First, we need a clarification from the Aquino administration on a key point of law and policy.
When presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda officially speaks, are we supposed to believe that he is speaking for the President, that everything he says is fully sanctioned by the President?
We believe this matter needs clarification because, strictly speaking, the position of the presidential spokesman did not exist in our presidential system, until this peculiar presidency of Benigno BS Aquino 3rd.
Besides Lacierda, the President also has communications secretary Sonny Coloma, who issues countless statements using the pronoun “we”, as though he were speaking for himself and the President.
A year ago, Aquino also had a strategic messaging secretary in the person of Ricky Carandang. Then he strategically disappeared when President Aquino ran into a horde of problems, and has not been heard from since.
In the US presidential system, there is no position for a presidential spokesman. President Obama, who is an able public speaker and quite adept at obfuscation, would never allow such a creature to exist. What the White House has are two members of the staff who deal with communications and the media: the press secretary and the communications director. They each have distinct responsibilities.
The US tradition is for the press secretary and communications director to provide deep background briefings on the actions and policies of the President. They are not quoted as speaking for the President, only as sources close to the President.
We deal with this subject today, in our editorial, because of late, Mr. Lacierda has been issuing major statements that the public and the media are supposed to regard as coming from President Aquino.
Two of these statements are:
1. First, President Aquino will never apologize to the nation and to the widows and families of the slain 44 SAF commandos for what happened in Mamasapano.
2. Second, Lacierda declared that the Bangsamoro Basic Law cannot wait until the next presidential administration. It’s either we do this during Aquino’s term or never.
We believe Lacierda’s statement that the Bangsamoro law cannot wait until the next administration requires immediate and substantive response.
In fine, what he said in his briefing of the media last Monday, was this: The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should be passed within President Aquino’s term, despite doubts raised about the measure following the January 25 Mamasapano Massacre.
He said: “We do not see ourselves looking at the BBL being passed by the next administration. This is an important piece of legislation.”
Lacierda also said the draft BBL is “bigger than the Mamasapano incident.”
And then he added this shocker: That the best way to honor the 44 commandos killed in Mamasapano, is for Congress to pass the BBL.”
“We regret the loss of our police commandos… We didn’t labor in vain here. Peace panels did not labor in vain. The SAF commandos did not die in vain as well.”
Response to this statement from members of Congress has been sporadic and scattered.
In a statement that surprised many, Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th, a key ally of President Aquino, declared that the BBL could wait until the next administration for as long as the ceasefire and the peace talks are still in place. He did not rule out the possibility that his enemy, Vice-President Jejomar Binay, could be the next President.
Trillanes vowed that the Senate would not pass the BBL in its present form, which would create a monster of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) with its own army and police force, and would receive P100 billion annually in government funds from the budget.
Trillanes pointed out that since trust has been lost between the MILF and the government after the Mamasapano Massacre, the Aquino administration should not insist on its timeline, especially now that emotions are high.
For his part, Senator Sergio Osmeña 3rd asked President Aquino to apologize for the Mamasapano fiasco since he committed grave violations in (1) allowing suspended PNP Director General Alan Purisima to direct the Mamasapano operation; and (2) in bypassing Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina.
Similar sentiments have been expressed at the House of Representatives.
Passage of the Bangsamoro Law must wait.