HOW DO you solve a problem like Lacierda? It seems that every time he opens his mouth he ends up with more than his foot in it. Now that’s not such a crime for any ordinary person, but Lacierda is no ordinary being.
When Attorney Edwin Lacierda speaks, he speaks as President Benigno S. Aquino III.
The job of presidential spokesman has always been a tough one, especially since you have to entertain a pack of wolves out for blood each and everyday of your life. With every media briefing you had to face a barrage of questions, some of which were intelligent and insightful, more often that not they were non sequitur – had nothing to do whatsoever at the subject matter at hand.
When I was Palace reporter under Ferdinand Marcos, Information Minister Greg Cendaña had it easy. He didn’t have to speak; only the boss could when he wanted to.
When Cory Aquino became President, her spokesman Rene Saguisag used to keep pleading to us not to force him to speculate what his boss wants to say or what’s in her head but to stick to the information being released. Then Information Minister Teddyboy Locsin was a little more straightforward as he pulled the printout of the latest press release: “Time to feed the dogs.”
As media director for the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC) conferences under Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo, I always wished I had a button that triggers a trap door that springs open and swallows the reporter who asks some inane or embarrassing question of the chief executive, just like Jabba the Hut’s trap for Luke Skywalker complete with the munching monster Rancor.
Lacierda, it seems hasn’t gotten the most basic rule of being a spokesman: Keep your mouth shut. Media will always ask the questions, try to draw out some information – anything, useful or not – because it’s their job. The spokesman is supposed to be able to process this on the fly and either parries, deflects or completely ignores such questions and sticks to his approved talk points. Even if the question is as simple and harmless as “what color are your socks?” If it has nothing to do with the subject matter at hand during the briefing you should say “I’m sorry that has nothing to do with the discussion at hand, next question please?”
It’s a discipline that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
But what has happened to Lacierda? Let’s take these past couple of weeks alone: First he tackles the Pork Barrel issue wherein the President’s Development Acceleration Program (DAP) is being tagged as part of. Lacierda stressed that DAP’s legality is not the issue but the use of funds by the president (or misuse of those being charged) should be the focus. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/329774/news/nation/palace-exec-to-dap-critics-focus-on-fund-misuse-not-legal-questions
That’s spoken like a true lawyer… or is it? As pointed out by many other lawyers it is their duty to uphold the law, and that whether the president’s good intentions in realigning and spending his DAP never trumps the law.
Even former Senator Joker Arroyo didn’t spare Lacierda: “Part of the problem in Malacañang is the indolence of their spokespersons. They play things by ear and pass it off as facts.” http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/502821/arroyo-blames-lacierda-et-al-s-indolence-for-aquinos-missteps
Arroyo was referring to Lacierda’s counter to Arroyo’s charge that DAP was unconstitutional to which the spokesperson countered that Arroyo was silent against the former administration’s own funds shenanigans: “When he was at the Senate, there was the fertilizer fund scam. The NBN-ZTE, many other corruption cases were tackled by the Senate blue ribbon but he was quiet.”
Of course Arroyo countered that he was the chairman of the Senate blue ribbon when it investigated the scam resulting in a 41-page committee report, “strongly condemning the project and recommending prosecution of the offenders from top to bottom.”
“As I postulated after the elections and with the election of President Aquino, the ZTE case found its way to the Ombudsman and the prosecution of the offenders,” he said. “Malacañang has an office, the PLLO (Presidential Legislative Liaison Office), right in the Senate. They can ask there for the records, but they don’t, and thereby err in their statements…. Staff indolence, that’s why the President gets into trouble for missteps that are not his.”
Then there’s the issue of Social Security System management giving themselves P1 million bonuses each (aside from almost P300 million for the rest of its employees) while announcing that member contributions will be raised next year to cover trillions of pesos in debt.
Lacierda confidently announced that the bonuses will come from the agency’s profits and not the members’ contributions: “Ang contribution po, that income will be used for operations, will be used for whatever is necessary to keep SSS going,” he said. “The bonus is contingent on the revenues generated plus also other requirements as imposed by (Governance Commission for GOCCs).” http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/330290/news/nation/palace-sss-bonuses-not-sourced-from-members-contributions
So members wonder: One agency – SSS – two sources of income taken separately. The profits from one income source are exclusive from the loss of the other income source. That’s Lacierda’s Business 101.
Teddyboy Locsin, who has since mastered Twitter’s 140 character messaging limit, was able to plainly express Lacierda’s brilliant reasoning.
Then again, Lacierda could say that Teddyboy and Joker are just ganging up on him.
While he’s at it, Lacierda can add Hong Kong Chief Executive Chun Ying Leung to the guys out to bully him. Leung took exception to Lacierda’s statements that the issue of the killing of Chinese tourists in the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis was over and was “put behind” in the recent side meeting between Leung and Aquino at the APEC summit.
Reports the South China Morning Post: “Lacierda, was quoted in the Philippine newspaper Manila Standard Today on Thursday as saying that when China made the appeal, Aquino and Leung had already met and both had agreed to put the issue behind them. ‘[China is] too late. The Hong Kong chief executive and the President had already met in Bali [Indonesia],’ said Lacierda, referring to the meeting between Aquino and Leung during the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) leaders’ meeting in Bali, Indonesia.” http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1329322/leung-chun-ying-denies-hong-kong-and-philippines-have-put-bus-tragedy
And this guy Lacierda just won’t stop, taking on Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who noted during the hearings that that the provisions on PDAF in the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) were “riddled with unconstitutionalities.”
Reports the Inquirer: “You know, the President has already announced that the PDAF has been abolished. So that has been abolished,” Lacierda told reporters in a briefing, giving a hint on how the Solicitor General will present the government side on the PDAF at the resumption of the high tribunal’s hearing on Thursday. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/503725/palace-unfazed-by-sc-justices-comments-on-pork
So what happened when Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, representing government, appealed to the Supreme Court on Thursday to lift the temporary restraining order on the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF)? Carpio simply pointed to Lacierda’s statements and said that the president had already gotten rid of PDAF, so why ask for it? http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2013/10/11/1243697/govt-begs-sc-lift-pork-halt-order-carpio-rebuffs-plea
In other words: “Ano ba talaga koya?”
So how do solve a problem like Lacierda? Beats me. We can only point out these things from the outside looking in. We do not see the true purpose for which Lacierda serves his lord and master. For all we know, the Palace communications office of which he is part of feels he is doing a bang up job serving as a buffer and even a distraction from the real targets.
Or perhaps he is doing his job very well as a true reflection of his boss, the one and only BS Aquino.