MANILA, Philippines – Three months after she was moved from the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) to the Palace as interim head of its communications office, lawyer Cheloy Velicaria-Garafil took her oath as the Secretary of the Presidential Communications Office on Tuesday, January 10.
Her appointment – from Officer-in-Charge (OIC) with the rank of undersecretary to a full member of the Cabinet – was first announced via posts on President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr’ s official social media pages.
Garafil joined the Palace communications team in October 2022, following the resignation of Marcos’ first communications chief, the vlogger Trixie Cruz-Angeles.
Angeles resigned after a blunder in New York during the President’s trip there, when she falsely claimed that Marcos was the only world leader whom US President Joe Biden had met with.
The administration’s communications and messaging arm has seen a handful of changes since Marcos took office in June 2022. Through his second Executive Order under the first executive secretary Victor Rodriguez, Marcos renamed the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) into the Office of the Press Secretary.
Just before the year ended, this time through Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin and under Garafil, the OPS was refashioned into the Presidential Communications Office through Executive Order 11.
Two other appointees and a “press briefer” have since joined Garafil’s team before the end of 2023. Former TV personality Daphne Oseña-Paez was designated the communication team’s press briefer, with tasks so far limited to briefing Palace media after the Cabinet’s regular meetings.
Garafil is a long-time government and political communications worker and a practicing lawyer. Prior to heading the LTFRB, she was Director II at the House Committee of Rules and prosecutor and state solicitor under the justice department and the Office of the Solicitor General, respectively.
She has also worked as a reporter.
Garafil was once also a media officer of House Deputy Speaker and former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, an ally of the Marcos administration. She has worked with Marcos for his communications team, too – when he was a senator and during failed bid for the vice presidency in 2016.
The PCO post is one of four major Cabinet posts that remained occupied only by an OIC before the end of 2022 – the communications department, the defense department, the social welfare department, and the health department.
By mid-January, the defense department was provided a permanent secretary, Secretary Carlito Galvez, after OIC Jose Faustino, Jr. resigned following a weekend of resignation and destabilization rumors.
As of January 10, the health department is still headed by OIC Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire while the Department of Social Welfare and Development is headed by OIC Undersecretary Edu Punay, after its former head Erwin Tulfo exited the post without explanation from Malacañang.
The agriculture department likewise lacks a full-time chief, with Marcos himself as its head. – Rappler.com