Undersecretary Joel Egco of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), who was designated only last Friday to supervise the Philippine News Agency (PNA) – reeling in recent weeks from a spate of editorial and technical lapses – on Saturday vowed to unmask and quash a perceived effort to “sabotage” the government’s official news service.
In a post on Facebook, Egco said: “Our suspicion of sabotage is bolstered by the fact that someone with an IP address from Pasay City attempted to access the new dashboard of PNA last night.”
PNA has, of late, been rocked by snafus on its web platform. Just this Friday, PNA posts went viral, subjected to netizens’ ridicule, after it appeared that some unedited news stories had been posted on the news agency’s website.
Editors’ comments were placed on the headline space itself. It was not clear if this was the result of human error or technical problems. Egco had suggested in the course of looking into Friday’s problems that the PNA website had been undergoing maintenance even prior to it being pulled completely offline.
There is a possibility that these latest incidents involving the PNA web production platform were technical in nature, with or without having been compounded by production carelessness or hacking attacks, thus prompting Mr. Egco’s suspicion of the sabotage angle.
He said on his Facebook post: “I’m getting the report. So, I’m involving the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] and DICT [Department of Information and Communication Technology] in the investigation. I’m saying this because… I’ll find you!
“Make no mistake about it.
“You have caused so much humiliation already at the expense of many honest people. Pray that I’m wrong. And pray hard.
“The PNA website is undergoing maintenance checks for vulnerabilities. It will be UP once everything’s ok. We are working to make it better.
“Again, I’ll find you, whether from inside or out. And it’s no bullshit.”
Around mid-August, the PNA had to publicly apologize for using as logo illustration the graphic identification mark of the Dole fruit company in place of the logo of DOLE, the Department of Labor and Employment.
PNA acknowledged that it was a careless editorial oversight.
The state news service was also heavily criticized after it ran an editorial from Xinhua, its counterpart in China. That editorial extolled Beijing’s claims over waters to which the Philippines has also staked ownership.
After Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar constituted the PNA Editorial Board four months ago, the editorial errors continued.
In August, Andanar took over PNA to head off the occurrence of further bloopers. He warned PNA staff: Explain yourselves satisfactorily or be assigned to Jolo or Basilan.
Egco was called in to supervise the PNA and was officially appointed on Friday.
In a Facebook post that same day, Mr. Egco shared some insights into the PNA workplace and staffing table, as excerpted below:
“ELIGIBILITY AS A RESTRICTION
– In the beginning, Civil Service eligibility was not required.
– Since 1990, it was mandated that even a division chief at PNA must have a degree and eligibility.
– This restricted the entry of highly-skilled writers and editors who have no CSC eligibility.
– Many editors and reporters from other news entities wanted to join PNA but were restricted by CSC rules.
– There are high positions given to some who do not possess the skills commensurate to the task.
– Some were promoted on the basis of eligibility as a requirement which cannot be bent because it is under CSC rules.
– Some are initially taken in as Job Orders or under contract of services. Most leave eventually due to non-eligibility.
– PNA processes around 100 stories a day. The quota per reporter is three (3) stories a day.
– 100 stories a day for 10 editors? You guess.”