MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday defended Palace communications chief Martin Andanar after the latter's office mounted an information campaign in Europe, which some critics said should not be used to defend the arrest of Rappler chief Maria Ressa.
Speaking to reporters, Duterte said he gave Andanar ample space and authority to perform his functions as chief of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
“As long as there is no corruption and the funds are properly accounted. And he’s the mainstay in the propaganda of government. We have to have a propaganda division, you know,” Duterte told reporters in Malacañang following the oath-taking of the members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).
“It’s a political entity, the presidency, and of course all others. But more importantly, me, because I execute the laws.”
Senators Grace Poe and Francis Pangilinan earlier questioned the plan of Malacañang's communications group to mount an information campaign in Europe about Ressa's arrest and other issues related to Philippine press freedom.
Andanar, who did not join the trip, said the PCOO officials were sent to Europe to clarify the issue on "involuntary disappearances," anti-communist terrorist groups and other issues as part of its role as a committee member of the National Task Force (NTF) to End Communist Armed Conflict.
Andanar explained that he only used Ressa’s case as an example of possible questions that may be raised during his office's information campaign in Europe.
ANDANAR IN CAMPAIGN SORTIE
Meanwhile, Duterte also defended Andanar after the latter admitted filling in for senatorial bet Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go during a campaign sortie in San Juan despite his earlier directive to Cabinet officials not to get involved in the campaign.
The President said he gave Andanar his blessing to represent the ruling party Partido Demokratiko Pililipino - Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) in public functions.
“Andanar, he’s an ideologue. His guidance is very important to all of the PDP members. He’s a son of one of the founding fathers of PDP-Laban. And there are only few of them left [na] original,” Duterte said.
Andanar told dzMM on Thursday that he filled in for Go in the sortie, but his presence there was approved by the President.
“Well, you know, the President kasi is the chairman of PDP-Laban and I do serve at the pleasure of the President and at the behest of the President. At kung sinabihan ako ni ex-SAP [Special Assistant to the President] Bong Go na mag-attend doon at kung mayroon namang go signal si Presidente, wala namang problema,” Andanar said.
The Administrative Code of 1987 bans civil servants from engaging in partisan political activities, except to vote. However, the prohibition does not include the President and Cabinet members since their positions are political in nature.