URGENT memo to the Duterte Government: Get your communications machine in shape!

Still, there is no substitute for good communications and intelligent messaging. This is, after all, the information age — a time when the best-intentioned initiatives can crumble under the weight of a single ill-timed or ill-thought-out pitch to the public and the most vile ideas can be delivered in a neat pastel-coloured package and propagated by millions of unwitting social media denizens.

Already, it is evident, that Filipino partisans and activists at both ends of the political pole already spend an immense amount of energy waging an “online war”. Indeed, whilst some are busy counting the digital ammo being exchanged over Facebook and Twitter and spinning this data into “engagement” statistics in a quaint effort to measure influence and intellectual ascendancy, there is very little real intellectual capital being built in the Philippines. Indeed, as many observers have noted, the Philippines’ national debate remains intellectually bankrupt. It seems that every iota of the political “issues” being raised and debated in the Philippines contribute more to subtracting from rather than adding to the human species’ collective intelligence.

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Despite an environment of free discourse Philippine-style “democracy” had offered to its participants, not much learning has been gained.

The same mistakes are being repeated. Recalling the previous administration’s inability to get its communications act together despite the unprecedented bloat in its communications machine, one wonders why the administration of current President Rodrigo Duterte remains mired in comms chaos. The sheer clownish character of the communications team of Aquino is mirrored almost to a tee by Duterte’s own mouthpieces today. The likes of Mai Mislang’s the-wine-sucks-in-Vietnam gaffe are again being repeated by Cabinet-level officials, this time affecting entire continents full of capital-rich countries who are important trading partners of the Philippines.

Still others have made their messaging increasingly about themselves. Is it the idea? Or is it the personal brand being worked on here? Social media “influencers” seem to be losing the plot. They have developed the same cult of personality ethic to drive their messages that mirrors the personality politics that drives Philippine elections. As a result, many have forgotten what is at stake in a lot of the “online battles” raging all over Facebook and Twitter.

To be fair, Duterte himself cannot be considered to be a sober and concise communicator. He may have the vision and the best intentions, but wars are won not by good intentions but by projectiles launched by disciplined and well-trained armies. Information and how it is spun and packaged is key. This is a skill and area of competency that the Philippine government needs to build. At the moment it is a mess — consisting of “loose cannon” Cabinet officials who cannot keep their mouths shut on social media, a Vice President who slanders her own country on the government dime, and a society of social media “users” who likely tax Facebook’s moderation faculties far more than they contribute to its ad revenues.

People have to remember, however, that the politician in the room is Duterte. Cabinet officials, on the other hand, should not be behaving like politicians and, instead, should be focusing on running the government. Fancying one’s self as Duterte’s Mini Me is not within the remit of bureaucrats.

* * *


Following the Mai Mislang debacle, this is how then Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang stepped in to back his embattled staff member…

Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang on Friday came to Mislang’s defense and said the issue about her Twitter messages about Vietnam was a minor one, and a closed book.

Carandang said Mislang, who has since deleted the messages, meant no offense and was apologetic. She had been told to be more circumspect about what she would post on her Twitter account.

Carandang also said Mislang’s tweets were “pretty harmless,” although they might be also “potentially embarrassing.”

To which, I wrote…

“Potentially embarrassing”, perhaps. But the scale of the embarrassment is what is the issue here. It is on a national scale that the actions of people representing the Philippines abroad impact. That is something that Secretary Carandang should consider before coddling another erring official in his already heavily gaffe-tainted department.

16 Replies to “URGENT memo to the Duterte Government: Get your communications machine in shape!”

  1. if what ever happens to president duterte, the AFP should take over. don’t let the country to be ruled by the yellow dynasty again. the pilipinos have already learned their characters.

  2. The “enemies” of the state do not deal with diplomacy. They engage in politics. Why not give them what they want, if that is the only way for them to listen. Give them a dose of their own medicine.

  3. Well, where is Ricky Carandang now ? I used to blog on his Blog Site. I did not know then; it was one of the propaganda sites of the Aquino Cojuangco political axis. He had a political program in the ABS-CBN TV media, called: “The Big Picture”…

    Maybe , he is rich and very wealthy now. Imagine those: DAP; PDAF; missing Typhoon Yolanda Funds; gold reserves thievery; etc…that his Bosses had looted. Hey, Ricky…share with me the crumbs of your bosses loots !

