Abella alone can speak for Duterte – Andanar
MANILA, Philippines – One spokesperson, one message.
This is what Communications Secretary Martin Andanar wants for the communication strategy of the Duterte administration after conflicting messages from Palace officials drew heavy criticism in recent weeks.
"I appealed to the Cabinet secretaries to follow the standard operating procedure which was agreed upon right from day one, July 1 of 2016 – that it is only indeed [Presidential Spokesman] Abella who can speak on behalf of the President," Andanar said on Thursday, September 15, during a Palace press briefing.
He made his appeal on Wednesday night during the 6th Cabinet meeting. He said he had taken to heart the comment of Senator Panfilo Lacson "on the problem of having too many spokespersons." (READ: PH credibility to suffer if Duterte keeps changing statements)
During the Cabinet meeting, Andanar had told President Rodrigo Duterte about the criticism on the administration's communication strategy. He mentioned a certain "person" who has been the talk of the town amid instances of miscommunication but did not identify this person.
"I brought up the issue to the President yesterday in the meeting and I told the President that: 'Mr President, we have been heavily criticized for the past week and this person has been the flavor of the week,'" said Andanar.
Duterte supposedly agreed to Andanar's suggestion that only Abella can clarify presidential statements to the press.
"I said: Mr President, as far as I know, we only have one presidential spokesperson and the presidential spokesperson is none other than Ernesto Abella…Every time [Presidential Spokesman] Abella is not around, that is the only time that this Secretary comes in to explain and to talk on behalf of the President," said Andanar.
Aside from Abella and Andanar, other Cabinet appointees have faced the media or issued statements to clarify Duterte's words. These include Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo and Chief Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza.
Andanar also asked the media to relay clarificatory questions to the Presidential Communications Office, to which Andanar and Abella belong, which will direct journalists "to a Cabinet member who can comprehensively answer what our President said." This would only apply to instances when the topic is beyond Abella's expertise or knowledge.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go, and Andanar had been discussing this directive for the past 3 weeks.
This was around the time the Palace had a communication breakdown in relaying to the press the coverage of Duterte's declaration of a state of lawless violence after the deadly Davao City bombing. (READ: How state of lawlessness was 'miscommunicated')
After that, the PCO was also criticized for the premature announcement of the seating plan during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the controversial Facebook post of the Official Gazette commemorating the 99th birth anniversary of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos. – Rappler.com