OpinYon Back-Page Stories: Garrison at the Palace?

PCO secretary Martin Andanar

By Rose de la Cruz

CONTRARY to its welcoming name, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) in Malacanang is the last place to go to for information.

Oddly, it operates much like a garrison for media outsiders wanting to interview or participate in briefings and its head Sec. Jose Ruperto Martin M. Andanar appears to be relishing on the same.

Everything seems to be controlled and centralized. Only PCO Secretary Martin M. Andanar or his subaltern for media relations, Undersecretary Queenie Rudolfo or a written permit from them would allow one to get past through Gate 2 manned by two Palace Guards (PG).

But for the accredited media—mainly the mainstream papers and broadcast networks—penetrating the guarded walls of the Palace is a breeze, but with no guarantee of news at all.

I tried last Friday (July 29) to have myself accredited at the Palace for OpinYon, armed with a letter from my publisher, ID and business cards, but until my savior, a lady from the Media Accreditation and Relations Office (MARO), came along I could not even get one step away from the guard post.

I spent more than 30 minutes at the guard post and was about to leave exasperated when my MARO friend came.

Once inside, my default was to go to my previous unit—the Presidential News Desk—and ask help from my previous officemates. They advised me what to do (write a personal letter to Andanar asking for accreditation, as if my letter from the publisher wasn’t enough yet) so I attached also the latest copy of my paper and a business card.

First step, I went to Usec Rudolfo’s office, but I was told no one can’t see her unless there has been a previous appointment (how could I it was my first time to set foot at the New Executive Building after leaving it in 2011). I was instructed to just leave my publisher’s letter introducing me and I attached my business card. The receptionist was my first and last step.

Back to PND, I was told to also leave my request for accreditation with Andanar with my calling card and I attached the latest OpinYon paper. Then I left, not seeing an official soul or ghost.

To this day, I have not had a word from them. Not a clue if my request for accreditation is accepted or if I can now be free to get into NEB anytime I so wish to cover a briefing or Palace event. Nunca!

What FOI?

After proudly announcing early this month the release of a freedom of information (FOI) law covering the executive department, the actions and memoranda being issued by Andanar and Rudolfo are far from complying with the wordings of the FOI. No freedom, no information.

Ironically, it was Andanar’s office that prepared and finalized the FOI law for the executive branch and it was also his office that hyped up this order to high heavens. The catch word is hype and that’s all there is to it.
Neither is there an operative FOI in the Cabinet offices.

Again, OpinYon tried to get an exclusive interview with Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Regina Lopez to be the banner for its anniversary issue.

I sent an email request to the Public Assistance Office (headed by oldtimer Marissa Cruz) for the interview Thursday.

Came Friday, I called Cruz asking what happened to my request and she said it was forwarded to Lopez’ staff and she gave me the number where to follow up.

I called a Celina (supposedly the special assistant of Lopez) and she told me all schedules are full for the week. So I asked them to do something about it so she can make it to the cover of the magazine on its anniversary issue.

When I called Celina’s office again, she did not reply as she was busy in a meeting, and her staff just asked me the details of my request. And I demanded that they get back to me right away.

Did they? Yes, they contacted OpinYon, not me when I said in my request letter to contact me as I am the interviewer, only to check if I was a legitimate staff of the magazine. So very suspicious of them!

So until this writing, they have not given me an inkling if my request for interview is granted or not.

Is Duterte open?

President Rodrigo Duterte himself broke his self-imposed detachment from media last Monday when he called an impromptu briefing with the Malacanang Press Corps.

But from my monitoring of what happened in the briefing on television or print accounts, surprisingly I found nothing mentioned (except for a huge front page photo) captioned as Duterte meeting with media and breaking ice, but would continue not to hold press conferences until his term ends.

Obviously packaged by the PCO to make it appear that the President has become conciliatory with media, it seemed that just like the FOI, this “briefing” was another hype.

From being a close-in reporter for four previous presidents (Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino) I never saw this kind of tight guarding and restricted information flow in my life than now.


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Thursday, 24 January 2019
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