    Ricky Carandang was apologetic on the gaffe, of his subordinate , Mislang. the girl was a wine expert, maybe. She went to Vietnam. Vietnam can only offer, cheap Chilean wine. Not, the “Dom Perignom” brand or the vintage French wine…so, Mislang complained, for being served cheap wine…oh my ass, what a jerk.

    Ricky Carangdang did not do a good job in defending , Mislang. During that time , people were still naive and on hangover of the EDSA Fake News and Fake History…they were still confused of the high dosage of political propaganda, from various politicians with various political agendas.

    The Web Blog Trolls were still to be born; some were hibernating. A few, were trolling, but they were few and far between !

    Pres. Duterte cannot find good Press people to sell his political agendas. Maybe, some of the Trolls here in the GRP, can do a better job, than his Press people. I find good bloggers here, with good ideas. Their blogs are clear and concise, straight to the point…

    Only, most of them are using “pen names”…Leni Robredo, the “Naga Leak Queen”, declared ,” War on these Trolls”…up to now. I have not seen any casualty of a single Troll. Nor, did I see a Troll, being hauled to Jail. They have criminalized Trolling…

    And by the way, there are good trolls; there are paid Trolls; there are bad Trolls; there are “peste Trolls” Take your pick…they are surfacing in the Web Blogs, Face Books, etc…and they will not go away, nor become extinct…some are really pain in the ass…However, you have to live with them !

  4. the CPP and the MILF extremism both are already guilty of treason. will the pilipinos allow that to happened to take over Motherland? the citizens and the AFP should join hands to defend the Nation. if necessary do a citizens arrest to destabilizers. the pilipinos themselves are the highest magistrates of their motherland no one else.

  5. revoke trillanes pardon and put him back to jail. he’s doing character assasinations to president duterte. trillanes knows there’s no 2 biilion. he knows president duterte has nothing to show because there’s non. citizens arrest the way for trillanes come April2.

  6. Question is anyone here Jesus or God? Mistakes will always happen, what is important is what you do after the mistake is made. I compliment the Philippines on how quickly they try and address any mistake made by the government to another country. This is something the USA has failed at recently. Example President Trump accused Britain of spying of him for president Obama. It was nearly a week, before the mistake was corrected. Du30 will always be himself, but even when he lashes out at other government his administration has been quick to try and fix things. The last administration would do the Trump thing. I did not say or do that and keep the same story, even when evidence was presented on video.

  7. before UNCLOS was enacted, china sea is already china sea since beofre the migrations of indonesians and malaysians to the philippines they sailed through china sea. now who wants to steal china sea?

  8. the yellow dynasty will not surrender. they will fight to the last because it’s worth dying for. that’s what it’s all about.

  9. The poor communication issues start at the top with the president. How many times does he make bold statements to show off to the public what a strongman he is only to back away from them later or have his spokesperson ‘walk them back’. Any got a second hand jetski?

  10. I’ve long suspected that there are LP moles in high places in Duterte’s communications group and in the DFA.

    Is Martin Andanar a mole? For now, I don’t think so, but it’s pretty clear he’s more concerned about protecting his professional future than protecting the president, or the international image of the Philippines.

    Andanar is junketing all over the world going on “trainings” and signing MOUs with foreign media companies, but he neglects the most basic and essential things, such as keeping an eye on Duterte’s Wikipedia page.

    Check it out. It’s obvious the yellows have a team regularly editing that Wikipedia page, which basically paints Duterte as a mass murderer and fentanyl addict, and even makes Davao sound like the rape and crime capital of the Philippines. The page contains none of Duterte’s accomplishments to balance out the negative stuff.

    Wikipedia gets a lot of eyeballs from foreigners and it’s the one thing that Duterte’s comms team can actually have some control over. It doesn’t take a lot to monitor it. But Andanar would rather spend resources printing a stupid local tabloid that has only a few thousand copies and doesn’t make any difference. Andanar just doesn’t know how to prioritize. He’s working on a lot of long-term stuff, at the expense of the immediate, more urgent matters that he should be attending to.

