IS ANDANAR READY?

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THE next 12 months of Pres. Duterte’s administration will be most crucial and a test to Malacanang’s propaganda and communications machinery in the battle for public acceptance and support.

There are reasons to believe, though, that President Duterte and his allies in Congress were anticipating this media war.

 

P2.7-B Budget

That explains why the Office of Press Secretary Martin Andanar got over P2.7-Billion this year, reportedly several times higher than the regular budget for a year given to this office during previous administrations.

Sources inside Malacanang, though, insist that this P2.7-Billion regular budget given to Andanar was just an icing on the cake as the palace can always draw funds for propaganda from its billions of intelligence funds and from other agencies including government owned and controlled corporations. 

If Malacanang loses in the ensuing propaganda war, it will never because of logistical issues but most likely because of people not ready and equipped to run a war.

 

Andanar’s Capability

The question boils down on the capability of Secretary Andanar and the people behind him to parry the expected media onslaught by the enemies of the Duterte government. 

Unfortunately, if his previous performances are to be the gauge, then it can be safely assumed that he is no match to the savvy and sophisticated style of his would-be adversaries.

Many think he is not ready and technically equipped to fight mighty USA and its local troops that will finally tell on the popular support Pres. Duterte enjoys today. 

There are reasons to doubt his competence. In so many media disasters in the last few months, what were apparent was Andanar was more often caught flat footed and very tentative on his steps in confronting controversial issues.       

 

Groundwork for Digong’s Ouster

Of late, there were reports that the United States government particularly the Central Intelligence Agency are preparing the groundwork to remove him from office—using fronts like US-based billionaire, Loida Nicolas Lewis in funding street rallies against Duterte here and in the United States.

If reports are to be believed, she even funded the trips of Senator Leila de Lima and the Christmas vacation of Vice President Leni Robredo last December.

Development at the local media front also point to the fact that a full scale anti-Digong demolition campaign that highlights on his alleged human rights violations during his time as Davao City mayor and now as  President in connection with his all-out war on drugs.

Even Digong’s own admission that he was using pain killer Fentanyl for his various ailments is now being developed as an issue to cast doubt on his health and even his ability to effectively lead the country.

 

Crucial Moments

During these crucial moments, what President Duterte needs is an efficient communications team that has the ability to counter the black propaganda and wrong messages that are being peddled by his detractors.

The problem however is that his current communications team led by Secretary Martin Andanar appears to be at a loss and does not know how to handle the problem.

For the most part since July 1, Duterte has been doing his own image- building visiting all military and police camps  and hospitals in the country; responding to flood, typhoon and armed conflict victims; projecting his simple, no-fuss lifestyle to endear himself to the masses; and promoting the country to neighbors in Asia and parts of Latin America.

 

Confused Office  

Also, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) itself appears to be the most uncommunicative department in the Duterte machinery as it continuously fails to disseminate adequate, accurate and straightforward information on issues of national significance.

The result is a constant blame-game and finger-pointing exercise as the normal practice.

With an organization like this, it is but natural to expect that they will be manhandled once its more sophisticated rivals start to conduct their operations.

 

Andanar’s Faux Pas

As for Andanar’s record, well there is much to be desired. Who would ever forget the infamous faus pax on the sitting arrangement of Duterte at the ASEAN summit in Laos last year?

He announced then that Duterte would be seated between Obama and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki moon.

It turned out to be an embarrassing blunder. Duterte instead found himself sitting between Indonesia’s Joko Widodo and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Andanar had another glaring error when he announced on radio and television that the 1st State of the Nation Address speech would be “enough to make one cry, as I cried myself.” Of course, the SONA ended without any tear-jerking message and an utter dud.

It seems we have a very careless PCO Secretary. With him at the helm who needs a spoiler to distort the news and put Duterte in a bad light?

But alas, Andanar (through some maneuverings maybe) was able to swing a confirmation from the powerful Commission on Appointments, thus we have to bear with his stupidity and carelessness for six long years.

The only saving grace of PCO is the live streaming of all Duterte functions and speeches, dialogues by the Radio Television Malacanang, which technically had been functioning under the Office of the President (not PCO or its predecessor, the Office of the Press Secretary).

 

Duterte’s apathy to attacks

Just recently, Duterte confessed to not caring about being the “most unpopular with the international press. I have a problem to solve here.”

In retort, Andanar dared the foreign press to visit and live in barangays afflicted with the drug menace so they could see the gravity of the situation.

Various foreign media outlets including BBC, CNN, The New York Times, Time, Forbes and Washington Post have reported about the recent spate of killings in the country that were attributed to Duterte’s crackdown on drugs and which put the country in a bad light.

 

More Issues to Address

Duterte’s pronouncement that he would sever ties with the United States, rescind the Visiting Forces Agreement and ask all American soldiers to leave the country has also piqued the CIA.

And what also got CIA’s goat is that the announcement was made during Duterte’s official visit to China, with whom the US is competing for military and economic supremacy (but is itself heavily indebted to China).

 

Is Andanar up to the task?

Given these developments, there are reasons to believe that US and their local allies in the country would not take these matters sitting down and it is expected that they would do everything possible to undermine the president.

And they intend to do it by launching a full-scale propaganda war to bring down the President’s popularity and approval ratings.

Indeed, the propaganda war is so crucial and Andanar and his team will surely have their hands full.

The question now is, is Andanar and his team ready?