MANILA - Bloggers and social media publishers gathered at a town hall event on Thursday to discuss the Presidential Communication Operations Office's (PCOO) proposal to create a "social media policy" that gives them direct access to official Malacañang events.
An initial draft of the proposal, which was released during the town hall event held at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni in Quezon City, was the subject of the three-hour long discussion.
According to PCOO Assistant Secretary Kris Ablan, the policy recognizes social media as an important form of public communication. He said the PCOO wants give social media publishers access and accreditation to presidential activities.
The crafting of the policy came after President Rodrigo Duterte gave the go signal for pro-Duterte bloggers and social media personalities to cover presidential activities.
Copy of the draft memo of PCOO Social Media Policy.
Much of the town hall's discussion focused on the part of the policy that regulates content posted by social media publishers.
According to blogger Trixie Angeles, the guidelines under "Conduct of Citizens using PCOO Social Media Platforms" can be worrisome since they take away the spirit of social media.
"This '[code of] conduct' is very worrisome. Social media is like the 'wild, wild west.' If traditional media is the very proper east coast, we're the wild west. The reason why we have such a wild reach is because we are a little free-er in our speech," she said.
Angeles added that some bloggers openly use profanity in their content while some use colorful language, which traditional media cannot do.
The code of conduct, Angeles explained, is appropriate for official Malacañang accounts. But she believes it is completely different when it comes to social media.
"It's a completely different thing when you're talking about the conduct of bloggers who precisely have their reach because we don't observe right conduct. Or the right conduct on social media might not have the same standards the conduct you expect from traditional media," she said.
Rey Joseph Nieto, the blogger behind Thinking Pinoy, agreed with Atty. Angeles, pointing out to the guideline on using proper language.
"Sino po ba nagde-decide kung offensive, inflammatory or provocative ang language? Pinagbabawalan din po ba ang mga miyembro ng MPC (Malacañang Press Corps) na gumamit ng offensive, inflammatory, provocative language?" he said.
Bloggers to PCOO: Allow us to carry ads
Nieto also said they should also be allowed to endorse products.
"Ano po ba ang mawawala sa publiko kung magkaroon ng native advertising ang social media publishers?" he asked.
"Imbes na pilayin ng PCCO guidelines ang social media users, kailangan tulungan pa ang mga ito para magkaroon sila ng kakayahang makapag-disseminate ng imprmasyon sa publiko," he added.
Nieto also wanted to clarify his blog will be asked to refrain from endorsing a candidate during election campaign seasons.
He also asked clarification who would decide if a social media post is validated and truthful or not.
"Pasimplehan natin ang requirements sina-suggest ko na mag-umpisa tayo requirements na ipinataw sa MPC at i-tailor na lang natin para maging responsive sa social media platform," he said.
'Required 1,000 followers is too low'
Both Angeles and Nieto also agreed that the accreditation requirement of 1,000 social media followers is too low.
"The reason na sinasama ang social media dito ay because may reach na. Nara-rival na ang social media and to impose restriction that doesn't recognize that kind of reach defeats the purpose," said Angeles in a interview on the sidelines of the event.
Nieto, meanwhile, saod many social media users have at least 1,000 friends that can easily translate to follows.
"Personally hinihiling ko po ay taasan ang requirement na ito. Kung ako lang po ang papipiliin, ang gusto ko sana ay 100,000 (followers or likes)," he said in a video message. "Pero kinakabahan ako na baka hindi magiging eligible 'yung maliliit na page na kritiko ng administrasyon."
Nieto said that if he is to be asked, the ideal requirement for a social media publisher to be accredited is 50,000 followers.
'We're just asking for access'
Angeles told reporters that when she and fellow social media personalities talked to Duterte, they were just asking for access to Malacañang press briefings.
"The President said, 'okay.' Then, he pointed to Secretary Abella," she recalled. "We didn't even ask if we could ask questions like you guys do."
"We were not even asking for accreditation na permanent kaming nandoon. We just need clearance," she added.
According to Angeles, bloggers and social media personalities only want access to information and use it for their content.
However, she said this does not make them anything like their counterpart on traditional media.
"We're not traditional media, don't try to fit us to that mold. What we have in connection with you, are the rights to information and freedom of speech. But after that, anything goes," she said.
Angeles, however, said that she understands that some restrictions are needed, especially when covering Palace events.
For her, the social media policy draft presented by the PCOO should be polished.
For his part, Ablan clarified that the code of conduct applies only when posting using official PCOO accounts
He said that after getting the insights from various stakeholders, they will go back to the drawing board and revise the proposal.
He added that there will be another town hall event for the final draft of the policy.