Revising history? Official Gazette vows to be 'more neutral' after flak | Inquirer Technology

Revising history? Official Gazette vows to be ‘more neutral’ after flak

/ 03:26 PM September 12, 2016
SCREENGRAB FROM THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE'S FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

SCREENGRAB FROM THE OFFICIAL GAZETTE’S FACEBOOK ACCOUNT

(Updated, this story was first published at 11:57 a.m. of September 12) The Official Gazette of the Philippine government has defended itself from criticisms of historical revisionism after drawing flak for a Facebook post commemorating the birthday of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, but vowed to be “more prudent” and “improve accordingly” after what it called a “learning lesson.”

“The Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines is the repository of government documents as stated by law. We are not in the business of revising history. We only convey what is documented in the official records,” Ramon Cualoping III, assistant secretary of the Presidential Communications Operation Office, said in a statement on Sunday.

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“We continually update materials to keep it as historically accurate as possible. The Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines is devoid of any political color and affiliations,” he added.

The Official Gazette went under fire for the last part of the original caption of its online graphic, which read: “In 1972, he declared Martial Law to suppress a communist insurgency and secessionism in Mindanao. In 1986, Marcos stepped down from the presidency to avoid bloodshed during the uprising that came to be known as ‘People Power.’”

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READ: Why Marcos shouldn’t be buried in the ‘Libingan’

The channel then edited the caption after receiving negative feedback from netizens by removing the phrase “to avoid bloodshed,” before deleting the post altogether.

Netizens quickly pointed out that the caption supposedly whitewashed the crimes of atrocities, human rights abuses, and stealing of public funds committed during the Marcos dictatorship.

‘More neutral’

After the backlash, Cualoping said they wanted to make the “simple social media card” more neutral to devoid it of any political color by reposting it with a shorter caption, which made no mention of Marcos’ declaration of martial law and his ouster through the People Power Revolution. The post called the late strongman as “the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years.”

“We all know that Martial Law happened. It really happened. But what we did was for the birthday card, it shouldn’t be agnostic; it should just be about the date that they were elected into the presidency, their political background is just right there. But wait for September 21. We have something for the Martial Law anniversary as well,” Cualoping said in an ambush interview in Malacañang.

“This is a learning lesson from us and we will improve accordingly, based on efforts to have a streamline national communications policy,” he added.

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The Gazette edited the last part of the caption of the reposted graphic, which now reads: “He was the longest-serving President of the country for almost 21 years, declaring Martial Law in 1972 then went to exile to the United States in 1986 at the height of the People Power Revolution. He was succeeded by Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.”

‘Learning lesson’

Asked if the Gazette would issue an apology, Cualoping said the apology “would not be from the office” but a personal one.

“We are not circumspect in terms of writing the accompanying copy… So this is a learning lesson and we commit that we will have a better gazette in the next few months. I think, acknowledged naman; may pag-kukulang (There was an omission). Sabi ko nga (As I have said), personally, we could have been more circumspect, we could have been more prudent,” Cualoping said.

“We will improve. As we always say, in marketing, this is not how you say it. Sometimes, it’s not how you say it; it’s how you hear it, right? It’s how people hear or read it. So we will improve as we go along. Hindi kami dapat nabubulag sa sariling propaganda, sa sariling statements (We should not be blinded by our own propaganda, our own statements). We have to listen to the people,” he added.

Cualoping confirmed that a handler of the Gazette account worked for the late dictator’s son and namesake, former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., but added that he has yet to verify if he personally wrote the caption. He noted that their office hires “on merits of credentials” and not because of political affiliations.

The hashtag #SuperficialGazette made rounds on Twitter following the backlash. A parody account “Superficial Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines” was also created on Facebook, which Cualoping called as “very witty.” He said the team reported it to Facebook so as “not to be confused that it’s legitimate.”

This was not the first time that the government’s communications team drew flak, one of the latest boo-boos being its wrong press release on the seating arrangement at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Laos last week.

READ: Duterte, Obama at Ban Ki-Moon, hindi magkakatabi sa ASEAN gala dinner

The government, as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte, is pushing for a hero’s burial for Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite strong opposition from rights victims and advocates. The Supreme Court has extended its status quo order on Marcos’ planned burial at the heroes’ cemetery to Oct. 18. IDL

READ: Duterte gives go-ahead for Marcos burial at Libingan

Here are what netizens had to say:

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TOPICS: Ferdinand Marcos, historical revisionism, martial law, Official Gazette, political color, politics
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