Sunday, 6 April 2014

BIDA: Revisiting one of Arroyo's failed propaganda

BIDA: Revisiting one of Arroyo's failed propaganda

A cartoon, government program, foundation, partylist.

It was 2003 when the state-controlled National Broadcasting Network broadcasted one of its programs associated with the (in)famous Arroyo regime. Other than the "Working President", "Krusada Kontra Krimen" ("Crusade against Crime"), they afford to broadcast a cartoon entitled "BIDA" or "Batang Iwas Droga" (Kids against Drugs).
At first, this writer seemed to be revisiting one of the government's failed propaganda stint. Initially became successful yet end marred by its controversy, BIDA had used children as its tool of support for the failing regime regardless of the organization behind as a private, non-profit, foundation; but the man behind BIDA, Efraim Genuino of PAGCOR had been known as a staunch Arroyo ally and hence using government funds in its program.

That, according to this writer would say as desperate, especially with its cartoon that had no cult audience (unless you are a diehard Arroyo supporter) compared to other Filipino cartoons such as "Barkada Trip."

Lucy, Victor, Mindo
Named after Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao

Founded by BIDA Foundation and one of the propaganda of the past Arroyo regime, BIDA was created by the team of some Filipino animators and sponsored by PAGCOR or Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corporation (with Efraim Genuino as its chairman), GSIS or Government Service Insurance System, and PCSO or Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. At frist, BIDA was a 13-episode cartoon series shown at then-NBN 4 that tells about encouraging youth on how to fight and avoid drug abuse. But to some viewers, another showcase of Philippine animation that is crudely made (unless that animator used to work for Disney or Hanna Barbera).
And like earlier Filipino-made cartoons such as "Panday" and "Darna", or even "Barkada Trip" of Chibibo Toons, BIDA had tried to claim audience particularly to the youth, yet it had rather attained least small audience if not consists of kids coming from public schools. 

The first animated BIDA series tells about three orphan kids who gained powers in order to fight against drug abuse. Their names represented based on Philippine archipelago names- Luzon,Visayas, and Mindanao. The first child was named Lucy, from Luzon, wears a yellow suit and carrying a sash, as well as having abilities similar to gymnastics; Victor-a Visayan child wears a blue suit and has a yoyo as its weapon; and last one, Mindo-young boy from Mindanao wears a red suit with arnis as his weapon. Together, with the help of their mentor known as the Chairman (based from BIDA founder, Efraim Genuino) took a campaign against drug abuse led by a drug lord along with his minions whose intention is to corrupt the minds of children through the use of illegal drugs. 

But, other than the cartoon, BIDA had again created another set of characters, this time for a comic books being marketed to the young audience. The characters consists of Michael, Andrew, Jenny, Lenlen and Macmac. The picture at the top depicted the second wave of BIDA characters aside from the earlier Lucy, Victor, and Mindo. 

The campaign, sponsored by the Department of Education (aside from then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) had initially became successful with its public school tours, targeting around 140,000 students (mostly from primary school level), in order to push its message and encourage children to be involved in arts, sports, and other forms of self-expression (again, against drug abuse) according to Genuino's BIDA Foundation. 
The caravans, also became known as "BIDA Sa Eskwela" had reached Close to 300 schools, mainly in Metro Manila, Cavite, and Laguna during the Arroyo regime. It had even recruited close to 700,000 students to join its BIDA Kids' Club, with its several marketing paraphernalia, including shirts, caps, and mugs that bear BIDA characters to reinforce its message. And with its "widespread popularity" (allegedly so to speak) towards public school children, it also became known for its most successful and publicized event known as the "Grand BIDA March" being held at Luneta last 21 March 2009, wherein one million participants, mainly children obliged from public schools from Metro Manila and surrounding provinces had attended the event, earning it a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “Largest March Against Drug Abuse.”

A government-sponsored propaganda 
that also failed

But despite the successes presented by BIDA Foundation and the program itself, people rather think of it largely as one of the government's own propaganda courtesy of ex-President Arroyo, Funded by Government agencies PAGCOR and PCSO, and broadcasted at NBN-4 every Saturday. The cartoon seemed quite trying hard though to replicate those from its neighbours especially those of Japan, if not the United States with its superhero-ish effect, yet still end crudely made regardless of having both digital and traditional animation being used for the program. According to Batang Rizal, it stated that looking back to it’s animation style, it seemed that it went bad or sometimes jerky especially when it comes to stop motion and fighting scenes as compared to the well-known Ghost Fighter or Virtua Hunter.

Much more that they had even tried to utilize ancient Filipino glyphs just to invoke Filipino-ness as its main source of power on those three kids acting as protagonists fighting against drugs, and supported by none other than Chairman Genuino, in a cartoon form on that late afternoon to evening show. People would still deem him as "Epal" or "Attention stealer" no wonder just like his boss whom frequently shown during commercial breaks of PCSO.

