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Sunday was supposed to be a rest day for many government employees, but not on January 28, when those who drew the short end of the stick were asked to attend President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s “Bagong Pilipinas” concert.
The instruction came straight from the Malacañang, based on numerous documents obtained by Rappler.
Less than two weeks before the event, the Office of the President (OP) released Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 42, “directing” all national government agencies to “attend, participate, and provide full support to the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ official campaign kickoff rally.”
“The success of this campaign and call to action, requires the dynamic support of all government agencies and instrumentalities,” the January 16 memo signed by Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin read. The memo was obtained by Rappler from two different sources.
On the Official Gazette website, MC numbers 41 and 43 were already published, but not MC 42.
Internal memos from government agencies also noted that the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) asked them to ensure they have delegates to the whole-day affair.
These include documents from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Transportation (DOTr), and the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), as shown to Rappler by some government employees who had received them.
“[During] a meeting on January 15, 2024, the PCO relayed that each line agency, including its attached agencies, is directed to send at least 1,000 participants to the subject event. Thus, the NEDA Central Office shall send 230 participants representing all groups/offices/staffs. The rest will come from NEDA attached agencies,” a memo from the National Economic and Development Authority read.
“As coordinated by the PCO…[DOTr] shall send 1,000 individuals from the DOTr-Central Office and 900 individuals from the sectoral offices and attached agencies,” the DOTr memo said.
Memos from DICT and NEDA noted that attendees may or shall “be entitled to an eight-hour compensatory time-off.” The DOTr document said participants shall be credited to up to eight hours of special time-off.
A Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) memo to select regional offices, meanwhile, asked them to send 50 representatives each to the event, while a memo from the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) said the first 250 agency employees to arrive at the venue would receive T-shirts and ball caps.
Some government employees who wished to speak with Rappler on condition of anonymity were uncomfortable with the seemingly political nature of the event.
“It’s nothing but a political campaign to boost their image and show everyone that they have thousands of supporters, when in truth, those attendees are nothing but poor employees who are scared to fall out of favor with their superiors and can’t afford to get sanctioned, get bypassed for promotion, or lose their jobs,” one employee told Rappler.
PCO denied requiring government employees to attend the event, when questioned on the subject by veteran broadcaster Ted Failon on Radyo 5.
“The word I would like to use is ‘encourage.’ If there are secretaries who issued a memo saying they are required to go, the word should have been ‘encouraged,'” PCO Assistant Secretary Joey Villarama said in Filipino on January 29.
“We don’t deny that this is a bureaucratic exercise. This is no different from an agency head calling for a general assembly. If they want to know what the agency head’s directives are, they will attend,” he added.
Organizers said 400,000 people graced the rally, which was defined by a series of spectacles – confetti-dropping helicopters, performances from relatively known artists, raffles, booths for food and government services, speeches, and a grand fireworks display.
Rappler’s sourced documents revealed that the concert cost at least P16 million, and Malacañang’s budget allocation for the event could go as high as P29 million.
Critics described the event as a waste of taxpayers’ money aimed at deodorizing the administration’s image.
In his speech that day, Marcos said “Bagong Pilipinas” is not just a new government slogan, but a commitment to achieve the country’s aspirations towards a better future.
PCO also justified the event, saying the rally is a “call to action.” – Rappler.com