CAPITOL NEWS OR PROPAGANDA?: Information office grilled on P10-M budget

THE committee on appropriations (right photo) headed by Board Member Dorothy Paes grills Public Information and Community Affairs Office (PICAO) head Jose Nereo Lujan (left photo) during the resumption of the hearings on the 2019 budget, Jan 10. (Ricky D. Alejo)

By: Gail T. Momblan

FROM the purveyor of news, the Public Information and Community Affairs Office (PICAO) of the Iloilo provincial government is now the news after the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) grilled its head on their operations and performance.

In fact, the committee on appropriations headed by Board Member Dorothy Paes said they will “recheck” the budget allocation of PICAO.

The committee summoned PICAO’s department head, along with the chiefs of the Office of Deeds, Parole and Probation Administration, and Provincial Library and Archives, during the resumption of the hearing on the 2019 budget on Jan 10.

“Sa tatlo to naton, sa aton Registry of Deeds, wala man may nakita. So far, sa Library and Archives, sa Parole, okay man. Ini lang aton nga Public Information, i-recheck lang namon liwat ang ila budget kon  bala nagakadapat gid kag nakakabagay kay nagapangayo kami sang list sang details para mabal-an naton,”  Paes said.

As soon as PICAO submits the details of their budget allocation, Paes said they will “recheck and study for their proposal.”



Fourth district board member and committee on appropriations vice chairperson Domingo Oso raised questions on two radio block time programs charged to PICAO’s budget.

Oso suggested that the radio programs should also carry good news from the Iloilo provincial capitol.

Jose Nereo Lujan, PICAO head, said they have been disseminating positive news from the Capitol.

“Previous discussions include the mudcrab ordinance, the public-private partnership ordinance… we made mention of these ordinances,” Lujan said during the budget deliberation.

Meanwhile, Paes said it is the PICAO’s role to “protect” the provincial government.

“Dapat proteksyonan ta ang aton nga provincial government. So may ara dira nga issue na-raise sa radyo, dapat sabton ni naton kay kadako sang budget naton sa radio stations naton,” she said.

Paes referred to the claims of former provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada that the lights and fixtures for Package 3 of the Landscaping and Park Development Project on the Capitol grounds is grossly overpriced by as much as P17.7 million.

Lujan said that they already refuted the issue with the Provincial Engineer’s Office (PEO).

“Part of our function is we have to pick the right person to reply on various issues. It’s the provincial engineer that is in the best position to reply to that so we facilitate the interview of the provincial engineer,” he said.

The committee on appropriations will conduct a meeting to finalize the list of the offices to be invited to the budget hearing next week.



Oso questioned Lujan on the radio spot in a certain radio station which was intended to encourage the public to pay their taxes.

Citing the program’s tagline “Reporma kag pag-bag-o, Governor Arthur Defensor Sr., pay your taxes wisely,” Oso questioned whether the script aims to communicate additional message aside from the tax collection advocacy.

“Reporma kag Pagbag-o” is the campaign slogan of Gov. Defensor Sr. when he ran in the 2010 elections.

“Ano purpose mo sa reporma kag pagbag-o? Ano ni propaganda kay Gov Art or pay your taxes wisely?” Oso asked.

“Klaruhon ta kay kwarta ta ni. I hope you will reconsider this in the future sa radio spotting. Pila nabayran ta sina kay kadako sang spotting niyo,” he added.

Lujan said the spots were based on sponsorship requests.

“Radio stations come in our office and we come up with 30-seconder spots. So since it’s only a 30-seconder spot, the information that we can put into this frame is only limited. So if it’s charged to the tax information campaign, we limit it on the number of seconds,” Lujan responded.

He said that they assign personnel to crop the script.

The “Reporma kag pag-bag-o” tagline was “more of informing the constituents of the flasgship program of the governor.”

“It’s more of encouraging them to support the reform and change program by paying their taxes,” Lujan said.



Paes also questioned the newsmagazine “Balita Halin sa Kapilyo,” particularly its distribution.

Lujan said they distribute the newsmagazine to national government agencies, barangays, among others.

“Sa barangay gahatag kamo? I haven’t received it,” Paes said.

Lujan said not all barangays were furnished copies because of lack of manpower.

“Kon mag-out of town kami, we distribute it along the areas,” he said.

PICAO publishes the newsmagazine quarterly and produces 5,000 copies per issue.

The committee chair also questioned the P135,000  budget for “news gathering” aside from the proposed P10-million budget of PICAO.

“Aside From 10 million budget, how is it nga may P135, 000 pa guid kita for news gathering?” Paes asked.

Lujan said the amount is allotted for news gathering of information officers.

“Sa diin sila ma-travel kay daw diri man lang kita ga-gather sang news?” Paes said.

Lujan said PICAO has its own vehicle used to monitor government projects and gather news from municipalities.