And since it was broadcasted in a government station would say that the program and the project itself was largely connected to the regime (with one of the sponsors a well known Arroyo ally) to support various government projects (that includes Arroyo's personality cult), using anti-drug abuse as its topic with children as its target audience. Yes, it had obliged children to join BIDA, to march in its parade, to wear caps, having bags and stuff for the sake of grades through participation in government-sponsored activities regardless of its animation far from the anim├ęs usually being watched by these kids. 

But despite their efforts, it had end failed with its program being cancelled, the foundation had even became an object of controversy with PAGCOR and Chairman Genuino implicated in charges related to the use of Government funds in the campaign, as well as other issues such as funding of the movie "Baler".

Using the foundation for different transactions
Failed attempt to join politics, 
Controversies surrounding BIDA

No wonder that in a foundation or any other organization heavily sponsored by the corrupt government couldn't escape people's ridicule. That, with Efraim Genuino, BIDA, and even PAGCOR being implicated in issues involving misuse of government funds, if not trying to use the foundation for political purposes. Just like the latest issue involving misuse of government funds by pseudo-NGOs, it is possible for a government official, particularly of a higher-ranking one and at the same time running over a private non-profit foundation to circumvent laws in pursuit of self-interest, especially in handling government funds using programs and activities as its pretext.

 As according to Kirby Garlitos

  "The Philippines’ Commission on Audit has come down hard on ex PAGCOR CEO Efraim Genuino over what it deemed as mis-using government funds to buy, of all things, movie tickets. Genuino, together with eight former PAGCOR officials, have been ordered by the COA to return Php26.7 million, money the group used to buy 89,000 tickets for the movie “Baler” back in 2008. According to the COA, the Genuino-led group had no authority to splurge the government funds for freakin’ movie tickets because the Pagcor charter prohibits use of its funds for activities like the one Genuino’s administration cooked up leading to the release of the movie. Back then, the tickets were purchased for the purpose of distributing them to 12 PAGCOR casino branches with the remittances reportedly made payable to Genuino’s Batang Iwas Droga (BIDA) Foundation Inc."

In other words, Genuino and PAGCOR had used BIDA for transactions that used government money, and hence subjected to controversy.

It had even attempted to use BIDA for political purposes. That, other than "Batang Iwas Droga", it also became known as Binigkis na Interes ng mga Drayber sa Adhikain Inc. (According to the group Kontra Daya) Sharing the same purpose and at the same time expanding to other sectors such as drivers. 
The appeal may be populist, but isn't it obvious that a supposed program, like others supported by the government end as political groups such as from an organization of allegedly 700,000 primary school students end speaking on behalf of drivers? Did BIDA, in its attempt as a partylist allegedly supporting drivers had once supported anti cartel laws or advocating the control of oil prices? Or just one of the supporters of the Arroyo bloc trying to maintain in its last gasp last 2010? 

One would remember that there were partylists whose representatives weren't representing their so-called sectors, instead trying to keep firm as bureaucrats, a typical traditional politician whose populist appeal tries to negate issues surrounding its own- particularly those that are deem immoral and sinful in the eyes of the common people. BIDA originally meant to be a program on behalf of children and communities opposing drug abuse like the Citizen's Drug Watch of Ernesto Hererra, or even the failed "Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga" (MAD) that once led by Richard Gomez. 

 But like MAD, it became an object of controversy especially that it was conceived as a government-sponsored program and not of a political organization. Government officials turned politicians may had tried turning such programs, especially those of anti-crime into sectoral groups allegedly representing the semi-proletariat yet obviously doesn't even create nor lobby for laws that really represent the sector ought to benefit for; but instead, a show off if not a front representing the former president as BIDA and others were largely connected to the past regime, hence a bloc.


Like any other propaganda made by the government and shown in stations like PTV, this writer would say that they had took effort in presenting things to the people, whether it tackles about anti-drugs, rice production, anti-terrorism, health, and others the government took interest much. Some may had initial successes while others end failed due to lack of appeal from the people; unless you have to be like Juan Flavier that, in cooperation with fastfood chain Jollibee had to use the latter as vaccination centers; or with Gerry Geronimo in its agricultural programs through his "Ating Alamin."

But as expected, there were programs that end up as lobbying groups if not means to keep in power using a hoge podge of pseudo-platforms and a little dash of populist appeal as what BIDA or any other  program turned organization trying to show to the people. How come an organization whose original intention appeals to children in fighting against drug abuse had end speaking on behalf of drivers without any platform other than what they usually tackle about? Much more that it had wasted government money and being used as a name for transactions using those funds. 

Perhaps, regardless of the group behind BIDA stated as private, non-profit foundation, it will always be remained equated to the regime who acted as its benefactor.