PCOO Sec. Martin Andanar speaks to the residents of Barangay Singcang-Airport, Bacolod City during the
pilot KumpaS Barangay (Hinun-anon sa Barangay) on March 24, 2017. (PIA 6)

In Manila, an article noting that there’s a dangerous heat wave was circulating all over the net. It was 41 degrees the day before and the warmth can be felt across the Metropolis. The weather was as unforgiving in Bacolod City that Friday afternoon. The heat was searing, but there were people working overtime at the covered court of Jose Torres Elementary School where an event is about to take place in a few hours. These men and women wanted to make sure everything is ready for the upcoming gathering.

“Makuha at maintindihan ang saloobin ng ordinaryong mamayan,” read the description of what the program is all about. What this meeting hopes to accomplish is sincerely show that the government wants to speak to the people directly, and hear the concerns of community leaders who knows their barangay’s needs best.

Today’s activity is dubbed KumpaS Barangay and is organized by the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO). Kumpas in Tagalog means to make things clear or to direct, depending on the word’s usage, and this forum is designed to be a platform where the common Filipino is represented.

It’s the first of many barangay forums that the PCOO wants to hold and they’re starting here at Barangay Singcang, one of the biggest communities in Bacolod with an estimated 41,000 residents. One of Singcang’s major needs is livelihood opportunities for drug surrenders and everyone else who’s unemployed.

It’s almost 2PM and Punong Barangay Rosinie Distrito will introduce Andanar to the crowd.

"Ipaparating ko sa ating Pangulo ang inyong mga tanong at opinyon" said Martin Andanar, in his opening remarks. The head of PCOO and the country’s Communications Secretary is facilitating KumpaS. His presence there is a testament to his goal to use person-to-person interaction to bring the government close to the people.

Since the beginning of this year, PCOO have been holding roadshows all over the country to discuss government programs and services to a multi-sectoral set of influencers. They started in Davao and have since gone to Zamboanga, Baguio, Cebu, and earlier that morning at Bacolod SMX Convention Center. The information dissemination campaign intended to speak to and listen to a broad range of community influencers from all over the city and province.

After Andanar’s short opening remarks and the panelists’ introduction, it was time for the question and answer segment of the program. Priscilla Gocco, 55, who’s representing the labor sector asked:

“Naririnig po namin na ayaw ni Pangulong Duterte ng contractualization. Papaano po ito masosolusyonan ng ating gobyerno?”

Speaking in his broadcast journalist voice and eye-to-eye with Gocco: “Kasalukuyang pinag-aaralann papaano matitigil ang contractualization. Pero napakaklaro sa sinasabi ng Pangulo na sya ay labag dito,” Andanar replied.

More questions followed, coming from the group whose age ranged from 23-75 years old. Like the bigger roadshows, it’s multi-sectoral as intended, with questions coming from men and women representing the youth, the education, and the senior citizens sector. The audience are barangay residents.

After the KumpaS.

It was a lively discussion and though time was limited (the event’s duration was kept at an hour, the bulk of it dedicated to interactions with the Secretary), you’d know there was actually a conversation that happened. Thanks to a man who wants to listen and a people who wants to be heard.

When the whole thing concluded, no one left in haste—at least because of the group picture. But the Secretary together with other PCOO and government officials were still in tow to speak to as many people from the audience as possible. There were around 250 of them.

“Bringing a government closer to the people thru a working PCOO and towards a well-informed citizenry,” was the primary objective of KumpaS Barangay.

The Philippine Information Agency (PIA), an attached unit of the PCOO specializing in development communication, have been heralding this tagline since the start of the Duterte Administration, “a well-informed Filipino is an empowered Filipino.” Together with the state-run tabloid Mula Sa Masa Para Sa Masa, they reached out to Barangay Singcang to make this event happen. The PIA and Mula Sa Masa wants to empower the citizenry with information and make them realized that they have a government who’s listening.

After KumpaS ended, the speakers hauled out and the banners cleared from the basketball court—it’s once again a haven for all the kids who wants to play ball, one man is left with a major assignment to fulfill.

Inform the President of what he heard.

Now that this barangay forum has concluded and the PCOO prepares to go to other communities, all the attendees were reminded that there are a multitude more voices that needs to be heard. And the President and his communications team have a lot of listening to do. They’re determined to do so: one barangay at a time.