The job of Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson is arguably the most difficult job in government. I know this may raise harsh opprobrium from former colleagues and friends in government, but at the risk of being branded a solipsist, I stand firm by my statement .
Imagine this: the Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson must deal with all stakeholders, especially the media, round-the-clock, 24/7. Add to this the need to engage, incessantly I emphasize, with “New Media”. With the advent of technology and the dizzying pace of digital transformation, and you can see how helter-skelter the situation might become. Remember that, in this day and age, anyone with a smartphone can become a “ journalist”, but without the corresponding accountabilities.
A Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson must consistently engage for the simple reason that it is his or her primordial duty to do so. He or she must articulate, explain, and shed light on the President’s and the administration’s pronouncements, policies, and programs. He or she must explain and coherently present to the public the President’s position on matters of vital interest and importance to the nation.
Direct access to the President is crucial. Its importance cannot be overemphasized enough. But I’m glad to share that I never had that problem. I had direct access to then President Estrada at all times.
Secondly, if you don’t make yourself available to your stakeholders, you can be the subject of the media’s ire. Meanwhile, over in social media, whatever you say or not say will have its fair share of rabid supporters and equally harsh and unforgiving critics. One must have the fortitude to meet all these and yet retain one’s sanity, poise , and decorum. And you do all these under the glare of the public light. Like a fish in a glass bowl in the middle of a kindergarten classroom. Need I say more?
Thus, the reunion called for by our dear friend and former Kapatid TV 5 Anchor, current Press Secretary Martin Andanar, was timely. It allowed us to share with him the wealth of our combined experience spanning 6 Philippine Presidents. Secretary Andanar, the gracious host, was all ears. Clearly, a strong believer in the adage that listening begets knowledge and knowledge begets wisdom.
In my view, however, Secretary Andanar faces a more challenging task, not so much because of the inimitable style of his principal ( indeed, change is here) but more so because of the fact that he must face the reality of “ post-truth” politics. This has been defined as a reliance on assertions that “ feel true” but have no basis in fact. There is a plethora of evidence here and abroad of its practice.
A daunting task, indeed. But I’m confident Secretary Andanar is up to task. The wisdom and experience imparted to the office by Press Secretaries and Presidential Spokespersons of Presidents past, has ensured that he will.