PIA is misusing taxpayers’ money
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo
Inq7.net 2006-04-25
I WAS a director-general of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) during the incumbency of President Cory Aquino, in fact, the second person to occupy that post since it was created under Executive Order 100, dated Dec. 24, 1986. Thus, I know that the series of ads that the PIA ran in the Inquirer last April 23 is something that is outside of the mandate of that agency.
The series of three ads all came out in the same Inquirer issue last Sunday. All of the ads were bannered by the headline “Let the numbers speak.”

The first ad said it’s time to move forward -- the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime’s favorite theme song since the “Hello, Garci” tapes were exposed.

The second ad claimed that the government was winning the war against corruption -- when in fact the Philippine rating among the perceived most corrupt countries in the world has worsened.

The third ad boasts of an economy that is on the upswing -- while Arroyo has been asking for solidarity with the opposition in facing the looming next round of economic setbacks that rising oil prices threaten to effect.

Don’t just take my word for it. Just read some of these pertinent portions of the PIA mandate and EO 100 that created the PIA and then decide if those ads conform to the mission of the agency.

The PIA mandate


• To provide people with adequate information that will help them make better decisions and identify opportunities that could improve their quality of life.
• The goal is to create an enlightened citizenry that can participate meaningfully in democratic processes.
• A well-informed citizenry will then be able to understand, discuss, and vote on vital issues propelling the nation toward lasting peace and development.


• plans and carries out national information programs;
• assists other government agencies in carrying out the communication and information component of their programs;
• conducts research to formulate policy and to evaluate the effectiveness of information programs;
• determines information needs of the people;
• supports the development of indigenous media and of communication capability and technology; and
• establishes and maintains information centers in the regions and in the provinces.

Key considerations in the making of EO 100

“WHEREAS, the public has a right to information and an agency should ensure that they have access to information;

“WHEREAS, basic information prior to February, 1986, focused more on the molding of public opinion toward the unquestioning acceptance of government thinking and that the flow of communication was predominantly one-way, from government to the people;

“WHEREAS, before little distinction was made between political and development-oriented public information, hence resources for public information were often used for political purposes. In most cases, political information and/or political propaganda crowded out development oriented public information;”

“WHEREAS, a) there were no regular nationwide outlets, where citizens could obtain government publications and materials, i.e., brochures, pamphlets; b) intermediary coordination of public information efforts was not effective due to lack of appropriate mechanisms; c) people's participation in the planning and conduct of information programs was not encouraged;

“WHEREAS, the manipulative nature of government information leads to deterioration of its credibility even of its public information officers concerned with development oriented information;”

Clearly, the PIA is not meant to undertake the functions that pertain to the Office of the Press Secretary, which is basically day-to-day issue management. The PIA and the Office of the Press Secretary are meant to function as separate agencies even though the PIA is administratively under the Office of the Press Secretary.

The Office of the Press Secretary attends to the needs of the President. On the other hand, the PIA was intended to address the information needs of the people and was to be isolated from the political media battles between the administration and the opposition. Its American counterpart is the United States Information Service (USIS), which is apolitical and information- (not issue-) driven.

The series of ads that the PIA recently ran was not just a misuse and a waste of taxpayers’ money but another episode in the warped priorities of the Arroyo regime. All government resources are fair game for the survival requirements of the besieged Malacañang resident. The PIA ad series was an out and out engagement into the raging political issues of the day -- an attempt to shore up the rapidly declining support for the embattled Arroyo regime.

As pointed out by the ABS-CBN “TV Patrol” news cast on April 24, the survey numbers reflected in the PIA ad series reeked of intellectual dishonesty in that the very same survey that was used in fact confirmed the erosion of support for Madame Arroyo and the increasing public distrust for her government.

Going by the very provisions of EO 100, the ad series violated the very letter and spirit of the executive order by engaging in such rubbish as the selective use of data in order to press a patently partisan political agenda. There is no public benefit that can be gleaned from those ads but only illusory PR points for a regime that has long lost its credibility.

Somebody should be made to account for this obvious overstepping of authority and misuse of public funds.

You may email William M. Esposo at w_esposo@yahoo.com.

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