Malacanang Communications team need to shape up to counter campaign to demoralize Duterte's supporter base

The whole show staged by Leila de Lima with Edgar Matobato was meant for the international media.

It didn't matter that Matobato's testimony was full of loopholes. De Lima just needed someone who would make outrageous accusations against Duterte on live TV at the senate hall, so the foreign media would have new material for anti-Duterte stories.

The yellows and their foreign backers are now focusing on international media because they know the local media has been overwhelmed by Duterte's popularity.

The constant negative propaganda on foreign media is meant to rattle investors and tourists, and demoralize people who support Duterte.

It is also meant to stir up a global clamor for Duterte to be charged at the ICC (International Criminal Court) and forced to vacate his post. The Duterte government should not let the UN do an "independent" investigation like they've been lobbying. That is a trap. That investigation will be anything but independent.

How should this be countered?

1. Duterte's team should exert more effort to communicate positive news about the Philippines to foreign audiences, especially on business and economic reforms, and ensure this positive news gets global coverage on both traditional and social media.

2. There should also be a lot of news showing Duterte at his best, to humanize his image and reassure foreign audiences that he is not the barbarian the media are portraying him to be.

3. Livestreaming of Senate and House hearings should have on-the-spot English translation and subtitling. Clips of the most important parts should be made publicly available as soon as possible after the hearings.

4. The accusations about death squads and killings can be addressed by putting up a website that debunks false reports on Duterte, and airs his side on these accusations which the traditional media are not showing. Duterte's communications team should not dwell too much on these issues because constantly talking about them will only extend their run. Just refer people to the website whenever they ask. It can even be an unofficial (but credible) website run by Duterte supporters with the right professional background.

Matobato is just the flavor of the week. These attacks will keep coming, and they will get worse. Duterte's communications team needs to set up the right infrastructure and protocol for squelching these attacks quickly each time they come.

After a while, even foreign audiences will get tired of the black propaganda and the international media will also end up where the local media are now when it comes to their biased Duterte reports-with credibility in tatters.

People are smart now. They can see what's true and what's not, and they are not easily influenced even by international media. In fact, I notice most Pinoys are not affected by what the local and foreign media are saying about Duterte. They are more bothered by the weakness of Duterte's communications team.

I think the reason why the other Cabinet secretaries are jumping in to defend Duterte even on issues that don't involve their departments is because they see how inadequate Ernie Abella is. I'm sure Abella is working hard, and he is a good person who is skilled in other areas, but he simply isn't right for the job of presidential spokesperson. For example, this was his response when the press asked him about Matobato's accusations:

"I believe, as in all cases, all citizens should maintain a sense of sobriety and maintain a sense of objectivity . . . After all people do make statements every day. And while this person may sound credible, it is imperative that each and everyone of us properly weigh whatever is said."

This response was too long, full of extraneous "filler" words which is Abella's usual way of speaking, and there is no single coherent thought. He even unthinkingly said "while this person may sound credible . . ." while he was coming up with his filler statements.

Abella doesn't know how to speak in soundbites. He doesn't have the strategic thinking ability to quickly analyze events as they unfold and figure out which angle to focus on, then formulate one clear, targeted statement. He doesn't have the presence of mind to react quickly yet compose his words carefully.

I mean no offense, but President Duterte is better off having no spokesperson than having Abella as a spokesperson. The other Cabinet secretaries that the PCO is asking to pipe down are actually doing a better job at getting the right messages out. They're just not coordinated, hence the contradictions, but they are focusing on the right points, and they think and move much more quickly than the official spokesperson. People close to the president really need to figure this out, because this propaganda war will not be won with the current communications setup.

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