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Speaking for

TO the ordinary citizen, the Presidential Spokesperson may look like the easiest job in the world as long as he or she can read the mind of the boss. In reality, that person’s ability or penchant to speak for another person is just the tip of the iceberg.

Take it from Secretary Sonny Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, aka the Presidential Spokesperson – these two offices are separate entities, that’s why we have Martin Andanar and Sal Panelo – although PCOO used to be the Office of the Press Secretary. The power structure under PCOO consists of the Bureau of National and Foreign Information, Development and Planning Strategy Office, and RTVM; and, located in Quezon City, the Bureau of Broadcast, PTV4, National Printing Office. During President Cory’s time, the QC offices were consolidated – for geographical reasons? – under Dodie Limcaoco, who ruled his fiefdom using a now-forgotten title. And that’s not all, for out there in Bulacan there’s APO, which prints stamps for cigarettes and liquor, security paper but not peso bills; it could even print car license plates, if someone had bothered to ask!

These facts came to light when Mr. Coloma sat down with us for “Bulong Pulungan” for the last time in his capacity as the President’s chief communicator, because at noon of June 30 he will be heading for the airport with his family for a short vacation in Bangkok, to be followed by a “grander” one in the US. He’s earned his down time, specially as his seems to be the lone voice coming out of Malacañang these days. “The President is quite relaxed,” he affirmed, and forthwith retold some of the Boss’ latest jokes, one of which, to my ears, sounded uncannily like an Erap joke.

If the first two paragraphs read like they are meant for the further elucidation of Messrs. Panelo and Andanar, they are not. They’re for ordinary citizens, students in particular, the better for them to understand the wide-ranging scope of the President’s messaging requirements – a give-and-take in any language – and why the incoming President cannot afford to treat communications as a one-way street, no matter how brilliant (or outspoken) his subalterns may be. (JULLIE Y. DAZA)

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