    Andanar just wants to keep preaching to the choir. He doesn’t want to antagonize his former colleagues in local news media, so he lets poor old inexperienced Ernie Abella deal with them. When Duterte sent him to the US for Trump’s inauguration, I thought he would at least spend some time meeting with Trump’s comms team and learning how they counter CNN, NY Times, and the other media there. But no, Andanar stayed in his comfort zone and just met with the OFWs, who are already pro-Duterte.

    What about PTV 4? PTV 4 is just repeating the same stuff coming out of GMA7, CNN Philippines, and the other networks. PTV 4 is crawling with yellows for sure. They used to religiously air and live-tweet Leni Robredo’s event appearances and speeches as if she was the President. They toned that down after Duterte fired her from his Cabinet, but you can still tell they’re protecting Robredo by not reporting her bloopers. Even their coverage of the Palit Bise press conference was so toned down. They just cherry-picked the soundbites of the organizers to make it sound like they didn’t really want Robredo ousted or impeached but only wanted her to change.

    Maybe Duterte gave instructions to Andanar not to use government resources to defend him. But Andanar needs to make Duterte understand that defending him = defending the Philippines. Duterte represents the Philippines. The more damaged his reputation gets, the harder it is to market the Philippines. I deal with a lot of foreign businessmen and I’m fucking tired of having to spend more than half of meetings just trying to explain that what they read about Duterte and state-sanctioned killings in the Philippines isn’t true.

    The DFA is the other group that seems to be intentionally letting the image of the Philippines go to the dogs. That place is still crawling with former DFA sec Albert del Rosario’s minions. Yellow officials like Leni Robredo and Risa Hontiveros are holding anti-Filipino and anti-Duterte events abroad in direct collaboration with embassy officials. If you guys saw that video of the OFW in Australia arguing with Risa Hontiveros, you’ll note that the embassy official presiding over the event actually tried to shut the OFW up. This webpage of the Philippine embassy in Italy also shows Robredo’s picture on its homepage along with Duterte’s. Since when has a VP ever been on the same stature as the President? http://philcongenmilan.net/

    Then there’s Agnes Callamard. Up to now, no one from the DFA has called out this woman for misrepresenting herself as a spokesperson of the UN. Pinoys have been protesting outside the UN HQ in New York, not knowing that Callamard is not even an employee of the UN. She actually admitted that she doesn’t represent the UN in that video where an OFW debated with her in a forum in Switzerland. But still, the DFA is silent. The DFA is just letting Pinoys continue believing that Callamard’s statements reflect the official position of the UN.

    Duterte won’t know all of this is happening unless the people close to him who are really loyal to him let him know. Bong Go needs to make sure the President gets the true picture at all times, because there are so many people around him who can’t be trusted.

  11. Another thing I just recalled: Duterte is one of the politicians with little or no media connections. Remember how he sees media as an enemy. That’s because of massive cases of media corruption. He seems to not value communications strategy because he sees it all as lying. It would be better though to change that view because good communications are what he needs now.

    1. I think it is high-time for these Duterte appointees to realize that they are there to make sure that our beloved President Duterte be protected from all these lies & fabrications. To make sure that his image & reputation in the international community be maintained in good standing because it would still matter, although we Filipinos residing in our country knows that he is the only president who has done so much good in so little time. Stop with your self-aggrandizement guys and do your job in assisting President Digong do his real work, that is effecting real change as what the people has voted him for.

  12. So Sass Rogando Sasot posted a reaction on her FB page to defend Andanar:

    “Regarding the GRP Short article on Andanar being suspected as a “mole.” Ang premise nila eh si Andanar eh walang ginagawa to protect the “international image” of the president. FYI, in order for you to counter the PR of those who would like to bring down Duterte, you need to spend A LOT OF MONEY for international PR. Mahal po ang international PR. Si Duterte po ang ayaw gumastos for international PR. Yup, Duterte is not like PNoy’s admin who spent a filthy amount of tax payer’s money for international PR.”

    I think someone on GRP already pointed out before that Sasot is book-smart but lacks common sense. We see proof of that once again here.

    Does regularly monitoring and editing Duterte’s Wikipedia page to give foreigners more balanced info cost a lot of money? No, it doesn’t. It’s certainly cheaper than what Andanar is wasting every month printing a useless local monthly tabloid that reaches only a few thousand Pinoys.

