Monday, August 18, 2008

By Armand Dean Nocum
Dean & Kings PR & Marketing Strategists
President and CEO
Destructive Technology

My Rotarian friends, the world has evolved so much that we are finally living in a world which communication guru Marshall McLuhan called a ``global village.’’

Technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Whether we like it or not, the world has shrunk into our television sets, computers, PDA’s and cellular phones. Although these immediate and real-time connections have brought us closer, it also pushed privacy as we know it to near extinction.

Gone are the days when individuals, government officials and private corporations can work alone in peace and not have their lives exposed in the 6 o’clock news, the tabloids, the attack-dog columnists; the You Tube and ever-increasing blogs. But among all these anti-privacy busters – the most common and damaging of all is the text messaging system.

Texting has not only brought down one President, it may also bring down another one. Texting is truly the equalizer, these days, no matter how high or mighty you are, you are just a text away from infamy and doom.

These days, with media becoming all powerful and with technology connecting us all globally, our reputations, accomplishments, positions, possessions, human relations and businesses are just a computer click away from destruction.

What used to take armies to bring down now only takes a computer mouse or a cheap mobile phone to accomplish.

Indeed, this is the age of communication and media crisis! The age of Public Relations Disasters!

More than ever, private and public personalities, public and private companies; and all entities that are not living isolated in Neanderthal or Jurassic age caves are seeing the need to hire public relations or crisis communications to protect their reputation.

These days, one needs to hire PR experts as one hires lawyers, accountants or guards to keep one’s safety and company stable and in good shape.

PR, which is defined as ``the management of reputation,’’ has been around for years now with American President Harry S. Truman once saying: ``All the president is, is a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering, kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway.’’

In no time is the PR’s relevance more appreciated than now.

What is Crisis Communication?

So, just what is communications crisis?

Media crisis is when you have a sexy Khorina Sanchez virtually waking you up with a call to comment about a scandal affecting you or your company. It is having Arnold Clavio knocking at your company door or seeing your name trashed in Mon Tulfo or Vic Agustin’s column. It is going home and finding your family crying over embarrassing news about you which they first saw on television.

In short, it is staring at a situation that could affect the name you build for years, the company you started from scratch and losing it all to an adverse or negative media projection. Worse, you find yourself clueless and immobilized in the face of such life-changing crisis.


Crisis may come as result of an act of God, business operations; corporate moves; legalities; rumors; staff; and scandals.

But here in country, there are far serious forces at work and they include corrupt senators and congressmen who use congressional in investigations to raise campaign funds; unscrupulous BIR, BI and BOC officials; corrupt policemen and barangay officials; and extortionists in media or pseudo-media.

Once the crisis has erupted, then any or all of these crisis factors are likely to surface to join the feeding frenzy. For example, a news report on your company’s labor problems could get unscrupulous media men blackmailing you; then you’ll have unscrupulous labor, revenue and customs officials looking at your books; and much later you found yourself being sued not only for labor violations, but smuggling and tax evasion as well.

Worse, enterprising lawmakers may initiate congressional hearings on your company. From experience, I can tell you this is pure hell because unlike the courts, basic parliamentary rules, procedures or decorum are rarely observed as solons scramble over each other to throw the most offensive and personal question so their faces will land in the TV Patrol or 24 Oras. As for the others, they will grill you so hard for you to remember their names when you decide to pay yourself out of the crisis.

What to do?

So what do you do the when crisis hits you?

The best way to fight PR crisis is to be prepared. You must have a crisis manager to consult. He must have anticipated the entire crisis that could hit you or your company; and as well as set up a detailed crisis strategy plan. Under this plan, a communication team is formed to contact executives, legal and audit officials anytime of the day.

This team will immediate appraise the crisis and issue press statements both to stakeholders and the media. The first 10 hours of the crisis is crucial. It is very important that the news – even a bad one – should come from you; otherwise, the media and those victimized by the crisis will fill in their own lopsided and negative information, thus fueling the crisis even more.

In cases like these, it is best to tell the truth, provided the lawyers are consulted before this is done. But then, don’t make the lawyer your spokesperson because in their desire to be legalistic, they may make you or the company appear guilty or to be hiding something. The best spokesperson is a family member of the owner and one who can show and display compassion.

In this case, showing is better than doing. Be with the victims right after the tragedy. Show compassion and you will see your company getting stronger and better right after the crisis.

After the Cebu Pacific plane crashed in 1998, their PR consultant lose no time in advising them to set up a place where relatives of the victims could go and the place had snacks, coffee and trauma counselors. The company also flew the relatives of the victims to the crash site in Misamis Oriental.

