Bagong luma – the new old society

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

I once attended a public event where speakers lined up to share their experiences and expertise on a complicated subject matter. The female emcee invited people to take their seats as the program was about to start, but few people sat down, so the emcee announced that they were giving away special raffle prices to participants every other minute.

The emcee realized that her good looks, the guest line up and even the special raffle prizes were not enough incentive to get people to take their seats. That’s when I heard her say: “Palabasin na ang mga dancers!”

I honestly wondered what good could six pretty dancers in shorts, boots and plunging v-tops do that expensive raffles prizes and special guests could not? Oh, was I wrong! Like moths attracted to the fire, the crowd moved in closer and closer until the seats were all filled with men and women.

Yes, the “sexy dancers” drew in the crowd, but the participants all stayed, took part in the questions and answers and the event was a complete success because in the end, the event addressed concerns and interests of the people at the venue.

In like manner, the recent Bagong Pilipinas event used gimmicks and offers where people could go and get a police or NBI clearance, check out available government jobs, PSA services, apply for a gun permit, update GSIS membership or file a loan application. Yes, it was an all-out attempt to attract Filipinos in Metro Manila who may have some pending or intended business or transaction with a certain government agency be it SSS, Pag-Ibig, DSWD, PRC, PhilHealth, etc.

 Malacañang and the propagandists behind the Bagong Pilipinas event clearly knew that a prayer rally would stand a better chance at attracting the public than the launching or recycling of political propaganda of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. over four decades old called “Ang Bagong Lipunan.”

So just like using sexy dancers, easy access to a full line of government services surely draws the crowds, but what was the true intention behind the event? Was it to serve the public as claimed by a staff member, perhaps a make-up effort because of the administration’s decreasing popularity among the “masa” or another distraction added to the series of distractions, so people won’t whine even more about inflation or start panicking about our conflict with China? Or does the current Team Malacañang need to “Green” themselves, meaning to refresh their images as “nice people?” 

It is hard to tell what the true motives are but judging from the series of issues and attention-drawing situations in the last six months, it feels that the “distractions” are almost intentional and clearly all unresolved or ineffective.

The administration has justifiably hyped up its protests against China over WPS incursions and harassments but as time goes by, the more the government looks helpless and no thanks to Uncle Sam. Then the Romualdez-Duterte feud over intel funds looked like a win for Team Martin but Congress stretched and squeezed the issue until it snapped back at them. Then “careless whispers” of impeachment of Sara Duterte went out until President Bongbong Marcos put a stop to it because it could destabilize the whole government.  

Then the Congress-generated move for the entry of ICC investigators in the Philippines and rejoining the ICC surfaced as an alleged pushback against Digong Duterte, who called them the most corrupt. Once again PBBM stepped in to put a stop to the divisive situation that was developing alongside the complaints of military and uniformed personnel or MUPs whose promotions had piled up at Malacañang. PBBM also had to fix that hot potato!

In the last month, the poorly planned and badly executed people’s initiative predictably blew up in certain people’s faces because no one had the courage to stand by their handiwork or publicly admit they are the engineers of PI that turned out to be unpopular. When the alleged or perceived leader of a movement denies authorship, who in his right mind would follow or sign up for something that does not benefit them? According to a couple of local politicians who were approached by a former government official turned congressional consultant: “Your credit is good, but we need cash.”

And now…introducing “Bagong Pilipnas,” which is dubbed Bagong Luma.

I once read about a political strategy that borders on psych war against the general public. You offer up shallow but sensitive issues that will get all players into the arena, encourage debates, criticism, rumors, even add fuel to the fire with the intention of distracting people from more serious concerns such as corruption, inflation, joblessness, peace and order, government incompetence, etc. Eventually they turn on each other but not on the people directly responsible for their misery. That, I heard, was what happened in South Africa during apartheid.

It reminded me of how previous administrations even enlisted the services of political strategists and PR experts just to pump up the volume about a celebrity scandal or in other cases, such as the Mamasapano massacre or the Maguindanao massacre, things got to the point that everybody was “directed” to the fatalities, the violence, the suffering of families but not holding government officials from the PNP all the way to Malacañang responsible for the bloodbath. Even the controversial drug busts of recent years showcased how the narrative was focused on a police “major” but never on higher-ups or handlers.

In all of these, I ask: who are our government leaders listening or talking to? Perhaps it is time they turned to people who can speak the truth to power and folly or end up “telling 20 lies to cover your first.” 

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