Why Social Media Papogi Is Hard: On the DPWH Photoshop Disaster

Everybody wants to look good, and some people go to great—and even imaginary—lengths for it. But telling a tall tale to acquaintances over a few drinks is an extremely different deal from spinning stories on social media networks. The tangled web of lies multiplies exponentially when you try to pull it off online, because there are tens of thousands of people bored enough, good enough at stalking, or obsessed enough to call your bluff.

Sadly, this lesson was lost on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). A week ago, a picture of Undersecretary Romeo Momo, Director Rey Tagudando and District Engineer Mikunug Macud apparently inspecting the damage along Roxas Boulevard after typhoon Pedring hit appeared on their Facebook page. The problem was that the photo was obviously fake, with the three officials edited in.

Note how the officials seem to be tiptoeing on rubble. Tough work indeed.

This sparked highly negative reactions, and DPWH apologized. Another problem though—they apologized to the officials first, and waited for more rage before half-heartedly apologizing to the public. In a seemingly desperate attempt at looking for a scapegoat, they even blamed the photographer. They also claimed that the photo was posted by an “overeager” employee who had been dealt with. Sadly, this whole fiasco even reached the Washington Post. And we ever-humorous Filipinos found a way of turning this into a running joke by photoshopping the three officials in hilarious settings—from Da Vinci paintings to movie posters.

Note: As much as I would like to join in the fun, I’ll be decent (in this blog, at least) by not posting any edited pictures or linking to the Facebook page of spoofs. (You’ve probably seen it anyway).

The thing here is that even if the DPWH placed the blame on their page moderator, their department will still and will always be the bad guys. The fact that angered most Filipinos is that they displayed the intention to deceive us. Trust is a big thing for a brand, and being a government agency, trust should be of premium importance to the DPWH. True, the page moderator may have acted independently, but that move reflects on the values that DPWH instills in their employees. Why in the world would they even feel the need to (badly) manipulate a picture?

What we see here is a carryover of the political papogi tactic, where government officials, in their effort to look good without really getting things done, do all sorts of antics for publicity’s sake. If this mentality is second-nature to the DPWH employees, it gives us a peek at how PR is done in their department.

There are a couple of lessons to be learned from this whole thing:

One, is that an organization needs to be coordinated. Online and offline efforts need to be able to be consistent, to be able to relay to the target audience who the organization is and what it does.

Two, is that apologies must be swift, and they must be made to the right people. The main stakeholders—in DPWH’s case, the public—need to be addressed first.

Three, is that an organization needs to get its stuff together before it can start publicizing. Coordination is important, but watching every employee’s every move isn’t necessary when they instinctively think and act according to the organization’s identity. Members of an organization which communicates the importance of honesty and integrity—something we have the right to expect from our government—won’t even think of doing anything deceptive, even with something as simple as a photo.

Hopefully, this reputation train wreck for the DPWH will serve as a lesson for the other government agencies and companies. Online isn’t the best place for “reinventing” (read: lying about) yourself, because we’re watching your every move.

About rz fortajada
20, Student | Frustrated Rockstar | Part-time Ninja Turtle | Blogger

7 Responses to Why Social Media Papogi Is Hard: On the DPWH Photoshop Disaster

  1. neonwhat says:

    Ano ba naman yan! Sumakit bangs ko #forreal.

    Seriously, I think that the photoshopped image is an insult to all Filipinos. Nakakahiya na akala nila na hindi ito mapapansin ng mga Pinoy. Nakakahiya lalo na sinubukan nilang linlangin ang taong bayan.

    Good thing there are watchdogs out there in the social media world.


  2. Pingback: Nakakaoffend! On Nikon’s Socially Awkward Moment « The OrCommuter

  3. mariakarencristinelegion says:

    I remember what Ms. Elaine Uy mentioned during our OrCom 3D seminar: “The issue is not who did it but why it (the editing) was done in the first place.”

    I think we all agree that the DPWH management did not handle the situation properly. Instead of pointing fingers to any person they could think of just to salvage their reputation, they should have just admitted that it was an honest mistake and that they did not intend to offend anyone with the decision/s they made. They may be bombarded with negative reactions if they would make this move, but at least they would not add insult to injury by blaming others aside themselves.

    Social media’s a jungle. Every wrong decision may lead up to a crisis blown out of proportions. This is exactly the reason that Philippine brands/companies/agencies need OrCommunicologists to help them manage a crisis like this and other (possibly, worse) crises in the future.

    I’ll be patrolling with you around the streets of the online world, Rz! 😉

  4. Mara Martinez says:

    I was really disappointed when I heard about this issue not only because of the failed Photoshop work, but with how they saw Filipinos as stupid and can easily be swayed by a Photoshop-ed picture.

    I strongly agree that it is vital for every organization to maintain their reputation by being consistent with their principles and their actions, especially when their using social media as their communication medium. This is because news online travels fast. And once a bad news or a case of a bad PR is out online, it could spread like wildfire in just a few minutes.

    You can try reading this for more discussion on why it is important to make your actions consistent with the message you’re sending. 😉

  5. Mara Martinez says:

    *for more discussions

  6. First of all, I’d like to congratulate you for the title, Rizza. PAPOGI is awesome. It actually does make sense. People want to present themselves as something to get attention or to impress other people online. In this case, it’s public officials at it, trying to get the publicity they badly want.

    I agree that even though the moderator really is to blame, it is not merely the reputation of that person that is in trouble – it’s the whole DPWH. It speaks about how well DPWH can handle its people and how well it can really do its job. DPWH is a government body so it’s pretty bad to see the Filipino’s trust once again played.

  7. Brian says:

    The edited photos of these men being in every place imaginable has been entertaining me for weeks now. 😀 On a serious note, I agree with you that trust is really important for brands to have. A single incident like this could tarnish DPWH’s credibility for years and the department really should have just humbled itself and admitted that it didn’t intend to deceive anyone.

    Til your next post, Rizza! 🙂

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