The Philippine Senate is trying to address the issue of fake news. It called together a number of resource persons from both the public and private sectors to participate in a hearing with an end in view of crafting a law to curb the proliferation of fake news. One of those participating is a blogger, RJ Nieto, writing under the pseudonym the Thinking Pinoy. The thing about the Thinking Pinoy is that he is both a blogger and a consultant for the Department of Foreign Affairs although that is not a singular trait to him as Mocha Uson shares the same distinction of privately blogging while holding the position of Assistant Secretary in the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the office of the Philippine President’s spokesperson, who was also in the same Senate hearing with the Thinking Pinoy. Understandably, some senators were concerned that they are straddling the two worlds of public (as in government service) and private life and were taken to task.
While Ms Uson invoked her right to self-discri…incrimination (her words), the Thinking Pinoy came out swinging. He complained that what he was getting from the DFA was a pittance (P12,000/month) not even enough for taxi fare, that the DFA needs him more than he needs them, and that he was just there to help the government be successful…and he made the point that he was not bragging. Wow. Ikaw na (You the man)!
Admittedly, P12,000 from a single employer is small. However, he was able to go to Russia (for a presidential state visit that had to be cut short because of the Marawi incident) and the US (for the UN General Assembly) at the government’s expense; again, with Ms Uson but while we can imagine an Assec like Mocha from the PCOO having some justifiable reason to be there, the presence of a DFA consultant in those meetings boggles the mind. What exactly is he a consultant for? A consultant according to Merriam-Webster, is an expert. One who gives professional advice. What exactly is he a pro on? According to the Bases Conversion Development Authority, it offered the Thinking Pinoy a consultancy contract to promote awareness and generate support for its projects but it was rejected by the Thinking Pinoy. His contract with the DFA says he would lend his platform (as a blogger) to reach more overseas Filipino workers. He is supposed to be the head of strategic communications for the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs. So, he is supposed to help OFWs by giving them an additional way of reaching the DFA with their concerns. Okay. How does that connect with his stints in Russia and New York?
He says he is like a slave at the DFA but if his work is just to provide his platform to bridge OFWs to the DFA, something that does not seem to even need his presence at the DFA (and, therefore, no need for taxis to get from here to there and back), and occasionally join government officials in official trips overseas (all at the government’s expense), then P12,000 isn’t bad at all. We seem to be stretching the term consultant here but what else are we supposed to call him I wonder.
He says that the DFA needs him more than he needs the DFA, which, I suppose, comes from the fact that he has thousands of followers. I can see how that can be relevant for the BCDA had he accepted the contract because communications in that case would have been outward: from BCDA using his platform to people everywhere. In the case of the DFA, however, communication is inward: from the people to the DFA, in which case, his platform is just a steppingstone to the DFA. I don’t think he would be directly answering OFW’s questions for the DFA. Is he? Is he a foreign service officer? Is he an expert on what the DFA does? Is he an expert on OFW affairs/concerns? Did he work for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration at any time, or affiliated with an NGO dealing with OFWs? By every indication, it seems he is a communications man not an OFW advocate. We already stretched the term consultant to accommodate him in the DFA. I think it’s an even bigger stretch to try to imagine how the DFA would need him more than he, the DFA. As a friend pointed out in a Facebook post, the truth is neither of them needs the other, and suggests that perhaps they should part ways.
The thing is that we understand why you are there in the same way we understand how Ms Uson became an Assec. You are very supportive of the current administration. That’s fine. If you were a former supporter of the past administration and switched over to the new one, then that is also fine. That is normal in the Philippines: political butterflies. No judgements from me there. Just don’t think too highly of yourself. Not bragging? Maybe but it certainly comes across as arrogance. No one is indispensable in government. Political appointees are co-terminus with the power that appointed them. Contracts are for a given period, renewable by agreement of the parties to the contract. Whether or not you do provide an invaluable service to the DFA, we leave to the DFA to determine; however, do not ever think your persona as a blogger, or your connections to the powers that be, shields you from criticism or, worse, sanctions. All of that can only go so far. As the country’s only consulting blogger (that I know of anyway), you are in a position to do great service. Use it well for you are also in a position to do great harm. May that never be what we remember you for when you finally rejoin us in obscurity.