Shakespeare in Merchant of Venice said, “you speak an infinite deal of nothing” and I remember said quote again and again when the presidential spokesman (spox) again and again twisted on air. This time it is worse than before because he had to recant what he said on the same day. Last Friday, 22 August, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda played the no elections (NoEl) card, stirring up speculation about the cancellation of the elections, when he said, “if ever the 2016 elections would push through.” Lacierda, after probably getting a dressing down, retracted and said elections “will push through.”
Somehow it brings us back to the earlier days of the Aquino administration when certain quarters were already raising an issue on having a separate presidential spokesman and a press secretary. It would have been better if the presidential spokesman had “received formal training in journalism, communications, public relations and public affairs in this role in order to ensure that public announcements are made in the most appropriate fashion and through the most appropriate channels to maximize the impact of favorable messages, and to minimize the impact of unfavorable messages.” Apart from these, supporters of this administration have pointed out that lawyers are the worst communicators but since Lacierda’s star was hooked on the campaign trail, it was a free ride for him to the point of eroding the pulpit he stands on.
A presidential spokesman is different from a press secretary. A spox is engaged or elected to speak on behalf of others. In the case of a presidential spox, s/he talks only on policy or when there is a direct quote from the president. A press secretary on the other hand is responsible for collecting information about actions and events within the president’s administration and around the world, and interacting with the media, generally in a daily press briefing. The information includes items such as a summary of the President’s schedule for the day, whom the President has seen, or had communication with and the official position of the administration on the news of the day. The press secretary traditionally also fields questions from the Malacañang press corps in briefings and press conferences, which are generally televised, and “press gaggles”, which are on-the-record briefings without video recording, although transcripts are usually made available. Individuals from news media backgrounds have often filled the position of the press secretary.
And so it came to pass that the Liberal Party is again the last to know. From the proposed second term, amending the constitution to the no elections scenario. Do we have a party-in-governance or do we just have a monolith for purposes of dispensing patronage? What I do not understand is with all the technologies to test the public pulse, the Liberal Party and this administration have been conducting live tests of trial balloons with Cabinet officials being the mouthpiece. It’s looking more and more like a government in disarray when there are so many issues that need to be attended to–from water, energy, FOI, competition, price of commodities, MRT, infrastructure projects under PPP, EDCA, BBL, K-12 and so forth–but all activities seem to be focused on political power plays.
This week the House of Representatives will schedule on plenary Joint Resolution No. 1 amending the economic provisions of the 1986 Constitution. But already bells have been ringing for the possibility of a so-called “killer amendment” to introduce amendments to political provisions. The “killer amendment” will be introduced as an individual amendment to the Committee Report of the Committee on Constitutional Amendment chaired by Davao City’s 2nd Dist. Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano. Although there is a so-called legislators agreement with the Speaker and even the Majority Floor Leader promised to resign if the debate goes beyond the economic provisions, we know for a fact that railroading and logrolling are prevalent practices in any legislative body. The killer amendment is spooky indeed since the so-called point persons on amendments to the political provisions have not filed their legislative proposals yet. Spooky because of the trial balloons and spooky because most of the constituencies are focused on DAP and the People’s Initiative.
The Speaker’s proposal is to limit the amendment by inserting the phrase “as may be provided by law” to the agreed upon economic provisions of the constitution. What is not clear is the form and shape the proposed political amendments would be. Apart from this issue, there is also the issue on how to vote on the proposed constitutional amendments.
The Speaker is on record that the three-fourths vote of both chambers of Congress are needed more than the President’s approval. Other quarters have recommended to the Speaker to take the “safer” route in his initiative by convening the two chambers of Congress in a joint session and voting on the proposal separately.
Will the Speaker and the Majority Floor be spooked or would they rise up to the challenge and limit the debate to economic provisions? Truly a defining hour for Belmonte and Gonzales. Let us see if they can wrestle with the spooks!