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All the President’s men

The Manila Times logo The Manila Times 2/12/2020 Ramon T. Tulfo

(Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.)

I CAUGHT Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s television address to his compatriots on Channel News Asia on what their government was doing to contain the newly named coronavirus disease 2019, or Covid-19, threat.

The nine-minute extemporaneous speech was reassuring to the 5.8 million Singaporeans.

Lee apparently assuaged the fear over the coronavirus epidemic among his constituents because a Singaporean friend of mine called me Sunday night saying he felt secure after listening to their leader’s message.

What Lee did was a coup, courtesy of his media handlers.

Here at home, nobody at the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), formerly the Malacañang Press Office, has thought of having President Rodrigo Duterte go on national television to address the nation to reassure the Filipino people that everything is all right.

That despite incurring the first death from the coronavirus outside China, the Philippines is still safe from the coronavirus epidemic.

The government-owned PTV4 television network and the Voice of the Philippines (dzRP) radio, which are aired nationwide, could have done a good job of putting the President on air to reassure the nation.

Talk about competence in making the President interact with the people in these critical times.

The PCOO was caught sleeping on the job. As they say in Tagalog, natutulog sa pancitan.

* * *

From 1933 to 1944, United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a regular evening address to the American people about current issues.

Called the “Fireside Chat,” Roosevelt would go on radio every night — television was not yet in vogue at the time — to reassure the Americans that their government was on top of the national crisis of the 1930s, called Great Depression, and later in the years when the US was fighting World War 2.

Roosevelt’s famous quote — “There is nothing to fear but fear itself” — was made during his inaugural address and repeated in his Fireside Chat.

President Digong, who enjoys a very high popularity rating among the masses, would do well to reassure the people that the government is on top of the coronavirus crisis.

* * *

Why can’t all the President’s men put their act together?

The more Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo denies there is a division in the Cabinet over the termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the more the public is confused.

The following is Panelo’s public statement on the President’s order terminating the VFA, with my parenthetical comments:

“It is amusing to observe a recent surge of news reports narrating that members of the President’s official family are contradicting one another anent his order to issue a notice of termination for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).”

(Not amusing, Mr. Panelo, it’s worrisome that members of the President’s official family are indeed contradicting one another. It would seem to show that there is infighting in the Cabinet, which does not speak well of what’s happening inside the Palace. – RTT)

“There is neither contradiction nor inconsistency among the statements made by this representation, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.”

(But why did Medialdea tell the media that he had not yet received instructions from the President after you already told reporters the President wanted the VFA terminated? You, as the Palace spokesman, and Medialdea, the little [big boy] president, are supposed to coordinate with each other on the President’s statements of national significance, but apparently you don’t. Kanya-kanyang pataasan ng ihi, as they say in Tagalog. – RTT)

“This representation was merely quoting the President when he said that he would instruct the executive secretary to tell the Department of Foreign Affairs to send a notice of termination to the United States on the VFA. To be clear, this representation did not say that the directive of the President to executive secretary had already been issued or given. The said instruction from the tenor of the President using the future tense is just forthcoming. The President may even directly instruct Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on the matter. It is much ado over nothing.”

(Mr. Panelo, you’re fooling the people by quibbling. – RTT)

“Secretary Lorenzana said that the President has not given any instructions to Secretary Locsin to undertake steps on the termination yet. Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Medialdea confirmed he has not received any instructions to relay the message to anyone yet.”

(Protocol dictates that before or after the President issues an order, the executive secretary relays the order to government agencies that will implement it. In the case of terminating the VFA, the Foreign Affairs secretary should have been the first to know since it’s a diplomatic matter. Now, why was Locsin not informed about the order? – RTT)

“Secretary Lorenzana said that the President has not given any instruction to Secretary Locsin to undertake steps on the termination yet. Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Medialdea confirmed that he has not received any instruction to relay the message to anyone yet.”

(Oh, boy! Say again, please? – RTT)

“If the President has not given his instruction yet, then the statement of Executive Secretary Medialdea and Secretary Lorenzana are accurate. This, however, does not mean that the information I shared with the media on the President’s decision with regard to the VFA is inaccurate or untrue. It simply means that the executive secretary has yet to received the directive from the President.”

(Granted the President told you [Panelo] to tell the media that he was putting an end to the VFA, wasn’t it incumbent upon you to tell Medialdea, Locsin and Lorenzana about the President’s instructions? – RTT )

“What is inaccurate and untrue are news articles saying there is an internal clash within the President’s Cabinet on the situation. There is none. We are always in unison with respect to the policies enunciated by the President.”

(Tell that to the marines. – RTT)

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