Sing a song

SKETCHES - Ana Marie Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

There’s a kiddie student I know who’s starting to sing her first songs other than “Happy Birthday.” Among the songs are SB19’s catchy “Gento,” Miley Cyrus’ “Flowers,” plus “Bahay Kubo” and “Lupang Hinirang.”

In the national anthem, she nails the “Bayang magiliw” part perfectly, but gets her tongue twisted over the “di ka pasisiil…”

I think about the girl amid a new requirement for flag ceremonies in public schools and government offices.

Today, a day that is supposed to be dedicated to patriotism, the country is embroiled in a debate over this new requirement imposed by Marcos 2.0, to sing a pop song alongside the national anthem and recite another “pledge” apart from “Panatang Makabayan,” the pledge of allegiance to the flag.

Memorandum Circular No. 52 covers all national government agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations, plus all public schools. Local government units are encouraged to follow MC 52.

Signed on June 4 by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin on behalf of President Marcos, MC 52 is part of efforts to ram down the nation’s throat the “Bagong Pilipinas” rebranding campaign.

The kiddie student will probably get her tongue even more twisted over the lyrics of the “Bagong Pilipinas” theme song, but she has shown no interest in the tune anyway. It has no “hook” for easy memory recall, and the tune is not bouncy enough to get her dancing like the stuff she sees on TikTok.

Obviously, “Bagong Pilipinas” or New Philippines – presented as a new way of governance – takes off from the martial law concept of Bagong Lipunan or New Society under the first Marcos regime.

It’s a continuation of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s efforts at rebranding not of the Philippines, but of his father Ferdinand Senior and the key programs associated with the dictatorship.

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So far, the efforts have had underwhelming results. Masagana redux has yet to create the environment that will finally deliver BBM’s hallucinogenic campaign promise of rice at P20 a kilo. Not even the heavily state-subsidized Kadiwa redux outlets can offer rice at that retail price.

Now comes Bagong Pilipinas, a rebranding that no one seems to understand. The qualities being propounded under the “new” brand of governance and leadership are supposed to go without saying in any government.

Even Marcos 1.0’s “Bagong Lipunan” theme song, with its marching tempo and simple lyrics, is better and easier to remember than the uninspired “Bagong Pilipinas” pop song being touted as a “hymn” that is supposed to share pride of place with the national anthem. Are taxpayers paying for this new song?

The conduct of flag ceremonies in all national government agencies and state-run schools, which includes the singing of the national anthem and recitation of the pledge of allegiance, is specified under Republic Act 8491, which was passed in February 1998.

How many Filipinos can even recite by heart the Panatang Makabayan?

The pledge of commitment to good government must be made upon entry to public service. This should be followed by a requirement to commit to memory Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which was passed in 1989, along with RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act that was passed way back in 1960, and related laws.

Public servants must be familiar particularly with the offenses and corresponding penalties under those laws; ignorance of the law is no excuse.

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Orders like MC 52 make you wonder what some folks are smoking at Malacañang. Do they have too much time on their hands?

The Bagong Pilipinas concept is muddled enough; a year since its launch, no one knows what it is exactly, except a remake of Bagong Lipunan. At least there has been no rehash (so far) of the martial law slogan that stressed the need for discipline to achieve progress: “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.”

Officials of the martial law regime led by example in failing to practice what they preached. But the messaging in that slogan was quite clear, unlike in Bagong Pilipinas.

Instead of promoting Bagong Pilipinas, the requirement to sing its theme song and recite another pledge (on top of Lupang Hinirang and Panatang Makabayan) at the start of each week has generated negative reactions to the concept, the pop song and the new pledge. In marketing, this would be considered a failure.

Messaging is most effective when simple and easy to remember. What is Bagong Pilipinas supposed to be about?

According to MC 52, the New Philippines is “characterized by a principled, accountable and dependable government.”

I guess we can see this in BBM’s choice of Larry Gadon as his adviser on poverty alleviation.

MC 52 also supposedly “calls for deep and fundamental transformations in all sectors of society and government, and fosters the State’s commitment towards the attainment of comprehensive policy reforms and full economic recovery.”

Bagong Pilipinas and the new pledge are also supposed to encourage patriotism. This can be simplified into loving one’s country – if possible above oneself, and if not, at least with enlightened self-interest. Mahalin mo ang bayan, hindi lang ang sarili. What’s good for the country can be good for you.

A patriotic public official is one who does not lie or betray the public trust, who pays the proper taxes, does not accumulate wealth illegally and serves the public efficiently and honestly.

Unfortunately for our weak republic, this kind of patriotism has become rare.

Singing a pop song and reciting a new pledge are much easier.

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