MANILA, September 10, 2003 (STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  - Retired military generals identified with the "psy-war" machinery of former President Fidel Ramos have been enlisted to neutralize the bad news and controversies battering the administration of President Arroyo.

The government’s bid to conduct this information offensive is spearheaded by presidential adviser on the peace process Eduardo Ermita, who is scheduled to conduct a workshop today at Malacañang.

The decision to conduct the one-day "media workshop" was reached during a pre-Cabinet meeting at the Palace last Aug. 29 as "an important antidote to the ongoing attempts to destabilize the government."

At the end of the workshop, participants are expected to come up with a "communication strategy that will crowd out the news of politicking and instead… good governance and reform (become) the dominant news."

Among those invited to the workshop is newly appointed presidential adviser on strategic information Honesto Isleta, a retired general and former press undersecretary.

"The destabilization efforts of the destructive opposition have dominated the media in the last two weeks. It drowned (out) the good news of an effective governance," the workshop program read.

The program cited some pieces of "good news" that did not get much attention in the media: lifestyle checks and filing of charges against erring government officials, drug busts and arrests of big-time drug lords, poverty reduction programs such as the Kabalikat Laban sa Kahirapan and the Strong Republic School, and the government’s good economic performance as shown by the high revenue collection, management of the budget deficit and significant growth of two key economic indicators, the gross national product and gross domestic product.

"Politicking had taken center stage and it has affected our economy as well as the optimistic outlook of the people that was evident in both the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys. It is in this context that a workshop is being organized," the workshop program read.

The workshop’s participants include the heads of government agencies and various offices under the Office of the President. Also participating in the workshop are Presidential Management Staff Secretary Silvestre Afable, presidential chief of staff Rigoberto Tiglao, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye, presidential adviser on media and ecclesiastical affairs Conrado Limcaoco, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman, and the officials in charge of agency information offices.

The Office of the Press Secretary, headed by Milton Alingod, will serve as the secretariat for the one-day workshop.

Alingod, Bunye, Limcaoco and Philippine Information Agency director Renato Velasco will brief the participants, mostly composed of public information officers from each government agency, about the "Palace Media Operations" on which they would base their respective agency’s communications plans.

"The present situation demands more than ever that the government effectively communicate, not only with the public at large but also with the specific constituencies or public served by each of its agencies," the workshop paper read.

"We must be playing the same song using our different instruments. Government communications must be stirring symphony played by Palace media officers and agencies working closely with public relations or public information office units in all major government agencies," it added.

Sample public relations plans for government agencies would be presented by National Security Adviser Roilo Golez on security matters, presidential adviser on political affairs Hernani Braganza on political matters, presidential adviser on official development assistance projects Mai-mai Jimenez on infrastructure support, Agrarian Reform Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan and Cora Guidote, executive director of the government’s Investor Relations Office, on economic matters.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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