After the crisis, Cebu Pacific went on to beat PAL in the domestic market.

Per advice of his PR, Fernando Zobel did not just provide the victims of the 2007 Glorieta blast money over and above what the insurance firms provided for, but Fernando Zobel also visited relatives in the hospitals. On top of that, he gave them a million and residential houses.

Most of the time, it’s not the money or service you give but the act of giving it that counts. Of course, you do this with media knowing about it.
What not to do

After the do’s, now we go to the don’ts of crisis management.

The best way to illustrate the don’ts is to show you the PR disaster called the Sulficio Lines. This company did not only lose a ship, it lost all credibility and connection with its customers.

This include hiring lawyers first (no offense to lawyers) more than crisis managers to respond to the crisis. Where the PR could have advised them to immediately go out to face the media and the victims, the lawyers advised them to hide and make no comment to escape liability.

As a result, they blew away any credibility and public sympathy by showing – through their lawyers – that they only cared about their legal survival and have little regard for the victims.

Added to this, they also appointed a lawyer-spokesperson who showed no emotions. Thus, the offer of money from the poker-faced lawyer only earned them more criticisms.

And rather than tell the truth, their lawyers went on into a legal offensive blaming the weather, Pagasa, coast guard and everybody else, except themselves. The owners were also advised to hide the fact that the ship was carrying toxic endosulfan.

When they finally got the sense of getting a PR, this PR erroneously advised them to drumbeat their ``social responsibility,’’ but their failure to immediately respond to the PR crisis made this claim sound hallow, so they only got more beatings from congressmen who accused them of telling them lies during a congressional hearing.


Thus, as I end my talk with the advice that doing good is the best defense against a PR crisis or disaster. Acts of goodness or philanthropy on our part; or corporate social responsibility on the part of our companies would serve to earn for us a ``reservoir of goodwill.’’ This ``social credits’’ will come in handy in times of crisis because we can always claim that the tragedy is out of character with our companies’ consistent desire to do well and serve well.
If everything fails, follow the advice of book author and US Congress librarian Daniel J. Boorstin who said:
``Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some hire public relations officers.’’

This was the speech I delivered at the Rotary Club Grace Park last August 13. I hope you find this information usefull given this crazy times of communication revolution.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


``Why Fix It if It Ain’t Broke?’’
This was my wife Ann’s reply when she first heard about the ruckus relative to the controversial Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) deal.
Take that from a fiercely-proud Tausug who stood pat in retaining her religion even after marrying me – a Catholic who once studied to become a priest. We were married in Christian and Muslim rites.
Ann’s view is that things are already okay, with Christians and Muslims living and co-existing happily in and out of the ambit of the Autonmous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Well, Ann is not entirely happy about things happening in areas under ARMM, but she feels that things are bearable for Muslims under ARMM and as well as for Muslims living in Christian-dominated areas that opted to be outside of ARMM.
Until the BJE midnight express came to town like a thief in the night.
Now, things that were working well are turning haywire. Good ties and respect built between divergent cultures and religions are again becoming shaky and unstable. Greed for power and money is making enemies of Muslim and Christian friends and neighbors.
Thus, at these uncertain times, I would like to send out an appeal to my relative Muslims – by affinity, that is – to keep calm and not allow themselves to be used as pawns by politicians who have repeatedly fooled them on the idea of autonomy.
Our beloved Muslim brethren should be wary of politicians who promise them a government of heaven but give them a life of hell. This has already happened with tragic results in the ARMM.
Since its inception, I have yet to hear any of Ann’s relatives, friends and acquaintance in their hometown in Sulu speak anything good about ARMM. All the stories about the ARMM are horror stories – hospitals with no doctors, funds and facilities; schools with no teachers, salaries, books and equipment; roads uncompleted or substandard; and pubic service going to near-zero level.
Ann’s relatives are testimonies of how bad things are under ARMM: one suffered a stroke on the way to a Zamboanga City hospital because Sulu hospitals could not give her treatment; another could not get her retirement money for years now because ARMM officials were asking her commissions; others left the province for Zamboanga because they cannot find work there; and many others came here in Manila to seek a better life.
Amid all these wanton poverty, greed and corruption in ARMM, you have their officials driving the flashiest cars and building the most opulent houses in Zamboanga City. There is even a place there now that’s called ``millionaires’ row’’ because they are teeming with mansions of ARMM’s rich and famous.
So, this is the ARMM they are forcing some of us to join. This is the Eden, the Paradise they are dangling before the eyes of our relative Muslims.
This time, I would like to caution our Muslim relatives not to be fooled again. Even if they now call it BJE, one thing remains – only the powerful and rich Muslim will benefit from it with the poor Muslims getting poorer.
If the Arroyo Government and the MILF are really serious in getting us to join ARMM, then they should immediately work hard to improve public service in the ARMM areas, ignite economic growth there, institute accountability for corrupt officials; and show it to be a Heaven on Earth.
They must turn ARMM into an ideal state with rich coffers generated locally and from rich Muslim countries; teeming with reliable and working hospitals, schools and roads; and led by honest and sincere public servants who not only fear the law, but Allah’s wrath towards the corrupt and the heartless.
If that happens, then count me in to lead my relative Christians and Muslims to lead the campaign to be included in that kind of ARMM.
Unless that happens, this is message I leave to Esperon and the MILF: Lucut petate y also balutan y deja kanamon con paz. (read more about Nocumment at


Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Are Zamboanguenos Being Set Up for a No-El Scenario?

The controversial Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) deal is pregnant with unimaginable consequences, but right now, the biggest casualty is the abortion of peace, justice and fair play for Zamboanguenos and Filipinos in general.
Having covered the President for the Inquirer, I can very well surmise Malacanang’s possible end-game – the extension of the President’s term either through charter change or emergency rule to be declared should war erupts in Mindanao.
Nothing is really what it seems for the Arroyo Government. Time and time again it has proven itself not averse to using everything – that includes playing with our feelings and fooling with our territorial boundaries – to get what it wants.
This time, the Palace seems to be out to provoke us and our Muslim brothers into fighting each other over key barangays, rich mining sites and coveted forest reserve areas. President Arroyo’s peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. and company apparently did a very good job in Zamboanga by curving out places so sacred to Zamboanguenos – City Hall, Fort Pilar, Immaculate Conception Cathedral etc.
They are aware that the move is enough get true-blue, hot-blooded Zamboanguenos like Councilor Jimmy Cabato into reviving militia groups to protect the city’s sacred grounds and territorial integrity.
Was the bombing of what is now called Metropolitan Cathedral intended to arouse Chavacano anger towards Muslims? Could it be a prelude to what is happening now? Was the military not too quick to blame the Abu Sayyaf then even while the smoke from the bombing barely cleared?
On the other side of the fence, the issue has also given the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and many Muslims in general a false hope that finally the realization of their dream to establish a Mindanao Muslim republic is at hand.
As I write this, MILF leaders have already declared the BJE as a ``done deal’’ and that they no longer need to have it formally signed in Kuala Lumpur. This comes even as the Supreme Court has issued a temporary restraining order on the BJE’s memorandum of agreement.
I can’t blame the MILF, for one they don’t recognize our laws and secondly, they might have been also fooled by our peace negotiators into believing that everything is a ``done deal.’’ Even if it were not so, once the idea of an achievable autonomy has been planted in their minds, there is no stopping them from looking forward to it or fighting for it!
As it is, the genie of delusion has been set free and there is no turning back. We have uncorked the genie of war and there is no way we can return it back. The dogs of war are out for blood.
But then is it not possible that this is really what the government wants? Would skirmishes or pockets of wars between Christians and Muslims not be convenient excuse to declare a state of emergency or even martial law?
And would a state of emergency not be a convenient excuse to postpone the 2010 elections? Certainly with many plunder and grant cases filed against her – with many more coming – would President Macapagal not be scared stiff about the prospects of losing her Presidential Immunity?
The experience of convicted and ousted President Estrada is surely not lost in the mind of the present occupant of the Palace and her family. If the even more popular Erap landed in jail after losing his immunity, what could prevent GMA from suffering the same fate?
A paranoid mind knows no logic.
Then again there is the Cha-Cha scenario with Palace Spokesman Jesus Dureza yesterday admitting that there is need to change or amend the Constitution to fully implement the BJE. This too could result in a no-election (No-El) scenario. Former President Marcos did this, former President Fidel-Ramos tried to do this; so why should not President Arroyo do it too?
But what should we Zamboanguenos do? What can we do?
The best way to fight those out to make us puppets of their evil designs is not to play into the hands of the puppet masters.
Muslims and non-Muslims alike should exercise restrained, caution and sobriety to look at the BJE issue with open mind and realize that this is not yet the end of the world. Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas is right, the BJE deal signed by the MILF is just a mere scrap of paper and still long way off from implementation, if ever it gets implemented, which I doubt.
For now, it’s best to keep faith in the wisdom of the Supreme Court where a unanimous vote for TRO already speaks volumes about the thinking of the justices relative to the unconstitutionality of the BJE.
Gracias y hasta manana.