    In the age of social media, international PR can be done at very little cost. Look at Donald Trump. The entire mainstream media in the US is against him, but he slaps them down quite effectively just using his Twitter account. He uses Twitter to communicate directly with his target audience and expose the disinformation of the mainstream media. He calls out specific news outlets and reporters directly on Twitter if they report wrong info. His tweet-storms are carefully calculated to keep the enemy confused as to what he would do next.

    A similar Duterte Twitter/FB account for international audiences should be studied. There’s enough international curiosity about Duterte right now that will get him a lot of followers. It will be a mix of haters and admirers for sure, but it doesn’t matter. Just build a following. Learn from Trump’s strategy. Keep the messages authentic and provocative, straight from the man himself (but strategically vetted of course). That’s how Trump keeps the world hanging on to his every word.

    Sasot seems so concerned about taxpayers’ money, but doesn’t it bother her how much Andanar is spending on his junkets with no tangible benefits whatsoever to protecting the image of the current Philippine government? Yes, Andanar is doing a lot. But he’s doing a lot of the WRONG THINGS.

    It’s also quite intellectually dishonest of Sasot to make the GRP comment sound like it didn’t consider Duterte’s own instructions for his people not to defend him. Contrary to her slant, the core message was: “Maybe Duterte gave instructions to Andanar not to use government resources to defend him. But Andanar needs to make Duterte understand that defending him = defending the Philippines. Duterte represents the Philippines. The more damaged his reputation gets, the harder it is to market the Philippines. I deal with a lot of foreign businessmen and I’m fucking tired of having to spend more than half of meetings just trying to explain that what they read about Duterte and state-sanctioned killings in the Philippines isn’t true.”

    Sasot did not even provide a link to the GRP article so her readers could judge for themselves if the points raised were valid. It seems she just wanted to defend Andanar, full stop.

    Sasot needs to understand that many people in GRP support Duterte as much as she does. But we are not blind emos. Many of us are a lot more experienced than her when it comes to managing businesses and negotiating with foreign investors. We know what we’re talking about, we see what’s happening to the deals we’re trying to work out. And we’re getting worried. We’re pointing out the lapses and weaknesses of Duterte’s men because it’s necessary, so they can be corrected.

    If Andanar wants to redeem himself, he can start by fixing Duterte’s Wikipedia page and keeping an eye on it. Read it. It’s a fucking mess. Even Leila de Lima looks like a hero on that page.

  13. After the last round, I thought Sass Rogando Sasot would have enough maturity and humility to see the flaws in her reasoning, but she’s dishing out more twisted arguments about this, which I think need to be addressed.

    (Read the following to know what this is about grpshorts.blogspot.com/2017/04/dutertes-own-staff-seem-to-be and grpshorts.blogspot.com/2017/04/response-to-sass-rogando-sassot-duterte. To read Sasot’s comments, go to her FB page facebook.com/forthemotherlandph)

    Just to recap, why did I say that Sasot lacks common sense? Because she reacted to a comment about monitoring Wikipedia by saying it costs a lot of money to do international PR. Wikipedia is free. So what money is she talking about?

    (Sass, to say you are book-smart but lack common sense is not ad hominem. It’s a fact. Acknowledge that this is one of your weaknesses, so you can correct it.)

    Sasot’s ego was apparently hurt when her statement was rebutted, so she did what she usually does—she ran to Google to dig out some random news article, academic paper, or factoid to justify her position.

    This is a typical reaction of people who sit in front of computers all day trawling the internet, instead of learning the facts of life out there in the real world by doing real, practical things.

    Sass, that Microsoft incident you dug out from the web is a case of poor execution on Wikipedia. It doesn’t mean monitoring Wikipedia isn’t important.

    People who know how to do reputation management properly understand the dynamics of Wikipedia and know how to do it at arm’s length and in a balanced way so no guidelines are violated. Recall what I said in my first comment regarding Duterte’s Wikipedia page: “The page contains none of Duterte’s accomplishments to balance out the negative stuff.”

    My point was to add in Duterte’s accomplishments, because the current page as it stood was mostly made up of the negative storylines of the yellows (i.e. Duterte is a fentanyl addict, Davao is a rape/crime capital, Duterte is a mass murderer, Leila de Lima is a hero being persecuted by Duterte). Obviously the yellows have a team working on that page.

