We are not the same

By: Nathaniel Mariano
September 03, 2017

Reading the news nowadays, one could reflect that times have really changed. North Korea threatens merciless nuclear strike on the United States, death toll continues to rise in our country's war on drugs, and just when you thought there couldn't be any worse, Malacañang, who spent a lot of months of deliberation and consultation, has, unbelievably, granted full access to bloggers and other social media users to report and cover President Rodrigo Duterte’s activities.

You might think of me as a low-headed individual as this might not be an issue controversial enough to write a column on a monthly broadsheet, but truth is, it threatens my future (not sure if I will have one, though).

Going back to what made me mad today, the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Dept. Order no. 15 allows any social media practitioner – I honestly have no idea who coined the term but one thing’s for sure, though, it’s awful – with 5,000 followers to be granted similar access to Malacañang like a practicing journalist.

When the Duterte administration started, pro-Duterte bloggers, known primer movers of Diehard Duterte Supporters (DDS), have demanded the right to cover Digong's daily activities inside and outside of Malacanang.

At first, it seemed to me like a petty request, asking for such a right when it is only given to legitimate and authorized journalists before. But Heavens really do make miracles these days; Margaux "Mocha" Uson was appointed as the Assistant Secretary of the PCOO, and Lorraine Badoy, also a respected blogger as seen through her comments sections on Facebook, became the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. When you're a supporter of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, Duterte becomes your genie in a bottle.

To formally grant the all-access pass to social media practitioners on Malacanang, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar organized the Social Media Office (SMO) and formulated accreditation guidelines for social media practitioners. I just realized I could puke by reading such a news report.

The Dept. Order no. 15 reads, "In the interest of recognizing emerging communication platforms and harnessing the full potential of social media tools in pursuit of the PCOO’s mandate to engage the citizenry in order to enrich the quality of discourse on matters of national governance, an interim/provisional social media practitioner accreditation is established.”

Andanar made it clear that the order is just an interim policy, open for comments, and subject to change.

In hopes of getting that "social media practitioner" title into your resume, applicants must be a Filipino aged 18 years old and above, and has at least 5,000 followers on social media accounts. The application for social media accreditation is free and voluntary. There is a twist, though, and a funny one, Uson would decide on the applications herself.

Now, let me be straight. Honestly, that order is so problematic on many counts.

I refused to call it an order anyway. Why would Andanar's office sign, release the matter to the public, and formally make it as a proper order when it is open to comments and may still be changed? It is not an order, it is merely a suggestion.

Moreover, given his background in the broadcasting industry, Andanar, of all people, should know the existing broad distinction between traditional media and social media. I believe, and I believe he knows too, that the former is more accountable than the latter in terms of news preparation and delivery, accuracy, and truthfulness.

A blogger's presence covering in Malacañang – as to what traditional journalists would refer to as the premier beat – is a shame to those who have studied the basics and ethics of journalism for four years, and even those who were tried and tested through decades of field reporting.

Journalists are inspired through writing, sharpened through proper education, and emerged from a rigid background. They are bounded to their organizations and the people they serve.

Some bloggers, on the other hand, though they do invite public discourse on social media, do not abide by the same accountability, ethics, and professionalism to that of media practitioners. They are prone to make fake news, delivering content out of lazy research, alternative facts, second-hand information, and driven by biases and vested interest. They created themselves not to serve the people, but for their hidden agendas.

I know a few alternative journalists who are not given fair treatment to sit for an inquiry in government offices. Then, all of a sudden, Malacanang opens its doors to bloggers who have a good number of followers on social media?

I might sound like a butthurt student-journalist to you, but certainly, you know that there must be a balance. Yes, it is a right that we should open up ourselves and let our voices be heard but not to the extent where we endanger the state of the media and the people we serve with fake news, trolls, and hidden propaganda.

This, I tell you, journalists and bloggers are not the same, Andanar.