October 14, 2007

Jopo Guerrero

Engage the media

Ilocos Norte Provincial Police Director Roman Felix became a regular talk-of-the-town due to his frequent no-talk stance to the members of the local media regarding police operations.

Even some provincial officials were annoyed, because the PD’s tight-lipped culture left the people guessing and speculating on the development of recent sensational crimes in the locality.

PD Felix should read Philippine Daily Inquirer’s news item “Talk to media, Army chief advises commanders” (PDI 10/01/07).

In the said article, Army chief Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano encouraged his field commanders to “engage the media” and take proactive public relations stance.

Yano said, talking to the media would not only avoid misinformation, but it would show the more humane side of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Thus, he gave the go-signal for the commanders to make themselves more accessible to the media and talk about their areas and their missions.

In the same news item, Yano told his commanders to “engage the media when they ask for interviews.” He underscored that it is better if the media get it straight from the horse’s mouth, especially when they need details about encounters and battles.

“Be very active. You represent the organization. You are the face of the organization,” Yano told his commanders. “Convey a positive image to the public. Tell them about the good things we are doing, otherwise our efforts will go to waste.”

Need I say more, PD? (Please do not give me the crap that the police and the army do not hold identical operations, because that line belongs to those who were born yesterday.)

Felix should know that our reporters are aware of the rule on classified information. Thus, he cannot use it as an excuse for his mum-attitude against the local media.

Well, there are two reasons why authorities shy away from media relations: incompetence and ignorance.

When a police official does not have any real accomplishment in his area of responsibility, he shrinks back from the media in fear that he might unintentionally open the Pandora’s box of his uselessness.

Also, when an officer’s mind is devoid of knowledge of his real responsibilities to the people, he zips up his mouth in fear that he might articulate his own abysmal ignorance.

I just hope that our “shy policemen” hold reasons for their silence other than the badminton of incompetence and ignorance.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the master of power politics, once said: It is more necessary to satisfy the people than the soldiers, because the former have more power than the latter.

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Copyright 2007 Ilocos Times. All rights reserved.

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