Nocumment feels great to be back in the saddle, thanks to tenacity of my friend and Spree Magazine goddess and mentor Frenci Carreon who had been egging me to bring back the column for years now. Nocumment used to see print at the defaunct The Morning Times under the venerable Rene Fernandez. A Zamboanga City on fire is just the best time for all concerned Zamboanguenos to rise up and be counted!

Monday, August 4, 2008

ARMM Issue Brings Nocumment Back To Life

I used to write a column for the defunct ``The Morning Times” newspaper which was published by Rene Fernandez, Zamboanga’s most brilliant and credible editor and newspaper owner.
I stopped writing the column when I left for Manila to write for the Philippine Daily Inquirer more than 16 years ago (gosh! I’m old!).
But this issue relative to the ARMM has somehow forced me out of self-imposed retirement in news-writing after leaving PDI two years ago. So, here’s an electronic copy of my first banner headline for today’s edition of the Zamboanga Today newspaper edited by my friend Frenci Carreon.
Happy reading amigos y amigas.


By Armand Dean N. Nocum

Manila – Heeding the growing voice of protest in Mindanao, the Supreme Court yesterday restrained the government from pushing through with today's signing of the "Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Voting unanimously, the high court granted the temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by local officials of North Cotabato and Zamboanga City challenging the constitutionality of the MOA-AD.
Explaining the high court's actions, SC spokesman Atty. Jose Midas Marquez said the court handed down the TRO since "rights may be violated" and so the court decided to step in to maintain status quo until such time it rules on the merit of the petitions filed by Mindanao officials.
Although the High Court was originally scheduled to have its en banc meeting today, the SC moved the meeting one day in advance in order to make a timely ruling on the controversial MOA.

``We have to act fast because this issue may affect basic and constitutional rights. We are also concerned about possible violence resulting from this highly controversial constitutional issue,'' an SC source told this Zamboanga Today contributor.
The SC also directed the government through Office of the Solicitor General to officially furnish the Court and the petitioners copies of the final MOA not later than August 8.
The SC also ordered the parties to present their case in an oral argument on August 15, at 9 pm.
Under court rules a restraining order by the SC is valid until subsequently lifted by the tribunal.
Zamboanga City yesterday joined Cotabato officials who last week sought to stop the government from inking a deal with the MILF today..

In a 22-page petition, Zamboanga City Mayor Celso L. Lobregat, Districit 1 Rep. Ma. Isabelle G. Climaco, (1st District) and Rep. Erico Basilio A. Fabian (2nd District) sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction enjoining the government from signing the MOA on ancestral domain with the MILF.

It also asked the Court to issue a writ of mandamus to compel the negotiating peace panel of the government to provide them the final draft of the MOA on ancestral domain.

The officials also prayed to exclude Zamboanga City from being part of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and to declare null and void the MOA in case its signing pushes through.

The petitioners said the non-disclosure of the provisions of the MOA on ancestral domain has deprived the people of Zamboanga City their right to information and to participate in the decision-making process.

"To hide behind the mantle of national security so that the people would remain in the dark on matters of affecting their lives and properties is a travesty of justice and of the constitutional rights of the people," the petitioner claimed.

Since the issue of ancestral domain refers to the claiming of ownership over a particular portion of the Philippine territory, the petitioners insisted, that they along with the residents of Zamboanga City have the right to be informed of the contents of the MOA.

The petitioners are opposing the supposed inclusion of the province in the ancestral domain being claimed by the MILF.

The Sangguniang Panlungsod of Zamboanga even issued a resolution dated November 24, 2005 requesting the government peace negotiating panel then headed by Secretary Silvestre Afable to conduct public consultations on the issue.

On February 13, 2006, Lobregat wrote a letter to Secretary Jesus Dureza, then presidential adviser on the peace process, reiterating the need for the government peace panel to conduct consultations with the local government the people of Zamboanga City and other who would be affected by any agreement it may sign with the MILF panel.

"Since the issue of ancestral domain refers to the claiming of ownership over a particular portion of the Philippine territory, which may include private properties, petitioners and the residents of Zamboanga City, have the right to be informed over the matter and participate in the decision-making process as they will surely be affected thereby, since their properties are located in the claimed dominion," the petitioners added.

Named respondents in the case were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes Esperon and the GRP peace negotiating panel headed by Rodolfo Garcia and Leah Armamento, Sedfrey Candelaria, Mark Ryan Sullivan, as members.

Earlier, North Cotabato officials led by Gov. Jesus Sacdalan and Vice-Governor Emmanuel PiƱol filed a similar petition seeking full disclosure of the contents of the MOA.

They also sought the issuance of a TRO enjoining the singing of the agreement.