(Updated 6:54 p.m.) Communications Secretary Martin Andanar’s proposal of reorganizing the presidential communication arm is not his first attempt to change the office.
Andanar recently reasserted his 2016 proposal to revert the current Presidential Communications Operations Office to the former Office of the Press Secretary.
The idea of reviving the old Office of the Press Secretary has been floated as an operational solution each time the PCOO commits public blunders.
Andanar explained in an interview with dzMM that the OPS existed as the official arm of Malacañang since the time of late President Cory Aquino in 1986.
This office also served as the official mouthpiece of the chief executive back then. This may be similar to the Office of the Press Secretary of the White House of the United States, wherein the press secretary also served as the US president’s spokesperson.
The OPS had similar tasks as the current PCOO, that is, to inform the public with all government-related policies and activities, thus encouraging their support.
The OPS is also tasked “to develop people’s understanding of government policies and programs as well as enhance public support and trust for such.”
The PCOO is a relatively new concept
In 2010, then President Benigno Aquino III decided to dissolve the OPS altogether and form a three-pronged communications group. Comprising this group were the PCOO, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. led the PCOO, while former broadcast journalist Ricky Carandang headed the PCDSPO. After he resigned from his post, historian Manuel “Manolo” Quezon III led the team but as an undersecretary.
Aquino also had two Palace spokespersons—Edwin Lacierda, former presidential spokesperson and Abigail Valte, former deputy spokesperson—who led their own office.
In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte dissolved the PCDSPO and combined the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson and the PCOO into one team.
Duterte appointed Roque and Andanar as executive heads of his presidential communications group.
Reviving to what it was once was
Andanar confirmed the revival of the old presidential communications setup and that he had submitted its draft to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.
The shift may happen this month, Andanar said in an interview with the ABS-CBN News Channel, between October 8 and October 17.
The PCOO chief also confirmed in the radio interview that the press secretary role had already been offered to presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who himself has been eyeing a senate post next year but he recently wavered.
“Si Sec. Harry Roque kinakausap namin kung puwede ipagpaliban ‘yung kaniyang pagkandidato dahil kailangan siya sa Communications team,” Andanar said.
Two years ago, back when he was still the incoming PCOO chief, Andanar also proposed to simplify the name of the PCOO, which he wanted to be called the PCO or the Presidential Communications Office to make it easier for the public to remember.
He and his office staff had also developed an “executive order proposal” to revert the current PCOO back to OPS.
It was only this year that he, along with Senate President Vicente Sotto III and other lawmakers, introduced the idea again.
Sotto made known during the Senate hearing on the 2019 PCOO budget that he and other senators were mulling over the possibility of bringing the old press secretary’s office back.
“While you scrutinize the budget, you can look into the possibility of taking everything all under the umbrella of the Office of the Press Secretary and perhaps it would be more effective than what it is today,” Sotto said last week.
This came amid the many controversial blunders of the agency this year. It famously called the country of Norway “Norwegia,” and made humorous grammar errors on press IDs. The office was also blamed for an erroneous story by the Philippine News Agency.
Editor’s Note: The latest update reflects a correction of the original version of the report that claimed that both secretaries Coloma and Carandang led the PCOO. It was Coloma who was its head, while Carandang was appointed to lead the PCDSPO.