DAVAO CITY—Confusion has overtaken the communications group of the incoming Duterte administration with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte himself saying he would boycott the media even as his media handlers struggled to determine official responsibilities.
“If you don’t want to boycott [Duterte], he said he will be the one to boycott you,” his personal aide Christopher Go told reporters in a text message after local journalists refused to boycott coverage of the new president-elect.
Duterte decided Friday evening to stop briefings with the media after the international media group Reporters Without Borders urged local media to boycott Duterte because of his remarks on the killings of corrupt journalists.
At the same time, the Presidential Security Group personnel detailed with the president-elect barred private television networks from covering the thanksgiving party for Duterte “for security reasons.”
The PSG advised media entities “to remove all media setups near the stage and prevent backpack video coverage inside the grass ground... RTVM (Radio-TV Malacañang) and PTV 4 only allowed,” the message read.
Calls to Press Secretary-designate Salvador Panelo the whole of Saturday were left unanswered and Communications Secretary-designate Martin Andanar could only hold an impromptu briefing to say that the media group did not have a final structure yet.
“What the president wants is for his communications group to be fixed the soonest time possible,” Andanar, who will be heading the Presidential Communications Operations Office portfolio, told The Standard.
“The clear marching order is to give him the final structure of the media group,” he said.
“I think it’s good that there should be division, there’s someone who’s the spokesperson and there’s a strategic message [formulator]. But then again, we have yet to talk on our structure [and] how will we handle this,” he added.
But even official responsibilities of Panelo and Andanar were confused after it emerged that they were actually designated to the same position under prevailing rules.
The Administrative Code of 1987 separated the functions of press secretary and presidential spokesperson who was previously under the Office of the President, but President Benigno Aquino issued in 2010 Executive Order No. 4 renaming the Office of the Press Secretary as Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Andanar did not specify if Panelo would continue to serve as press secretary although Duterte himself had already said that he would remain as his presidential spokesperson, also a Cabinet position.
The only vacant position in the presidential media group is the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office, Andanar said, adding that they already have a candidate for the PCDSPO but declined to identify him.
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