Does Senator Poe understand and approve of Duterte’s Propaganda Centers?
By Joe America
I’m sorry I had to use Wikipedia to get a list of Senate Committee members. However the Senate’s web site listing has not been updated since August, 2015, and I know Senator Drilon is not the Senate president anymore. Some guy of very different principles and evidently little administrative precision took over the job.
I wanted to check to see if Senator Poe is still the woman responsible for Freedom of Information (FOI), and its opposite, Propaganda. I say opposite because the principle behind FOI is that citizens will be properly informed and able play their part in democracy to the best interest of the nation. Propaganda is the effort to sell ideas that may or may not be factually correct or in the best interest of the nation. Indeed, it can include harassment and disparagement of citizens if undertaken by trolls. It risks making government an autocratic peddler of deceits rather than service.
It seems to me that Senator Poe had some incidents during the last election in which critics questioned her allegiance to the Philippines. The Supreme Court had to explain to us that she is a citizen, but I think a lot of people still wonder who the heck she is, in terms of principles. She has always been able to talk a good game, and inserts herself into issues that are safe and popular, but one is hard pressed to find where she has really stood up for anything unpopular, but important as to principle.
People can cite her FOI work when the bill is passed, and if it is something other than an idea with 166 exceptions, she will deserve recognition for a job well done. People might try to cite her chairmanship of the Mamasapano hearings, basically examining the culpability of President Aquino for the loss of 44 troops in a battlefield incident, but in view of the current bloodletting now ticking up in the range of 5,000 dead Filipinos, we can see that the Mamasapano hearing was purely an exercise in politics and not principle. I have not heard her speak against the killings, but, of course, I don’t really shadow her much. Just throw shade now and then . . .
Senator Poe chairs two Senate committees:
- Public Information and Mass Media
- Public Services
She is an independent, aligned with no political party. She voted FOR Senator Hontiveros’ Sense of the Senate Resolution opposing the Marcos burial in a place reserved for heroes. That is, she opposed the burial.
I personally think overt, regimented propaganda is not democratic politics as usual. It is pernicious and manipulative, a business that would offend any honorable democratic statesman from Thomas Jefferson to Noynoy Aquino. It is what dictators do, autocrats, people who have little respect for the citizens democracy is designed to protect and raise up.
The Inquirer just ran an article about the Duterte Administration’s propaganda structure in their Lifestyle Section, an editorial placement that absolutely blows my mind, as if propaganda were just a popular design movement or a topic best shared over tea at the Peninsula. This quote addresses the main point here:
- “It is said that the troll armies are like call center operations, and that there are at least three such huge operations in Metro Manila and in the north.”
The article is worth a read, generally describing the social media battles being waged, something like the battle of the trolls, and it briefly comments on the Propaganda Centers.
If ever there were a topic that should be right at the top of Senator Poe’s legislative agenda, it would be to consider whether laws should be passed to ban use of propaganda as a violation of the principle of an open and honest government. It seems to me that it is hard to justify that Propaganda Centers need to be hidden behind a wall of “national security interest” or “executive privilege”. If their purpose is to provide information, just provide it. There are many outlets for it that do not require spending P2 billion on trolls.
I don’t know who speaks for the citizens of the Philippines on this matter, in an official capacity, other than President Duterte, Senator Poe, and her counterpart chairman in the House, Antinio Tonio (Public Information Committee; ACT-Teachers party).
Well, the House seems to be an arm of Executive these days, so I suspect there is little value to looking there for any objective oversight.
The President, all his men, and Mocha may support the centers, and good for them, but a fundamental Constitutional role of the Senate is oversight, and if the Philippines IS a democracy, and if Senator Poe IS a principled patriot, she would be the person most accountable for bringing the operations of the Propaganda Centers into the daylight where they can be examined, certified as in the best interest of the nation, and operated in the spirit of FOI. In fact, she would be negligent in her duties if she were not able to explain the existence and benefits to citizens of these Propaganda Centers.
I personally think it is hard to be a unified, bonded, enthusiastic, growing nation, or a real democracy, when citizens are being fed bad information by an organized army of trolls . . .
. . . and if its accountable legislators are complacent or compliant enough to allow a government of, by, and for deceits and harassment of citizens.