Senator Panfilo Lacson expressed his concern on Wednesday, September 14, about the impact President Rodrigo Duterte and his communication teams’ conflicting policy statements will have on the Philippines’ credibility.
The senator also advised Malacañang’s spokespersons and everyone else authorized to speak in behalf of Duterte to speak in one voice.
“Mag-practice sila ng isang boses lang kasi minsan nag-e-explain na nga, nagkakaiba pa ng explanation. Magti-three months na, dapat by this time kilala na nila, parang na-anticipate na nila,” Lacson said.
Lacson knows that Duterte tends not to listen to “unsolicited advice” even from his closest friends so he advises the communications team to anticipate the issues that the President might get entangled in.
“They should learn to anticipate the current developing issues and be able to slip through the special assistant [Christopher “Bong” Go] a simple, informative executive brief on a regular basis,” Lacson said.
As for conducting “damage control,” the senator wanted to give this tip to Duterte’s men: “They should learn the art of lying closest to the truth.”
“Kasi kung paiba-iba ang salita mo and audience mo is the international community, maski papano magsa-suffer ang credibility not only of the head of state kundi buong country as well,” he added.
Lacson said that other countries might say, “Dahil ano ba itong Philippines, how can we deal with a country na paiba-iba ang policy statement?”
The senator pointed out that as the president of the Philippines, whatever Duterte says can be considered as a final policy statement.
“Whether we like it or not, maski sabihing basis pa lang sa policy ang sinabi, pag President nagsalita, ang assumption doon is final,” he said.
Citing Duterte’s earlier promise to change the way he speaks once he becomes president, Lacson said that Duterte should try to change for the better.
“Kaya dapat ang – alam mo nangako siya noon na mag-metamorphose siya. Baka it takes time to metamorphose into a real statesman,” Lacson said.
Communications team is trying to improve
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar responded to Lacson’s advice in a text message to GMA News Online.
“We welcome Senator Lacson’s wisdom. Rest assured that OPS, the PCO and a handful of Cabinet secretaries, who are members of the communications core group, are working closely to improve our collective communications policy,” Andanar said.
GMA News Online then went on to recount a few instances wherein Duterte and his communications team, dubbed by others as “miscommunications team” after they made a series of blunders, made inconsistent statements.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella clarified on Tuesday that Duterte telling US troops to stay out of Mindanao was not a policy statement.
On the same day, Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay insisted that Duterte did not attend the ASEAN-US Summit in Laos last week because he was not feeling well, as what he earlier claimed. This is contradictory to what Duterte revealed on Monday that he “purposely” skipped the meeting as a “matter of principle” for him.
Last month, Duterte threatened to take the Philippines out of the United Nations after UN special rapporteurs said that they wanted to investigate the killings of drug suspects in the country due to the government’s war against drugs. Yasay then issued a statement saying that what Duterte said about the UN was simply “expressing profound disappointment and frustration.”
A week before that, Abella denied that Malacañang invited the UN special rapporteurs to come to the Philippines to investigate the alleged extrajudicial killings. However, presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo earlier dared the UN representatives to “better come over and see for themselves the real situation.”