In the wake of the series of unfortunate (some say deliberate) missteps committed by the Philippine News Agency, the prevailing sentiment among many observers is that maybe it’s about time Sec. Martin Andanar cracks the whip on his erring people.
From using the wrong photos and misquoting its sources, to moonlighting as China’s mouthpiece – lately the PNA has been in the news more than just reporting it. And for these they have been pilloried from pillar to post on both social and mainstream media.
To put the present situation of the PNA into proper context we have to look beyond the current setbacks and into its history. This agency, much like the rest of the government’s media resources – has been neglected for decades. Starting with the fall of the Marcos regime.
Subsequent administrations, fearing the ghosts of Marcos’ propaganda machine – kept the PNA alive – but just barely. Seldom giving it much thought beyond appointing some bureaucrat on a leash to keep an eye on things. It wasn’t expected to do anything more than just exist, and for the most part that’s exactly what it did. It was the bureaucratic equivalent of a tonsil.
Emerging from this institutional neglect was the rise of private mainstream media who quickly and completely filled the gap left after the retreat of not just PNA, but also of PTV, RPN, IBC, and pretty much the entire government communications and media infrastructure. This switch gave privately-owned networks and publications pretty much the run of the whole house for the next thirty or so years.
And so we come to where we are now. PNA does need to be overhauled. But while many are calling for Sec. Andanar to mount a full-pledged purge, there are also those – myself included – who feel that a more subtle, but no less thorough approach to the problem might yield better results.
Like a classic car on its first road test after being stored away for many years, this is the time when we discover all the kinks and flaws and imperfections and weaknesses. The goal is not to replace the whole thing, but to find out where intervention is needed.
Another reason why I am advocating for a diagnostic program to determine where the problem exactly lies is that I have a strong hunch that not all of the mistakes being committed are innocent.
They are simply too egregious not to be a deliberate attempt at undermining the agency, the PCOO, and the President. And given how some members of mainstream media have been characteristically quick to exploit these mistakes for their anti-Duterte propaganda, it is hard to glaze over this obvious connection.
And given the state of these agencies before, and the political background of the people who ran them, is it really a stretch to think that not everyone has the best interest of the Duterte mind? We have to figure out what’s really happening before we suffer from more self-inflicted injuries.
The good thing is, having worked with some of the people connected with the PNA, including its director Virginia Agtay, I am convinced that they are doing their damnedest to reverse the rot that has set in. Whether it’s fixing the foundation and laying out a new one, or rooting out vermin wherever they hide, these guys will be up to the task.