Ex-Duterte spokesman Abella now speaks for DFA

Paterno Esmaquel II
'Essentially we're still speaking for the government. It's just that we have a different public now,' says DFA Undersecretary Ernesto Abella

DUTERTE ALLIES. Then Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella and then Senator Alan Peter Cayetano chat before the start of a press briefing in Malacañang on October 28, 2016. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – Four months after ending his job as President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Undersecretary Ernesto Abella is back, this time speaking for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

On Wednesday, February 28, Abella held his first press conference as a DFA official. His press conference tackled issues such as Benham Rise and the plight of overseas Filipino workers.

He also explained his new role as the DFA’s undersecretary for strategic communications and research. While not officially the DFA spokesman, he said he will assist Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano in holding press conferences.

“I’m not the spokesperson but the President–,” he said, correcting himself and laughing, “I’m sorry, the Secretary has asked me to speak in behalf of the Department and in his behalf, as needed, at his pleasure.”

“Essentially we’re still speaking for the government. It’s just that we have a different public now,” he said, referring to international stakeholders and also a largely domestic audience. 

Abella added that more than providing “accurate, timely facts,” his job involves conveying the “big picture” – that the President wants “the well-being of the nation.” 

Saying it was a “personal decision,” Duterte replaced Abella with lawyer Harry Roque in October 2017. Abella, a pastor, has known Duterte for 20 years, and was his supporter in the 2016 presidential elections. – Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.