    Many big companies and public figures (including Noynoy Aquino when he was President) keep a close eye on their Wikipedia pages and have a hand in updating them, within the rules and guidelines of the site. You can’t totally eliminate negative info, of course, but you can balance it out.

    Why is Wikipedia important? Although it’s understood that Wikipedia is editable and may contain wrong info at times, communications professionals know it is still very important because, for many people around the world, it is still the first destination they go to when they’re trying to find out about something. Wikipedia is almost always one of the top search results when you search anything on a search engine. Many people actually don’t go any further than Wikipedia, because they’re too lazy or don’t have time. That’s a sad fact, but a fact nonetheless, which must be accepted.

    If Andanar doesn’t know this, and if he doesn’t even know how Duterte’s Wikipedia page can be managed at arm’s length within the guidelines of Wikipedia, we should REALLY be worried about his capability to do his job, because this is so basic. It’s like Step One in the rule book when your job involves handling comms for a product or a person.

    I really don’t understand how Andanar can have time to make pointless little “art films” about drugs with Brillante Mendoza, but fail to see what’s happening to Duterte’s Wikipedia page.

    Andanar has an excuse for everything. He can’t manage Duterte’s international rep because there’s no budget. He can’t do anything about Duterte’s Wikipedia page because, per Sasot, he’s not supposed to (dead wrong, as explained above). He can’t improve PTV 4 because he needs to sell IBC 13 first. (Meanwhile, Mocha Uson has virtually built a government news channel with just one free Facebook page.)

    Sass, don’t make this about you. You were not part of the original discussion in the first place. Let Andanar speak for himself. The points that were raised in this discussion are very valid, and while we may not agree on how these issues can be resolved, I think we agree that SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ASAP. We don’t want to hear any more excuses from Andanar, we want solutions.

    As a final point, I would like to make an appeal to people who are close to Duterte who might get to read this: Please talk to the old man and make him understand that defending him = defending the Philippines. OFWs and businessmen are facing a lot of pressure right now because no effective action is being taken to counter the black propaganda that the Liberal Party is spreading abroad. There are ways to communicate with international audiences directly using social media which do not cost a lot of money, as explained previously. This should be explored.

  14. Thinking Pinoy posted a reaction to the previous post acknowledging the validity of the points raised. TP’s post seems to have been taken down, and I think I know why. Thank you, Thinking Pinoy. I trust your judgment and I hope something constructive will happen because of your initiative.

    Meanwhile, Sass Rogando Sasot is still obsessed with herself. Her latest reactions:

    “GRP just won’t stop. Conflict of interest editing in Wikipedia is a real issue. Hindi lang iyong Microsoft ang nangyari. Did you actually read the other COI issues concerning governments? Sige lang let Malacañang edit entries about Duterte and let’s see how the media would use it against Duterte. Why do I need to be insulted by you when I raised a valid point, which you avoided to address with your insults against me?”

    “People voting to make Duterte lead the Time Magazine poll was even used by Time Magazine against Duterte with a passive-aggressive statement that he is paying people to make him popular online. What do you think international media would say if they found out that Malacañang would be actively editing Duterte’s Wikipedia entry? Instead of throwing insults at me, people should have just addressed the issue I raised about conflict of interest editing and suggest ways on how it could be avoided. Am not saying PCO and Andanar are already doing enough to counter bad PR of Duterte internationally.”

    Me, me, me, me, me. This matter was already effectively resolved per TP’s action, but Sasot still wants to make it all about herself.

    Ms. Sasot, in case you’re not aware, most multinational companies and political figures have a direct hand at managing their Wikipedia pages. There are ways around the issues you are raising. People who work in reputation management are well-versed on these matters. You don’t need to lecture about this as if you’re the first person to discover these issues.

    Time magazine and the rest of the mainstream media will keep coming out with negative stories about Duterte no matter what. It doesn’t mean his Wikipedia page should be left to the dogs. If they do a negative story on Malacanang fiddling with Duterte’s page, let them. Don’t you think Leni Robredo’s own staff is editing her own Wikipedia page?

    I will now stop discussing the Wikipedia matter publicly because the concerns raised have reached groups who can do something about it and we need to give them space to take corrective steps in peace. I hope Sasot will do the same. She should learn from Thinking Pinoy’s example–practical, focused on solutions, knows how to ignore unnecessary drama.

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