AFTER a series of communication mishaps, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Thursday said he appealed to other Cabinet members to let Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella clarify the statements made by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I appealed to the Cabinet secretaries to follow the standard operating procedure which was agreed upon right from day one, July 1, 2016, that it is only [Under]secretary [Ernesto] Abella who can speak on behalf of the President,” Andanar told reporters.
He made his statement even as Malacañang on Thursday defended Duterte’s decision to explore buying arms from China to combat terrorism, even if that ran contradictory to his earlier statements criticizing the quality of the equipment that China offers.
“Not all the products of China are that bad. In fact, even the laptops that you use are also produced in China,” Andanar said.
“Most of the things that we use here are also made in China.”
On Tuesday, Duterte said he wanted to buy arms from Russia and China after the two countries enticed him with attractive loan offers to help him fight terrorism and insurgency in Mindanao.
Andanar, who heads the Presidential Communications Operations Office, issued the statement after drawing flak following several communication gaffes between and among Cabinet secretaries who were trying to decipher and interpret “what the President really meant.”
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Go, and Andanar had been discussing this directive for the past three weeks.
Shortly after Duterte declared a “state of lawlessness” in the country, it took many hours to get a definitive and unified response from government officials as loose messages arose during the mishap, with Abella and another PCO official claiming that the state of lawlessness “only covers Mindanao.”
This was immediately recanted by Special Assistant Christopher Go and Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo that the declaration encompassed the whole country.
During Duterte’s first foreign trip, Andanar accepted responsibility for an erroneous press release saying Duterte would be seated between US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, but suggested that it was someone in his staff that was at fault.
Days later, the Palace media office once again became the object of public ridicule after Filipino internet users criticized the online Official Gazette for posting a social media card to mark the 99th birth anniversary of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
Internet users slammed the Official Gazette, the official government online site that is under his office’s supervision as the “Superficial Gazette” on a spoof Facebook page for “historical revisionism.”
Andanar said that, under a new policy, it would be the PCO that will make the clarifications for the President, or if the need arose, questions could be transmitted to the Cabinet secretaries concerned.