody hear an answer? The questions were simple:
• Did you ask Facebook to take down the BSAIII fan page?
• And how did 1.5 million names from the disappeared fan page migrate overnight into Malacanang’s Johnny-come-lately creation?
Last we heard about this fracas was Mae Paner’s announcement that three members of the Communications group would help redress the injustice.
“In their official capacity, Ricky Carandang, Edwin lacierda and Manolo Quezon will help find a way to resolve issue of BSAIII closure and migration."
How this can be done without starting a brawl with the Samar boys of Coloma, I don't know. Though Paner says: “I will believe for now that they are not doing this because they are Balay and the pipol involved are Samar! Addressing this issue i hope leads to a restructuring of the communications team! Sana ang Balay at Samar ay maging iSAMBAHAY!”
Re-invented wheel clunks
And now, the latest tempest, which you will probably also blame on media.
It starts with a shebang on Nov. 15. Journalists, various movers and shakers, including foreign diplomats and business executives are invited to what media reports have called the “launch” of the new website of the Department of Tourism.
The event’s master of ceremony, Undersecretary Vicente Romano of the Black and White movement, is no stranger to new media. He was the one who contacted the creators of the original BSAIII Facebook fan page. He also has an advertising background.
Media, now that the new venture has soured, has been slapped for mistakenly calling it a “launch” when it was just a “preview”. Yet on Nov. 14, the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), which Mr. Coloma also oversees, reported:
Tacloban City -- President Benigno S. Aquino III is scheduled to launch on November 15, "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" as the country's new tourism campaign slogan.
The new slogan will replace the existing slogan "WOW Philippines" in a bid to reinvigorate the country's tourism campaign.
The slogan aims to "reinvigorate our country's tourism campaign and double tourist arrivals within the next three years," said a Malacanang press statement reads.
President Aquino who is now in Japan for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, said the DOT will retire the WOW Philippines slogan and introduce a new ad featuring a new logo, which will hopefully generate renewed interest of foreign visitors to the country.”
The first grumblings involved the change in slogan. Many wondered if foreigners would appreciate the use of Filipino. Others thought it lacked the punch of the old slogan, “WOW Philippines!”
Turns out that was least of the new venture’s woes. Not only was the website riddled with grammatical errors – “Feast your plate”! -- it was also full of factual boo-boos.
Cebu, for instance, was somehow given a write-up worthy of a coastal jungle outpost, complete with tattooed tribesmen.
“Ifugao or Banaue rice terraces” are suddenly sprawled all over the provinces of Kalinga-Apayao, Abra, Benguet and Ifugao.
And the Philippines, by virtue of a miracle cooked up by Romano and company, has turned into one huge bunch of kakanin – “7,107 different flavors that you will want to take home with you."
How can one launch a new slogan on serve this on a plate smeared with unmentionables?
There is a serious lack of work ethic here. How can the Tourism Department launch a “preview” without even a cursory look-see? Never mind professional pride. Where is pride for the Motherland? Did they really invite that crowd to take potshots at their baby?
This penchant for re-inventing the wheel is getting us nowhere, Sir. Everyone knows that gov.ph was created to distinguish OFFICIAL information amid the clangor made by denizens of the Web. Instead of just redesigning the DOT website, your guys had the bright idea of jumping ship and heading off to the unknown dangers of beautifulpilipinas.com.
Now, your government (via some officials you’ve appointed) is not just being pictured as incompetent; it is also being heckled for cheating. After all the flak thrown the Supreme Court’s way, Romano and company learned nothing from that case.
There was a perfectly decent website for years; they couldn’t even be bothered to read that? Because as he tells Ellen Tordesillas, in the rush to deadline, the creators of beutifulpilipinas.com had no choice but to (indiscriminately) LIFT entire paragraphs, bloopers included, from an array of other websites.
This doesn’t just smack of intellectual dishonesty; this also displays poor logic and an amazing contempt for their jobs – and their Bosses, meaning you, Sir, and the millions of taxpayers.
And for the last straw, we see that four months’ worth of work by Campaigns and Grey birthed a copy of Poland’s tourism logo. Those images up there say it all. So okay, your good friend Yoly Ong did not get a centavo for her efforts. So? Friends do not gift you with stink bombs.
All these horrors lead to your doorstep. Sir, I applaud your aptitude for numbers and angles and trajectories. But leaders are not accountants; unless in a dictatorship, they’re not hotshot soldiers.
You are President of 90 million souls, of which ten percent are scattered to the winds in the cause of filial duty. Can we have a little empathy, please? Not too long ago, I sighed with relief at the exit of a woman with the EQ of a hound from hades. I know you listen, as you did in the sorry mess that was the Child House affair. So, please, hear this appeal:
You are the envy of other heads of state because you still have very high popularity and trust ratings. Do not waste those gifts. If you must have friends in government, so be it. But strike some fear in their hearts. Demand that they walk the line and not reel and swivel and crash along like punch-drunk juveniles. That, Sir, was of another era, another discredited president.
You are PNOY, holder of that flaming torch handed down by your parents. In the race to progress, we do not expect you to hold that torch all by your lonesome. That torch is to be passed, from one hand to another. That torch is there to give light to those who cheer, that they may bring some of that back to home.
The last thing you want, Sir, is to have some irresponsible, uncaring apostles drop that torch into the muck of oblivion,.