Palace spin doctor talks about PNoy's love life, reforms
MANILA, Philippines - What's Malacañang's official line on President Aquino's love life?
According to Presidential Communications Office Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, there is none because the matter is too personal.
Quezon said the public's interest in Aquino's love life is understandable since he is the first bachelor to be elected President.
"I am the wrong guy to ask because I am completely uninterested in the President's love life. That being said, it is the normal reaction because this is the first time we have an unmarried president. First time ever. Before, we had a widow and widower, the president's mother (Cory Aquino) and President Quirino. So it's a different dynamic. They are a little older," he told ABS-CBN News Channel.
Quezon said the President is "a very typical male so of course he is going to notice someone who is attractive. He is also a rather gallant person so he'll pay a compliment where it's due."
Quezon's statement came a day after Aquino publicly praised the beauty of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and a radio/TV host during a visit to Cebu.
Aquino's love life has been in the news since he was elected last year. He has dated several women including Valenzuela councilor Shalani Soledad, stylist Liz Uy, stockbroker Len Lopez and teacher Bunny Calica.
In the interview, Quezon said the Palace communications team has not advised the President on what to say about his love life.
"The President himself sets the line in that sense. He is also a very spontaneous person. It's so personal. What would you say to any president?" he said, noting that Palace spin doctors might also have had similar problems when a reporter asked then President Gloria Arroyo about her sex life.
"This is something so personal that no one can really advise you," Quezon added.
Quezon praised Aquino for deciding to split the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) into 2 groups handling Malacañang's messaging and dissemination. He said the decision broke down structures in the Office of the Press Secretary that had been in place since the 1950s.
"This was a revolutionary shakeup that he did particularly in communications. Everyone has an opinion. I came from that. Everyone thinks they know how it should be done," he said.
"The lifetime of a press secretary is about a year and a half and there's a reason for that. They have to handle 2 jobs essentially. You are just going to burn out. So basically what we are going to do is messaging and dissemination," he added.
Quezon, a former TV anchor and grandson of the late President Manuel Quezon, said splitting the functions of the OPS allowed Aquino to assemble teams that would ensure that he is always informed. "The effectivity of a president is dependent on his hearing all sides, all views and having widest range of options," he said.
He noted that there is a "nice dynamic" between Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
He also said Lacierda and Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma often discuss the different instruments of government that can be used more effectively.
Asked why Carandang and Coloma seem to have taken a backseat to Lacierda and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, he said: "Edwin and Abi are the spokespersons. They are the ones who really should be talking. And if ever, there are times that we help out and help to craft the messages."
Quezon said he and Carandang deliberately did not capitalize on their individual online personas before they joined government.
"Since we already had personas, you don't want that to distract from what the main focus should be which is the President," he said.
"Anything you say or do may be misinterpreted and just complicate the issue. I still communicate online, just not the usual ways I used to. I still speak out, but most of the time, I focus on other stuff," he added.
Taking the bullets for PNoy
Quezon confirmed the President offered him a job on the communications team via text message.
He said the Palace communications team can do little in terms of "packaging the President" since he is already well known.
"These are people who have been in the public eye for some time. People know them. In the case of the President, they know him in Tarlac. His classmates in Ateneo know him. His colleagues in the House and Senate know him. You really can't invent very much because even if you wanted to, enough people know him. He's been in the public eye," he said.
He added: "What you can do however is - the president will have certain objectives. He will have certain points that he wants to push forward. Your job is to support the President in making sure he is able to do it as effectively as possible. Sometimes, you have to take the bullets for your boss."
PNoy likened to Raul Roco
Quezon also likened Aquino to the late Senator Raul Roco in terms of being more hands-on in effectively communicating his message.
"He is very unique this way. I have had experience in writing for other politicians in the past. The usual way a politician might do it is: 'Oh, I want to talk about oranges. Give me something about oranges.' The new president is very different. He will get together and say, 'I want to talk about oranges but let's handle it this way.' He's very hands-on. He's very particular about the language, about the tone. He can be extremely creative," he said.
"I'll give you an example. Some of the older generation have a pretty set expectation of the State of the Nation Address. It has to be this way. It has to be long. It has to have a particular tone. The president is secure enough both in his position and his ability to communicate with people that he will say 'Why? Just because we have to do it that way?' We have to tell the people the state of the nation without boring them to death, without drowning them in so much detail that they miss what's important," he added.
Quezon noted Aquino is the first president to deliver the entire SONA in Filipino.
"He's very hands on that way. I can only think of very few politicians or people in public life who have given as much attention to what they say. Perhaps Raul Roco is the only one I can think of," he said.
Quezon also said Aquino is raring to implement reforms while going after corrupt officials in the previous administration.
"There is tremendous impatience and I think we should know it. There is so much he wants to do. You have to remember the reason he was elected. People had basically given up hope that anything could be done anymore. Now once he was in office, the things that he had to discover, the things he had to deal with so that precisely, if you are being impatient, the president has the obligation to tell you, 'Look, I want to do this but look at all the landmines that have been left.' Whether you like it or not, that's the reality," he said.