Communicating in DavaoCTALK By Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated February 21, 2018 – 12:00am

DAVAO CITY – The best way to get beyond first impressions is to spend time to get second, third and fourth facts to confirm or dismiss your first impression.

I am currently in Davao City where I have been invited by Secretary Martin Andanar of the Presidential Communications Operations Office or PCOO to be one of over a dozen speakers at the first ever National Information Conference (NIC).This is quite a significant event because it’s the first time a serious effort and major production has been made to host so many national and local government information officers for three days, where they actually get to know each other, learn together and address common issues and concerns. On top of it all, they come face to face with experts and veterans in the field of communication and media.

The truth is, most government information officers, especially those from the local governments never get to attend seminars or trainings because of prohibitive costs, no funding or because Governors and Mayors don’t appreciate the value and importance of such trainings and seminars. As proof, I saw Mr. Levi Lopez representing Lipa City at the event and this convinced me that the program was truly reaching the ground level.

The topics cover Freedom of Information – Atty. Kris Ablan, Media Security or what the government has done to protect members of the media from personal or physical harm – Usec Joel Egco, Understanding who, why and what drives President Rodrigo Duterte as a leader and communicator – Usec Ernie Abella, Knowing and understanding the media – Radio Anchor Noel Alamar, Empowering communities through media and information – Dean Elena Fernia of the UP College of Mass Communications. For my part I was initially asked to speak on “Countering Fake News” but I opted to talk about how information officers can be more effective at their job.

Unless there are further changes in schedule, other speakers to follow are Atty. Janet Mesa of the Philippine News Agency, veteran broadcaster Rey Langit, Angelica Dalupan of the Public Relations Society of the Philippines, Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Director General Harold Clavite of the PIA and of course Secretary Martin Andanar. At the last count the number of participants reached 1,800 excluding PCOO personnel and officials.

The PCOO also set up an exhibit that presented all the offices and services under the PCOO. Most of us are familiar only with the front act in government or in this case the face of Sec. Andanar, but few people realize that the PCOO covers several agencies that deliver value and important products to the public.Filipinos are quite familiar with PTV – 4 but not with PBS or the Philippine Broadcasting Service which runs Radyo Pilipinas 1 & 2 on the AM band, FM1 which is on 87.5 on the FM band and the popular 104.3 FM that has a solid following of listeners who enjoy music from yesteryears.

Aside from the broadcast side of things, the PCOO also covers the Philippine Information Agency. PIA is the primary source for informing the public on government programs, plans, actions as well as services. They don’t get as much high level exposure or publicity because they move on the ground dealing directly with local governments as well as communities. Alongside the PIA, there is the BCS or the Bureau of Communications Services which provides communications materials for major exhibits in terms of digital printing needs of agencies, development and production of publications, project conceptualization – exhibition equipment and exhibit management.The BCS also produces personalized and customized merchandise for promotions and information campaigns that various government offices need regularly.

Although it’s only “popular” during elections, the National Printing Office ought to be given more attention in terms of expanding its domain or mandate. I saw many of their products and the two things I got samples of were their sample vanity plates and a sample “National ID.” The vanity plates may as well have been Motor Vehicle plates and I have long said that WE DON’T NEED TO IMPORT THEM! The National Printing Office and the LTO can do it, but it seems that the NPO is still waiting for the LTO, the DOTr or someone from Malacanang to crack the whip and get the two agencies to tango!

My car buddy Usec George Apacible showed me the sample “National ID” and you all know that I am one of the strongest supporters for having one National ID. A private sector exhibitor gave me a sample and I learned that they were using “laser engraving” technology which means no ink, no possible alteration because you actually burn the information into the polycarbonate compound mix including a biometrics panel. The result is a tamper-proof card. I advised Usec Apacible that Malacanang should really push for the passing of the National ID card and those who oppose the idea should be labeled and branded as anti-poor! Yes, anti-poor because a National ID would help poor people have their first basic identification card that will be acceptable to all government offices and private establishments. Minors can get one, the unemployed or unemployable can get one, and best of all, we can get rid of the half a dozen cards we all have to carry for each agency that requires their own ID – that causes the government and the public millions of pesos in pointless duplication.

I hope that Secretary Andanar can get support and the budget to take the exhibit on a roadshow particularly to schools, colleges and universities as well as major fiestas in order to communicate what the PCOO does.