Ironic that Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III would warn boxing champ Manny Pacquiao about using the media to gain public sympathy for his tax woes.
“If [Pacquiao] did right, then I’m sure he will be able to prove that he did right, and therefore there is no issue,” Aquino said. “So the way to settle it is to answer all of these queries of the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and not to engage in a media war.”
He added, “The media will not decide who is right or wrong.”
Is that so, Mister “President”?
The administration of President BS Aquino, after all, is noted for the standout bloat in its public relations machine, what it calls its “Communications” team — an indication of how much of a priority media spin is to his government. Up to five top-level Cabinet officials including the once Noted blogger Manuel L Quezon III make up this awesome media manipulation arsenal.
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. Noted Australian National University sociologist Nicole Curato observed how the once-popular Philippine president has degenerated from being “the country’s top cheerleader” to mere “spin doctor”. Curato cited the hallmarks of these approaches, (1) the administration’s 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 [when he went live on TV to defend the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund he is accused of using to fund the persecution of former Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012].”
Indeed, President BS Aquino spent the better part of 2011 and 2012 laying the groundwork for Corona’s impeachment trial by making good use of his allies in Philippine media to demonise the former Chief Justice and pre-condition the minds of ordinary and prominent Filipinos alike to see things his way…
2011: Persecute Corona and GMA
In 2011, BS Aquino continued unsuccessfully in working towards the resignation of Corona by badmouthing him in public. He also continued the persecution of GMA in public with the help of various media organizations. Towards the second half of that year, when there was no sign that Corona was going to resign, his government worked towards strong-arming members of congress into signing the impeachment cases against Corona and preventing GMA from getting medical treatment abroad.
2012: Persecute Corona and GMA
In 2012, the whole country was focused on the impeachment trial of Corona in most of the first half of the year. BS Aquino’s minions worked hard in conducting media campaigns against Corona for five months, which included but was not limited to releasing black propaganda, lies and violating the law in obtaining false evidence against the respondent.
The use of mass media to demonise Corona in those years went as far as the Aquino propaganda machine could take it. New-kid-on-the-block (at the time) “social news network” Rappler.com which appeared out of nowhere just as the impeachment trial against Corona was being hatched led the vilification campaign, possibly violating the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws by allowing its reporters Magtanggol de la Cruz and Carmela Fonbuena to publish “news” stories that revealed bank accounts and their bank balances supposedly belonging to Corona in the midst of the trial proceedings.
These potential criminal acts by these Rappler.com “journalists”, suffice to say, reflected badly on the integrity of the Senate impeachment court that administered Corona’s trial which, it can be argued, became party to violations of bank secrecy laws when it allowed admission of evidence obtained by unlawful means.
To be fair, Pacquiao is himself using his clout over the deeper sentiments of the Filipino masses and their addiction to “heroes” to put pressure on the Philippines Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). His “appeals” which he delivers via interviews with media personalities and through press releases do not address the core issue of his tax liabilities and, instead, largely consist of mere non-sequiturs…
“I appeal to them to remove the garnishment so that I can move and pay for my staff’s salaries,” Pacquiao told reporters in his southern hometown of General Santos city. “I am not a criminal or a thief.”
Funny that. No less than BS-in-Chief President BS Aquino made a similar but more presidential “covenant” to the public back in 2010 when he announced “Hindi ako magnanakaw” (“I am not a thief”). Dubbed by many pundits as “the quote of the century”, that no less than a President would start his term under that premise says something about the low bar from which Filipino politicians are measured. You wonder about a society such as that of the Philippines — where everyone has to continuously assure one another that they are not thieves. It’s more fun indeed.
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