In a rare stroke of balance, “social news network” site Rappler published the scholarly work of eminent sociologist Nicole Curato, “a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance at the Australian National University” according to the short bio included at the foot of her article The President as spin doctor.
The article, according to the “Mood Meter” of Rappler, “makes people annoyed”. This is evident in the comment section of that article where a good cross-section of Rappler readership aired their two-cent protests over the perceived “bias” in Ms Curato’s article. So why exactly are Rapplerites annoyed? Well, perhaps because Curato lays out rather revealing aspects of the way the government of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III presumes to “govern” the Filipino people. The underlying question that is raised by the revealing insights in Curato’s article is this:
Is President BS Aquino III governing in the real sense? Or is he just spinning?
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An easy answer to that is to refer to the massive public relations fallout in the aftermath of President BS Aquino’s most recent laughable gaffe — the quaint cover-my-ass speech he delivered on prime-time national TV to defend the mysterious Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) that many people are convinced he used to fund the bribing of “senator-judges” in the 2012 impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. The timing of the public address only served to highlight its poignant daftness…
The Oct. 30 speech – broadcast too late for the early evening news – was part of the Palace attempt at damage control as the furor over DAP and PDAF was seen to have dragged down P-Noy’s ratings.
It came on the heels of the noticeable takeover by Sonny Coloma as main Palace spokesman. The hiss from the snake pit is that the Palace communications team was being blamed for failing to counter the counterattack by those accused of PDAF misuse.
The principal casualty of that counter-attack, also called Jinggoy’s revenge, is P-Noy – his DAP, contingency funds and performance ratings.
While a President who will not seek re-election can afford not to engage in popularity games, a high rating makes it easier, in the country’s political milieu, for a chief executive to bend even opponents to his will and push his legislative agenda.
This incident serves to validate Curato’s thesis that BS Aquino is progressively being reduced to spinning rather than governing in two ways:
One, the original resource bloat in the “Communication” function of BS Aquino’s Cabinet (three Secretary-level officials and several deputies) puts a spotlight on just how “important” spin is to this administration; and,
Two, that President BS Aquino would fire three top “communication” lieutenants from his Cabinet following a PR catastrophe by itself indicates that much of what gives the President the shits nowadays has to do with the effectiveness (or rather the ineffectiveness) of that massively-funded spin.
Indeed, Coloma, BS Aquino’s new spinmeister, may be new to the game but applies the same pathetic approach…
On Tuesday, the spokesman denied that President Benigno Aquino III’s men in the Palace were in a panic and trying to manage the crisis over the misuse of pork barrel and other discretionary funds that has threatened to engulf the administration.
He also dismissed reports that the pork barrel scandal and the controversy over the President’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) have taken their toll on Mr. Aquino’s approval rating.
To prove his point, the spokesman again trotted out the discredited survey by a Palace-friendly pollster that claimed the President’s approval rating was at a high 79 percent in September, a laughable outcome after the pork barrel scandal had broken out, and after tens of thousands of Filipinos flocked to Luneta to demand that Mr. Aquino abolish pork barrel. In a classic case of cherry picking, the Palace spokesman neglected to mention a 15-point drop in the President’s approval rating in August reported by a different survey company.
Focus placed on a masive effort to spin rather than to govern coherently are making it difficult for BS Aquino’s political allies to remain consistent with their principles. Party-List Representative Walden Bello of the staunchly Aquino loyalist group Akbayan chooses his words carefully in a recent open letter published on the Inquirer in response to the childish way President BS Aquino has so far been managing the DAP imbroglio…
[…] the President must realize that not all those who are expressing their concern on the DAP are diverting the issue away from the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) plunderers. Even though there is a need to remind the public of the important and pressing tasks of the antipork campaign, it is wrong to dismiss the DAP, more so the executive’s fiscal powers, as non-issues in the overall reform process. Of all people, President Aquino knows too well the dire consequences of the unregulated fiscal powers of the executive having filed the Budget Impoundment Control bill when he was still a senator during Gloria Arroyo’s pillage of the people’s fund.
Quite noteworthy that the mouthpieces of a commie organisation like Akbayan would be so diplomatic in the manner with which they would call out the striking communication gaffes of a sitting President of a Republic they are genetically predisposed to overthrow. That’s the trouble with being in bed with the powers-that-be, Comrade Bello. Being a sellout causes ageing “revolutionaries” to lose their old characteristically firey Red rhetoric.
Tragedy. As Curato noted, welcome to “Spin Central”…
From the country’s top cheerleader, the President is now forced to be a spin doctor.
The government of President BS Aquino has slid from a routine but benign use of acceptable persuasion techniques to downright belligerent use of sly propaganda tactics. Curato cited the hallmarks of these approaches, (1) the use of polarising bad-versus-good rhetoric to divide the landscape to monopolise a coveted moral high ground, (2) use of simplification techniques such as the reduction of complex issues into emotionally seductive soundbites, and (3) repetitive messages packaged in different forms — Curato observes, “[…] it is not surprising that the President failed to say something new last Wednesday [when he went live on TV to defend the DAP].”
When a government halfway through its term is already spending more time on spinning and damage control than on governing and anticipating adversity (rather than to just reacting to it), its subjects should start preparing for the worst. There will likely be nothing new — in the way of promised reforms, promised development, and promised order — delivered over the remaining three years of President BS Aquino’s failed presidency. That preparation should begin with his supporters stepping back from their beholdenness to the Prayerful One and start extricating themselves from the illusion of righteousness the Aquino-Cojuangco clan had imprisoned their brains within.
The comments section of Curato’s Rappler piece provides a good cross-section of the unintelligent sentiments of the Yellow Mob to behold. Not surprising that such a scholarly piece of work would raise howls amongst BS Aquino’s supporters. They after all invested their vote in the most unqualified presidential candidate back in 2010. As such, it is asking too much of them to apply a bit of basic comprehension when regarding the work of a qualified professional.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.