By Theresa Lugares
Grassroots communication works.
And to say that this has greatly contributed to why President Rodrigo Roa Duterte enjoys a high approval rating from the public is not a one-time thing, but a series of unrelenting efforts to campaign for a more aware and informed citizenry.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), under the leadership of Secretary Martin Andanar, has made significant institutional reforms that brought government media to new heights.
As the lead communications arm of the government, Secretary Martin Andanar pushed for the digitization of government media platforms including that of its attached agencies, bringing closer to the people the messages of the President.
The internet has made PCOO more effective in campaigning for good governance and informing the public in the span of five years. Social media platforms offer a more dynamic way to connect with a wide range of people across the world.
For the Philippine government, this was an opportunity to reach out to more Filipinos and promote the programs that will become the legacy of Tapang at Malasakit of the Duterte Administration.
The technological landscape was favorable to disseminating the efforts of the administration, shaping the awareness of the people that the government is at all-times at #WorkWorkWork, resounding much like its ambitious infrastructure program Build, Build, Build. This strategy of using digital platforms helped gain more support from Filipinos present online and earned the admiration of foreign allies because information was able to reach the people in real-time, wherever they are in the world.
The openness of the government and its maximized presence online has made it more susceptible to scrutiny and criticisms, but it “did not succumb to the attacks, and neither did it allow criticisms, however intense, dampen their determination and initiatives” it remained confident because the purpose was “pure, unpolluted.”
Apart from leveling with private media on the use of social media to deliver timely news, it has also encouraged public participation. Strong communication fosters trust among people, which in return inspires citizens to become involved in their communities.
With the government’s public discourse and other platforms of communication, the Filipinos gain the assurance that their national government, through the leadership of President Duterte, is well-equipped to manage emergencies and other crises. This is reflected in surveys on trust and confidence expressed by the public for the President and its Cabinet. In the recent survey conducted by PUBLiCUS Asia, President Duterte has an approval rating of 58% and a trust rating of 55%. In Pulse Asia’s last survey recorded in September 2020, the President got an approval rating of 91%, and the poll firm said ratings of the President don’t change until today. The Pulse Asia even cited that the Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte’s big lead in the latest presidential survey can be attributed to President Duterte’s popularity. In fact, analysts shared unanimously the same view that President Duterte is the most popular post-Marcos president.
Let’s also not forget that it was PCOO that initiated the landmark policy Freedom of Information (FOI), which was made effective under Executive Order No. 2 signed last 2016. This furthers the promotion of free access by the media and the general public to transactions, data, and information under the executive branch. It has established an agenda for good governance and transparency.
Through the Radio-Television Malacanang (RTVM), the government was able to air "live" the pronouncements of the President – his State of the Nation Addresses, media interviews, meetings, and other significant gatherings with local officials. These engagements are being amplified by the Philippine Information Agency’s 90-plus strong social media pages, other state-run and private media making him the “most visible and accessible” president in the country’s history.
Amid the pandemic, the PCOO continues to amplify and inform the public of the government’s COVID-19 responses, including its drive and campaign to vaccinate at least 70% of the population to achieve population protection against the virus, through different mechanisms, campaigns, and programs.
Led by its Laging Handa Crisis Communications Center, the agency continues to disseminate factual information and to counter and dismiss disinformation that has been rampant not only on the COVID-19 responses of the government but also on the virus and vaccines themselves and its effects on the collective bid for the recovery of the country.
The Laging Handa Public Briefing, Cabinet Report, Network Briefing News, CORDS X Podcast, Laging Handa Dokyu, virtual pressers, and reporting tours, among others, are being utilized and maximized to highlight the government’s actions against the pandemic, and now in the vaccine rollout, through open dialogues and engagements by government officials with the Filipino public.
Other virtual pressers were initiated by partner agencies in the executive branch as well, benchmarking the initiative of the PCOO of reshaping the way information is released to the public.
Different information and education initiatives contribute to such causes as well, such as the vaccine communications campaign and documentary series, VAXplainer, apart from the Laging Handa Dokyu.
With these, the PCOO earned prestigious national and international recognition for campaigning for good governance through its innovation in providing information impactful initiatives during the pandemic.
The Presidential Communications Operations Office bagged seven major awards in the 2021 Stevie® Awards. The Gandingan 2021: The 15th UPLB Isko’t Iska’s Multi-media Awards organized by the UP Community Broadcasters’ Society also named the Laging Handa Dokyu as the ‘Most Development-Oriented Public Service Program’.
Aside from the massive operations in disseminating updates and news, the PCOO also modernized their facilities in both radio and television in order to provide news that are more tailor-fitted to regions.
More infrastructure projects for government media workers are eyed to be built after the successful launch of the Mindanao Media Hub in Davao City. Plans for the Government Communication Academy, and the Visayas Media Hub are underway. New buildings for regional offices of the Philippine Information Agency are also being built as of writing. Rehabilitation of government radio stations are likewise being undertaken through the ongoing Radio Rehab.
To note, Secretary Andanar is the only Secretary who personally visits and inspects the situation of government media across the country, giving them the long-overdue rehabilitation they deserve.
Such a gesture has boosted the morale of government media workers, knowing that someone is there manifesting the marching order of President Rodrigo Duterte for the national government to go down to the communities. After all, employees with boosted morale can actually lead to a more productive workflow for any company and business.
They’ve gone down to the grassroots to #InformInformInform and to make people understand that President Duterte is doing everything in his power to reach out to and address the problems of vulnerable sectors.
There’s a tightly-knit coordination among PCOO's agencies, which include the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Philippine Broadcasting Service (PBS), the People’s Television Network (PTV), and the Bureau of Communications Services (BCS), to ensure that this information is disseminated to the people.
All these communication strategies, to provide better means for Tapang at Malasakit to permeate into the lives of every Filipino, to communicate the Duterte Legacy.
Theresa Lugares, a native of Bukidnon, is a writer for the Presidential Communications Operations Office.