Fixing the PCOO – the challenges of being Martin Andanar

Fixing the PCOO – the challenges of being Martin Andanar

- in Opinion
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A friend of mine recently showed me the posts of former ABS-CBN broadcaster Jay Sonza, where he rants about the problems he sees within the Duterte administration.

While I understand Sonza’s frustration, having expressed many of them myself these past months, I feel that part of his consternation comes from a simple case of misunderstanding, rather than, say, the deep-seated hatred one finds in rabid anti-Duterte personalities like Jim Paredes or Antonio Trillanes.

As such, I feel that Sonza – if he really wants to help – would have done better if he had reached out to the people he criticized, and engaged them in an honest to goodness dialogue, instead of the outright hostility and disdain he has so far shown.

But like I said, I do understand where he is coming from, since I have been down that same path before. Many, many times.

Take, for example, the case of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, and Sec. Martin Andanar who heads it. Just like Sonza, I have been critical of the PCOO and Andanar in the past. Especially early on in the term of the President when they were struggling with the self-imposed, but totally unnecessary burden of trying to translate Duterte to the public. Being in the frontline, Andanar was an easy target. And he was pilloried mercilessly by Duterte’s friends and foes alike.

A lot has changed since then. But apparently not in the minds of some people who still see the PCOO and Andanar as the low hanging fruit for criticism. And revel in the act of bashing them for every real or imagined failure.

Like Sonza’s tirade about the PCOO’s planned expanded rural information campaign. He mocks Andanar by saying, “laos na iyan Martin, Seminar-workshop is a thing of the past. Marami ng kumita diyan!” And urges the senate not to pass the Php 200 million budget for being a “waste of taxpayers’ money.”

But what exactly does he know about the plan? Did he, perhaps call Andanar himself to clarify what it entailed or did he just rely on the “video of the Senate hearing” that he said was the source of his information?

Because as far as I know, and this is getting it direct from the source, the budget for expanded rural information campaign is just 10 percent of the Php 200 million, and not the whole amount as Sonza seems to think. Also, the program is designed to go beyond the “seminar-workshops” that Sonza holds in such disdain. Andanar’s plan is “a system-wide upgrade of the PCOO’s communications infrastructure starting with the rural areas, and those places which have been traditionally underserved by mainstream media corporations.” And this includes strengthening the capabilities of Radyo Pilipinas 1, 2 and 3, as well as the government’s FM 1 and 2.

As explained by Sec. Andanar, whom I think Sonza would find quite easy to talk to if he just took the time, “the limitations in the PCOO’s resources has constrained (them) to prioritize areas and platforms on which to focus (their) development efforts.”

“We can, for example, choose to put our money in developing our facilities in Metro Manila, which we have to some extent. But the fact is, the competition is already too far ahead that the government would have to spend 10 or 20 pesos for every peso that the competition puts in, just to stay in the game. But in the countryside, we can maximize what we have in gaining a foothold on virgin territory, which, in the ling run, will also help us better serve a larger section of the community.”

“And this also goes with the push to improve radio because it is still the most accessible, most affordable, and most reliable way to reach Filipinos living in remote areas.”

The obvious disconnect between Sonza’s criticisms and Andanar’s plans and programs do not end there. Again, as explained to us by the Secretary, the PCOO has already (1) increased the broadcast power of PTV-4 by pipelining the purchase of an additional 60 kilowatt transmitter to augment its current power, (2) purchased brand new news gathering and broadcast equipment for the various government media platforms, and (3) initiated intensive training programs (including international exposure with China and Russia media) that would upgrade the skills of the employees of these media organizations to world-class levels. All of which are part of Sonza’s recommendations.

Andanar however explained that he does not share Sonza’s opinion on the abolition of the Philippine News Agency. And here I have to agree with him.

Abolishing the PNA would be reactionary and shortsighted. Despite recent setbacks, the PNA is still the best vehicle for projecting Philippine government presence across the globe. They have the widest coverage, the cheapest means of production, and the most internet friendly format of all the media platforms in the government’s arsenal. Any one suggesting that the PNA is obsolete and must be done away with, simply does not know what they are talking about.

After all this, the bottom line here is that we can disagree without being disagreeable. Especially among friends.

This is something that I learned early on in life and, as much as I can, have tried to practice in my dealings with other people. And while I do not claim to have mastered the trick entirely, even as I fail, I know that I have to be better. We all do.




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