Mar recruits American political strategist

by Gerry Lirio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2014 06:04 PM | Updated as of Feb 15 2014 02:24 AM

Mar recruits American political strategist 1
Mar Roxas and PNoy in Tacloban. File Photo

MANILA - THE camp of Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas has hired the services of American political strategist Paul Bograd to help him enhance his public image, possibly in time for the May 2016 elections.

Bograd first barged into the Philippine’s political scene when he helped in the presidential campaign of Speaker Ramon Mitra in 1992 and Sen. Joseph Estrada in 1998. It was businessman Manuel Zamora who introduced Bograd to the two politicians.

Three sources--one from Malacanang and two from the secretary’s camp--revealed to ABS-CBN News Bograd’s entry, but they could not quite agree as to when he joined Roxas’s camp.

Roxas’s aides said they started seeing Bograd at Balay, the Araneta-Roxas property in Cubao, Quezon City, after supertyphoon Yolanda flattened Eastern Visayas in November.

Yolanda put Roxas at the center of a political storm, with no less than CNN reporter and anchor Anderson Cooper hitting the lack of government presence in Tacloban City, where Roxas led a relief-and-rescue team.

But the Palace source said he learned of Bograd’s entry much earlier, possibly after dozens of Filipino Muslims went to Lahad Datu town in Malaysia to assert their claim to Sabah February last year.

The Palace source showed ABS-CBN News a copy of a report allegedly prepared by Bograd summarizing the headlines of different newspapers in the Philippines in February and the corresponding suggested replies and sound bites for Roxas in tackling every headline. On that day, the violence in Sabah was the papers' banner headline.

Two weeks ago, a Roxas camp source told ABS-CBN News that Bograd was still working with Roxas. He had no idea when Bograd's work contract would end.

Bograd was last heard in 2001, after Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson, testifying during Estrada’s impeachment trial, disclosed that he gave the American strategist a P5-million check charged against his “jueteng” collection, for the American's services.

A former member of Estrada Cabinet disclosed in a book that he and other Filipino officials had to meet Bograd at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan to ward off suspicions that the government was using public funds to pay him in 1998.

In the past, it was widely believed that no Filipino politician could be president without the backing of Washington. US political consultants were tapped in helping draft campaign techniques in Philippine elections.

Aside from Bograd, other American strategists or firms who worked in the Philippines, according to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, were Mark Mellman, president of the Mellman; Napolitan, who helped help in the reelection campaign of Ferdinand Marcos in 1969; DH Sawyer and Associates, a firm recommended by former US Ambassador Michael Armacost to the camp of Corazon Aquino, in the February 1986 snap presidential elections; and psywar expert Ed Lansdale, who prodded Ramon Magsaysay to run against President Elpidio Quirino in the 1953 presidential fight.

These foreign strategists gave advice, raised funds, and endeared their Filipino clients to American officials in the hope that their views may shape those of the Filipino public.

Their services didn't come cheap.