A brewing serious P-Noy media problem
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2010-08-03

There is no doubt that President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) recognizes the importance of media to his administration. He underscored this by even including an appeal to media during his SONA (State of the Nation Address) last week. P-Noy knows that he is a People Power President and that media provide the umbilical cord to the people his bosses, as he himself admitted in his inaugural speech.

P-Noy knows that the political strength of his late father was developed with the support of media. His father, Ninoy Aquino, was a media darling. P-Noy also knows that his late mother’s ascendancy through the People Power Revolution was hailed worldwide as a media revolution.

The People Power Revolution which ousted the Marcos dictatorship in 1986 was fought and won on media. The airing by the American TV networks of the live coverage of the February 1986 EDSA political drama all over the US helped the anti-Marcos cabinet secretaries of then US President Ronald Reagan to convince him to initiate the eviction of the Philippine dictator.

It is this recognition of the value of media which made P-Noy receptive to the proposed Presidential Communications Group (PCG) which was formally announced last week and which had already been receiving a lot of unfavorable comments from media editors, columnists and commentators.

Known to be supportive of P-Noy, the Philippine Daily Inquirer even made the new Presidential Communications Group their subject matter for a scathing editorial (“Miscommunication Group”) last Sunday. Earlier last week, Amando Doronila, the paper’s top political analyst, registered his apprehensions about the new setup involving three cabinet Secretaries.

What complicates this developing media tension with the P-Noy administration, over and above the questioned new setup which can’t seem to justify the need for three cabinet Secretaries, are attendant issues pertaining to a perceived Palace bias favoring the ABS-CBN Network. This perception was further aggravated by the inclusion of ABS-CBN TV hosts Ricky Carandang and Manolo Quezon as PCG Secretary and Undersecretary, respectively.

During the presidential campaign, ABS-CBN was criticized for being pro-Noynoy Aquino. Thus, it was easy for members of the Palace Press Corps to perceive a bias favoring ABS-CBN when the said network managed to acquire information ahead of even the government broadcast network on at least a couple of occasions. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda became the unwitting victim of this media row last Friday. His press conference opened with another issue of an advance release of information to ABS-CBN.

The issues hounding the PCG may be summarized as follows:
1. Questions on the justification for three cabinet Secretaries. The replaced OPS (Office of the Press Secretary) only had one at its inception.

2. Questions on the new organization. Could the innovations not have been accommodated within the former setup? Was this organizational revamp in accordance with determined functions or was it the result of personal accommodations?

3. Questions on the two Secretaries for “Messaging” and “Dissemination” having separate operations and separate budgets. This fuels those talks about the differences between the two Secretaries, Ricky Carandang for Messaging and Sonny Coloma for Dissemination. Will this not hamper operational viability?

4. Questions on ABS-CBN as having an inside track. This is a very sensitive issue with media and foments a situation of “all other media” versus ABS-CBN. This will be a very counterproductive development for P-Noy and will place him in a no-win situation.

5. Questions on the fitness of Ricky Carandang to have a cabinet rank from the point of view of his given task and his qualifications. From the description of Carandang’s PCG functions, the position of Assistant Secretary would have been more than enough. In ABS-CBN, Carandang did not even occupy a middle management position and his getting a cabinet rank is like jumping from Senior Correspondent to replacing Charo Santos-Concio as ABS-CBN President.

6. Questions on the appointment of Manolo Quezon as an Undersecretary. The functions of Manolo Quezon in the PCG may not even justify the rank of Assistant Secretary.

Lest your Chair Wrecker be misunderstood, Ricky Carandang has performed exceedingly well in his former job at ABS-CBN. In fact, in a previous commentary your Chair Wrecker wrote several years ago about the best television hosts on Philippine television, Ricky was highly reviewed. P-Noy had good reasons to invite Ricky to be part of the administration’s media team but the questions arise when a cabinet Secretary rank is injected into the equation.

The same can be said of Manolo Quezon. P-Noy had good reasons to invite Manolo to be part of his media team but the position given does not equate to the function to be performed. A Commander-in Chief cannot give the rank of general to an excellent company commander because the rank does not simply equate to the command.

This developing media row could just be the tip of the iceberg for P-Noy. It is wishful thinking not to expect this to expand into a political issue. Can the Opposition resist the temptation to ride on this, especially with a lot of the media rendered prone to giving the issue a lot of mileage?

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Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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