• Deegong’s controversial alter egos: The talking heads

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    LITO MONICO C. LORENZANA

    Part 2
    PRESIDENT Deegong’s breakout from an image of a small-time but effective local city mayor to a national candidate of prominence and onto the presidency was single-handedly defined by the force of his personality. Looking back these past two years from his debut on the national stage, his image as a no-nonsense mayor was projected at first by the local media and captured by the national press but, as claimed by some locals, was distorted to some extent, such that at one point, the Deegong refused any further “press-cons”.

    The original talking head, Secretary Pete Lavina, who was competent enough speaking for the Deegong locally was out of his element on the national stage. His demeanor and attempt at the “English language” was perceived to be a disaster; and he was unjustly disparaged for it. Blame too could be attributed to the Deegong who may not have understood the difficult role of his spokesperson. One cannot cage a whirlwind out to proclaim his message to the four corners.

    Atty. Panelo’s stint was even more short-lived as the Deegong’s message was deflected by the flamboyant persona of the talking head himself; redirecting instead people’s attention to his sartorial tastes, a garish multi-hued combination and his forced attempt at explaining the presidency, also in colorful language uniquely the President’s. He was better off using his excellent legal mind in the service of the President away from the public glare.

    The two that followed, Secretary Martin Andanar, the communications director, and Secretary Ernie Abella, the presidential spokesperson, have been recruited to do almost impossible jobs. Which brings us to the issue at hand.

    These two Cabinet members who handle the Deegong’s image and disseminate his messages are his alter egos too, and aside from being his political heat shields and lightning rods, must understand the more specialized roles assigned to them. The current problem of “vigilantism and extra-judicial killing” has entered the lexicon of the political conversation. This issue needs to be expounded in a different light projecting a different image. Changing the face of the issue is one such tool in political management. The issue must emphasize the inevitable slow but deadly slide towards narco-political abyss. Why not capture a big fat drug lord and make an example of him? A Lim Seng of the Marcos regime but going through the justice system–-and doing it fast. Surely, the political capital of the Deegong can guarantee fast justice.

    Or project real investigations of rogue policemen and generals whom the Deegong have already shamed, but not in the TV camera-centered congressional hearings that go nowhere. Why only poor dead addicts, why not dead rogue policemen and rich corrupt politicians? Why not sample congressmen in the presidential blue list (refer to the Manila Times, “Conversations with the Deegong” Dec 15, 22, 29 2016…www.cdpi.asia)

    And this cannot be the job only of the “talking heads”. Make it an executive department-wide concern and expand the context by bringing it to the national consciousness. Field articulate Cabinet members to several national TV and radio networks where they can defend the government action on illegal drugs as a legitimate response to a threat, menace and danger. There are countless literature and horror stories in Columbia, Mexico and some other South American countries of drug cartels and narco-politicians capturing political and economic power and sipping the life-blood of the country dry. Bring these out as illustrations of weak states! This massive government response could succeed in changing the character of the debate from one focused on human rights violations to that of the legitimate right of the people with the help of government to defend themselves and their homes from the evils of illegal drugs. But this can’t be left alone for the President to champion. This requires a well-oiled team in the highest echelons of government. But do we have that team? (This will be discussed in the last part of this 3-part article).

    Relating with external environment
    (Excerpts from the above-mentioned paper www.cdpi.asia) “A critical appreciation of a job of high officials in public service is the importance of relating with key elements of their external environment: interest groups and lobbyists who tend to see their issues as having preeminence over others (anti- and pro-capital punishment etc.); a majority of those who supported the winner’s candidacy may call upon the administration to extract their pound of political flesh for their perceived entitlements; the practitioners in the media who consider themselves the “fourth estate” and sometimes final arbiter of conflicts, and are prone to reporting controversial events and nothing else. The power of social media and the internet was also shown during the presidential campaign, which helped catapult the Deegong to the presidency, freeing him from dependence on the editorial boards. The political and legislative overseers who have a handle on the Cabinet departments’ resources (threat of budget cuts, tightening funds flow, restrictive laws and regulations); and the more important authorizing environment, Congress and more particularly the President, who, in the course of the transition from the PNoy regime also brought with him a new change in a set of dominant values

    “It is in relation to the realities of this new seven-month old government, the dictates of the coalition of political parties that support it and the decisions dominated by political imperatives that will have to reshape the missions and goals of each department and of each Cabinet secretary. They who are themselves the President’s personal choices should be ready to accept Usecs and Asecs whose qualifications are offshoots of the politics of patronage and spoils system—not necessarily congruent with the demands and skills needed for the jobs.”

    (Part 3 will appear on Feb 9.)
    The author served under four Philippine Presidents in various capacities as a member of the Cabinet and several commissions. A Harvard-educated political technocrat, he was one of the prime movers of the Citizens Movement for Federal Philippines (CMFP); one of the founders of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP); Ang Parted ng Tunay na Demokrasya; and the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI)

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