OUR Mindanao, Our Pilipinas

Press Secretary Sonny Coloma

(Message of Secretary Sonny Coloma at the launching of OUR Mindanao at Museo Dabawenyo, 28 August 2013)

I wish to thank the Mindanao News Service Cooperative for inviting me to be a witness to a path-finding event: today’s launching of OUR Mindanao, the weekly print edition of MindaNews that was launched in 2001 as a daily online information provider.

What seems to be — at first impression —  a step back in today’s high-velocity information environment is actually a bold forward initiative to take the road less traveled.

I salute the men and women of MindaNews for establishing a news cooperative that is committed to professional and responsible journalism.  They have embarked upon a mission: to shape an informed consciousness among Mindanawans, believing that a purposive sense of identity leads to better citizenship.

Press Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma at the launch of OUR Mindanao weekly newsmagazine on August 28 in Davao City.  He said the launch was "path-finding" and the weekly publication "a bold forward initiative." MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas
Press Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma at the launch of OUR Mindanao weekly newsmagazine on August 28 in Davao City. He said the launch was “path-finding” and the weekly publication “a bold forward initiative.” MindaNews photo by Erwin Mascarinas

Our organization, the Presidential Communications Operations Office — and its field network, the Philippine Information Agency — hereby affirms its solidarity with MindaNews.

When President Aquino spoke last year at the 25th anniversary of PIA, he reiterated the underlying philosophy for government communication in the post-Edsa era that was clearly spelled out by his own mother in December 1986.

The purpose of government communication is to ensure that we have a well-informed citizenry that is capable of deciding what’s best for themselves, their communities and their country.  Informed choice leads to enlightened decision-making. Informed choice engages, enables and transforms.

Hence, our concept of public information is that it is not propaganda; it is not Big Brother looking over every citizen’s shoulder; it is not command and control; it does not favor censorship or any form of prior restraint.

It is social communication: Communication that will benefit society, communication that promotes inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Only the other day, we witnessed a landmark event: the Million People March that involved Filipinos throughout the country and even those living and working overseas.

In my view, it was the second most significant social mobilization event that we have witnessed in the last three years.

You may be wondering: why is it the second and not the first?

The first was the May 2010 election which our fellow journalist Conrado de Quiros aptly characterized as Edsa People Power masquerading as an election.

As one who was directly involved in that presidential election as a volunteer in the Noynoy Aquino media bureau, I realized the immense power of social media. With meager funds and a sparse formal organization, the candidacy of then Senator Noynoy Aquino was propelled by a tremendous momentum: the yearning for a clear break from a culture of impunity and decadence in governance.

In a very real sense, Noynoy Aquino is the first President elected in the time of FaceBook and Twitter.

But just as we have realized the tremendous power of social media, we have also become cognizant of its limitations.

As pointed out by Ms. Carolyn Arguillas in her letter of invitation:

“In the era of Facebook and 140-character Twitter feeds…(with) too much information available 24/7, there is an even greater need to process the information gathered and put in the context to help us better understand Mindanao’s complex issues.”

Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google and Jared Cohen, the head of Google Ideas analyzed this phenomenon in the book, The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business, in which they offer insights that are highly relevant to the work of MindaNews and the launching of Our Mindanao.

Allow me to paraphrase what they wrote in The New Digital Age as a means of framing the unique role that has been taken on by MindaNews/Our Mindanao. While they wrote about the role of the established media in the First World/American milieu, I take the view that their perspective aptly describes the concept of Minda News/Our Mindanao:

“The role … (is) primarily (that of being an) aggregator, custodian and verifier, a credibility filter that sifts through all of this data and highlights what is and what is not worth reading, understanding and trusting.’

“(It involves the) the serious work of journalism — the investigative reporting, the high-level interviews, the prescient contextualization of complicated events…validation will be critical, as with the media’s ability to provide cogent analysis.

“Ideally, the business of journalism will be less extractive and more collaborative.”

To recap, the essential roles of media today are:  truth verifier,  fact filter,  context provider,  analyst & synthesist.

Beyond performing these essential roles well, you have also defined the essence of your reason for being:

From MindaNews, you have extended your reach to Our Mindanao. Ato kini Mindanao.

You are deeply committed to fulfilling the great promise of Mindanao — and to translate this concept to living reality.

Beyond opting to travel on the road less taken, you have decided to carve a distinct identity that will lead to the fulfillment of the Mindanawans’ fullest potentials.

Our common interest transcends tomorrow’s headlines and breaking stories.

We want to discover and understand the wellsprings of our people’s aspirations and dreams.

So let’s work together and make it not just Our Mindanao but also Our Pilipinas.