Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Disconnect

This is my column today, July 2014.


I have always kept the belief that when a message is misunderstood by the receiver, it is not necessarily the receiver’s fault.  After all, it is the sender, the author of the message, that controls how the message is framed and how it is conveyed.  The hapless receivers—the audience, whether they are radio listeners, television viewers, or newspaper readers—rely on what they hear, see, or read to be able to formulate a judgment or an opinion.  It is unreasonable to expect the audience to do acrobatic mental deductions, conjure some mysterious alchemic processes, or burst a vein trying to decipher good intentions just to be able to understand a message clearly and accurately.  Besides, who the heck has the time to do all that?  But apparently, this is not the case anymore today if we are to go by the pronouncements of the people from MalacaƱang.  As far as the bright boys of the Palace are concerned, if the Filipino people misunderstood, it is the people’s fault.
Okay, let’s drop the theoretical gobbledygook. 
The spokespersons and defenders of the President of the Republic have been working hard in the last few days trying to undo what has been generally regarded as a public relations nightmare: The President’s seeming public display of arrogance, obstinacy, brattiness, etc, etc, etc, over the Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling rendering the administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional.
If we are to believe the President’s spokespersons and some members of the cabinet, Benigno S. Aquino III was not being menacing or threatening when he addressed the Filipino people last week.  According to Aquino administration officials, the President was simply trying to explain his administration’s position on the Supreme Court decision.  I personally had the chance to ask Communications Operations Secretary Sonny Coloma when I bumped into him at a function last week whether the President really intended to make the Supreme Court justices accountable for the DAP decision, as he hinted in his televised address to the Filipino people.  Coloma reiterated what he had said previously to media people:  The Aquino government will file a motion for reconsideration, but will bow down to the decision of the Supreme Court. Coloma insisted that the President was simply trying to explain where the administration stood on the issue, and media supposedly “over-reacted” by adding malice to the President’s discourse.  
Asked whether the President really intended to start a campaign that will pit faithful members of the yellow brigade against those who are critical of the DAP, Coloma made light of the President’s supposed off-the-cuff remark and cautioned people against taking the President’s call seriously.
The President’s stance on the DAP and towards the justices of the Supreme Court, and his seeming misreading of where the affections of the large percentage of Filipinos lie on the DAP issue, are symptomatic of the disconnect between the Palace and the general population. 
The President and his defenders have kept on harping about the moral righteousness of the administration as if anyone has directly accused the administration of pocketing money.  The administration has been consistent in terms of its response to criticism:  Act aggrieved and hurt.  If indeed the government only wants to serve the people, then it must accept that personal sacrifices are necessary for the sake of the common good.  There shouldn’t be room for bloated egos.  The demand to see heads roll because of repeated suspicion of irregularity and in view of the Supreme Court decision is a natural expectation given that it was the administration itself who set up very high standards of moral conduct to begin with, courtesy of its incessant harping about the need to trudge along the straight and narrow path. 
The administration is seriously misreading the pulse of the people and in the process needlessly wasting political capital. If it wants to paint itself as distinct and the complete opposite of previous administrations, then it must act so.  Regurgitating instances in the past when actions analagous to the DAP were practiced as way of justifying the DAP strikes a discordant note.  The dogged insistence to defend and retain loyal allies accused of incompetence or irregularities is not reassuring either.  And quite frankly, with only two years left of the administration’s term, what the people want are concrete actions to address issues that impact directly on their lives—poverty, livelihood, jobs, the traffic situation, etc, etc.  Four years of homilies should be more than enough already.
The monumental snub towards the yellow ribbon campaign should have sent a strong unequivocal message.  I even saw quite a number of parallel campaigns calling for the tricolors or other colors (such as peach) to be worn instead of yellow.  Clearly, the people are not with MalacaƱang on the DAP issue.

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