Propaganda or public information?The blocktiming landscape in Pampanga

By Charlene A. Cayabyab


IN JULY 2012, Pampanga First District Representative Carmelo “Tarzan” Lazatin surprised his town mates when he turned his back from his known ally and friend Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan and decided to run for city mayor in the upcoming midterm elections.

A few weeks later, Lazatin’s camp launched a word war against Pamintuan through a blocktime program over local radio station GVFM 99.1,  which was simulcast in their GVAM 792 counterpart.

Gulpe De Gulat, Lazatin’s blocktime program hosted by freelance broadcaster Med David, accused the incumbent administration of bankruptcy and of having a long list of job order employees among others.

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Pamintuan answered the allegations through his own blocktime program “Punto por punto” over the same local radio station.

The word war went on everyday, every morning.

Obviously, Lazatin and Pamintuan are using their blocktime programs to annihilate each other.

GVFM Station Manager Rodolfo Simeon  argued that the two political camps had a right  to what they were doing.

“Yes, [they are allowed to do that over the air]. But, they are required to produce documents to support their claims. If it’s just hearsay, then we do not allow that to go on air,” Simeon said, but claimed that the station does not allow blocktimers to use vulgar and profane language.

One year campaign

Simeon, however, admitted that the two blocktime programs serve the candidacies of both mayoral candidates.

“Of course, by discussing issues against their  respective opponents, they get to advance their candidacy,” Simeon said.

Simeon mentioned other blocktime programs aired over  the station, some of which began  as early as January 2012.

Among them are Lugud Kapampangan (Kapampangan Love) which highlights the accomplishments of the provincial government led by Governor Lilia Pineda and Mabalacat City: Kaluguran Daka (I Love You) which reports the activities and achievements of the province’s newly converted city of Mabalacat where Marino Morales is the mayor.

Angeles City’s Agyu Tamu (We Can), however, which similarly discusses the achievements of the Angeles City government, started airing as early as 2011.

Aside from politically funded blocktime programs, GVFM also airs Isyung Legal, a paid for program hosted by lawyer-turned-Councilor Willie Rivera along with Simeon. The program responds to legal queries from listeners.

Except for Gulpe De Gulat and Punto por punto, all other blocktime programs over the GV station focus on the accomplishments of incumbent local administrations.

The same is true of RWFM 95.1 and its regional television network counterpart, CLTV 36, since their blocktimers are only allowed to report the accomplishments of, or to discuss current political and social issues without attacking anyone, be it a political or personal rival.

“No electioneering here,” Lani Esguerra, program director at CLTV 36, said.

Among the blocktime programs at CLTV that started in 2012 were ALEng Lina hosted by  Association of Labor Employees Representative Catalina Bagasina and local broadcaster Albert Lacanlale; and Agyu Tamu (We Can), the same program of the Angeles City government  that is also aired over GVFM.

Blocktimers funded by the City of San Fernando started rather earlier. Magsilbi Tamu (Let’s Serve), which showcases the achievements of City Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, started  airing in 2007.  Sanggunian ng Fernandino, which reports the accomplishments and activities of the city council, aired in 2009.

Although allowed to state the accomplishments of their sponsors, Esguerra said the hosts of these blocktime programs are not allowed to promote political candidates  during the campaign period.

“Neither do we allow them to use their programs for black propaganda against other candidates,” Esguerra added.

CLTV’s fifth blocktime program, For Your Eyes Only, is the sole program that does not deal with politics but with health.

The health program is hosted by eye specialist Dr. Noel Jusay Lacsamana. The doctor mainly discusses eye care, although he incidentally also promotes his eye clinic.

The  program is simultaneously aired over RWFM, which classifies it as the only “teleradyo” program in the regional network.

Although not simultaneously broadcast, the  blocktime TV programs of the City of San Fernando and Angeles City also have their radio counterparts over RWFM.

Angeles City has Abe-abe king Panyulung Angelenos (Angelenos united for progress) while San Fernando has Magsilbi Tamu. The provincial government also has its blocktime program Indung Kapampangan (Mother Tounge) at RWFM. These local government- funded programs  highlight the alleged accomplishments of the administrations in powerin Angeles and San Fernando.

Regional government agencies also have blocktime programs over RWFM. These include Philhealth’s Ikaw, Ako at ang Philhealth, and the Department of Trade and Industry’s Ang Mamimiling Pinoy in which both agencies provide reports and updates on their  respective practices as well as rules and regulations. Both programs are hosted by a representative from the agency and a broadcaster from the radio network.

Bukas Bayan, an environmental show, and Usapang Pinoy, a religious show, are the other blocktimers at RWFM.

Alberto Santiago, marketing manager of RWFM, explained that the same regulations of CLTV 36 in terms of blocktimers apply to their station.

“We only allow reports on their accomplishments while we do not allow them to directly promote their leaders who will be running during the election period,” Santiago said.

Disclaimers, parental guidance

GVFM and GVAM, CLTV 36 and RWFM all air disclaimers before a blocktime program airs.

“This disclaimer conveys to the public that whatever is discussed in the blocktime program is not the view of station management,” GVFM Station Manager Simeon said.

Simeon said they will also start to use a “parental guidance” plug before a blocktime program starts for the benefit of children listening.

To avoid inappropriate words over the air, RWFM Marketing Manager Santiago said blocktime programs are required to have experienced broadcasters as hosts.

“But, if not, stations provide broadcasters to help  the representative of the blocktimer’s company or agency,” Santiago said.

Peak season

Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas-Pampanga Chairman and Pampanga Press Club President Fernando Pangan said a year or earlier before elections is when radio and TV stations get many blocktimers.

“Most blocktimers are seasonal and most of them only air when an election is approaching,” Pangan said.

As of now, most blocktimers in Pampanga are funded by local governments, which promote their leaders’ accomplishments.

But as Pangan said, after elections, government-funded blocktime programs also end.

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Charlene A. Cayabyab is a reporter for the Headline Gitnang Luzon (HGL), a community paper based in Pampanga. She worked as a Central Luzon correspondent for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, a national newspaper, and a reporter for the Sun.Star Pampanga, a daily.