Leaked PCOO memo: Government's official sugar-coating?

Robert Labayen

Posted at Apr 30 2021 05:03 PM

At first, I didn’t believe the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) memo of directions to government media platforms signed by Usec/OIC George Apacible. It was too chilling to be true. But they owned up to it! News and Information Bureau Director Virginia Arcilla-Agtay defended that they are not ordered to tell a lie. “It is simply amplifying facts.” But, to me, the clear instruction based on “the directive of the President…specifically to convey to the public that the Philippines is faring better than other countries in addressing this pandemic” is a cover-up for the fact that we compare so poorly with other Southeast Asian nations. 

As a taxpayer, a citizen, and a voter, I want my government’s communicators to give me the whole picture. Cherry-picking data will lower our standards of expectations from our government. I oppose their official effort to sustain Harry Roque’s false claim that our COVID response is “excellent.” 

For example, this info without explanation can be misleading: According to Johns Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center updated April 29,2021, the Philippines has third least number of deaths per 100 confirmed cases or 100,000 population. Sounds impressive. But the very first sentence of the report source says, “For the twenty countries MOST AFFECTED BY COVID-19 WORLDWIDE.” (Caps mine.) That’s the bottom list of countries! Why are we even there on the list of kulelats?

In the bigger picture of this report, the Philippines has 15.75 deaths per 100,000 population while Myanmar has 5.94; Malaysia, 4.62; Cambodia, 0.53; Singapore, 0.53; Thailand, 0.26; Vietnam, 0.04! Ridiculous are the people who will trumpet this as good news.

In a Philippine News Agency website article on April 28, the PCOO cited a Worldometers ranking where we are on “28th spot out of more than 200 countries.” It is incomplete. In Worldometers, we are 26th with the MOST NUMBER of total COVID cases as of April 28, 2021.

The Lowy Institute is an independent think-tank based in Australia. They ranked countries according to confirmed cases, confirmed deaths, confirmed cases per million people, confirmed deaths per million, confirmed cases as proportion of tests, tests per thousand people. It has been updated up to March 13 this year. With number 1 being the best-performing country in COVID response, the Philippines is No. 81 out of 102 countries. We are among 21 poorest-performing nations! Thailand is No.4; Singapore, 14; Malaysia, 17; Myanmar, 24.

Last April 26, Bloomberg came up with its own COVID Resilience Rankings. Being Bloomberg, they factored in the impact on the economy. On this list, the Philippines is ranked No.45. But Bloomberg only listed 53 countries. Singapore is 1; Vietnam, 11; Thailand, 13; Malaysia, 20; Indonesia is even better at 34! 

In the April 29 Statista list of most number of COVID deaths per million population, the Philippines is 82nd from the top. But Malaysia is 108th; Singapore, 147th; Thailand, 150th; Vietnam, ranked 153rd, has the lowest COVID deaths per million in the world! (Numbers were collected by Johns Hopkins University)

In the online survey of the ASEAN Studies Center, respondents from policy, research, business, civil society, government, and communications were asked to rate their own country’s response to COVID. The Philippines’ approval score of 25.4% was second-worst next to Indonesia.

The PCOO memo is not a work of genius. It is so basic and so predictable. But I was still appalled when I saw it because I could only expect a government memo like that from China or Russia.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert Labayen spent 22 years in advertising prior to joining ABS-CBN in 2004. He was VP-Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi and Executive Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson, two of the country's leading ad agencies. He is currently the Head of Creative Communications Management at ABS-CBN. His job involves inspiring people to be their best. He is a writer, painter and songwriter.


 

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.