Why Duterte and His Inexperienced Communication Team Should Consider Tatad’s Suggestion

Former Minister of Public Information during Marcos era, and ex-Senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad took a swipe at the presidential communications team on Saturday for giving false information to the public.

Tatad, a known Duterte and Marcos supporter,  had enough with the President’s communication team, and urged the President to assign only one person “who should always talk” to avoid confusions.

Tatad, who should know whereof he speaks having served as the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ information minister for over a decade, also suggested that Mr. Duterte cut down on his speaking engagements and only address the nation on “earthshaking issues.”

“In my experience, the President seldom speaks. I am the one speaking most of the time. I argue for him and defend him. But when it’s an earthshaking issue, that’s the time the President steps in to address [the nation] as president of the republic,” Tatad told a press briefing.

He was asked what advice he would give the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) in the wake of confusing statements emanating from it, like on the state of lawless violence, the seating arrangements at the Asean gala dinner and the source of the President’s drug list.

Tatad said only one designated spokesperson should speak, “so there’s no confusion,” even as other officials may be consulted privately.

“The problem now is everybody wants to make a scene. Even the presidential legal adviser wants to speak out. What is the role of the legal adviser in public diplomacy?,” he asked, referring to Salvador Panelo.

“In the Senate, Alan Cayetano is joining the fray. Everybody wants to meddle, because the media is important nowadays,” he said.

Order had to be explained

In the wake of the Davao night market blast that killed 14 and wounded 67, President Duterte declared a state of lawlessness, which Presidential Management Staff head Bong Go said covered only Mindanao. Panelo would later clarify that the order covered the entire country.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella later explained that due to“heightened security issues,” the order would be implemented nationwide.

Another gaffe happened at the Asean summit in Laos, where Secretary Martin Andanar’s office issued a press release saying Mr. Duterte would be sitting between US President Barack Obama and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the gala dinner. This turned out to be false.

On Thursday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza issued a statement quoting Mr. Duterte as calling the reports about him citing former President Fidel Ramos as the source of his drug list a “total fabrication.” But the President’s speech was caught on tape clearly suggesting that earlier in the week.

“First and foremost, what the country needs is facts. Whatever the issue, what is needed is only one set of facts. The government’s facts should not be contradicting each other,” Tatad said.

He said that should this persist in the President’s inexperienced communication team, there would be a “general state of confusion.”

Tatad took the spotlight months before the elections when he filed a petition to disqualify Sen. Grace Poe from running for president. /Mina Fortado, Inquirer/