The frustration of many in the media and the public over the non-response of Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. to questions about the charges of one paper and one columnist that former PNP chief Alan Purisima had collected nearly P1 billion from one casino, would be lessened if the good secretary would enlighten the public about what exactly are the functions of his office.
Is the Communications office part of the Office of the President?
Or is it a regular department of government like the Department of Public Information during the Marcos presidency, when Times columnist Francisco Tatad served as information minister?
At times it seems as though Mr. Coloma is just one more spokesman of President Aquino, in addition to press secretary Edwin Lacierda and his deputy Abigail Valte. In this role, Coloma seems to limit himself to being just a member of the president’s staff – with the fillip that when he speaks, it is the president speaking through him.
At other times, it seems as if Mr. Coloma has arrogated to himself the role of spokesman for the entire executive branch of government, serving as a full-fledged member of the Cabinet, as he comments on everything that happens under the administration. This is why the Malacañang press corps immediately pressed him for an official statement when the Purisima story was published.
The way things happened, Mr. Coloma muddled things by giving a lazy response and using text messaging as his medium of communication. Text message? Doesn’t the administration budget billions for communications?
Coloma casually declared that anyone can file charges against Mr. Purisima if they have the proof to show he embezzled public funds during his term as head of the Philippine National Police.
The full text message read: “Citizens are encouraged to participate actively in ensuring the accountability of public officials if they are aware of improper or illegal acts committed by public officials.”
He said citizens with the goods on Purisima should file criminal charges for violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) at the Office of the Ombudsman.
This is totally unhelpful and evasive. He seems to suggest that the Aquino administration does not care enough about the charge to order an invesrtigation by appropriate agencies.
And then he appears to suggest that a citizen should take matters into his own hands, if he can.
This is absurd and irresponsible.
To be sure, not all charges against officials should necessarily be given credence or should be investigated. It remains to be seen whether the claims of the columnist will really hold water and can stand the test of scrutiny. But it is also possible that this story has substance. The story was supported by documents and receipts. The casino does exist, the payoffs were made, and they were collected.
The fact that it was a certain “Alan La Madrid Purisima” who appears to have received P937,424,003.85 from the First Cagayan casino rings a familiar bell. The public has heard too much about Purisima already – mostly unsavory.
Whichever hat he may wish to wear, Presidential Spokesman or Communications Czar, Mr. Coloma cannot dismiss the matter as unworthy of official attention.
Malacañang communications would be much more efficient and effective, if it adopts the White House system in the US, where there are two bodies to handle presidential communications.
One is the White house press office. The office, a staff mainly, is headed by the press secretary. It is largely reactive. It responds to the needs of the White House press corps.
The other is the White House office of Communications. It is headed by a communications director. It is responsible for setting the public agenda and coordinating the news from the different departments and agencies of the executive branch.
By straddling the two roles of spokesman and communications director, Mr. Coloma often gets confused by the issues and stumbles on his own words.
The recent emergence of Manuel Quezon III as another communications bigwig has made things even more confusing in Malacañang.