President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-communism task force has recalibrated its public relations strategy, naming multiple spokespersons and committing to do weekly press briefings.
This comes after a string of controversial remarks by its most visible spokesman Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr led to censuring by senators and even threats to defund the task force’s banner program.
Task force officials were on full force on Monday, May 10, to announce the new public relations strategy.
Led by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, the task force vice chairman, the group presented a newly-created “NTF-ELCAC media bureau” to be headed by Presidential Communications Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco, 8 spokespersons to speak on specific “themes,” and plans to hold weekly press briefings.
The new strategy is supposed to establish a “more detailed and thorough public information system,” said Esperon.
The 8 spokespersons and their topic coverage are as follows:
- Lieutenant General Antonio Parlade Jr – Security sector operations
- Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy – Social media affairs, sectoral concerns
- Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya – Local government affairs, Barangay Development Program, international engagement
- Undersecretary Severo Catura – International affairs, peace process, human rights concerns
- Presidential Communications Undersecretary Joel Sy Egco – Mass media engagements, fact-checker
- Metro Manila Development Authority Assistant Secretary Celine Pialago – NTF-ELCAC Public Affairs and Information, youth concerns
- National Commission on Indigenous Peoples legal affairs office director Marlon Bosantog – Legal affairs, indigenous peoples’ concerns
- NCIP’s Gaye Florendo – Assistant spokesperson on NTF-ELCAC Public Affairs and Indigenous Peoples Concerns
“The CPP-NPA is a multifaceted, multilayered…. Just like the NPA, we have to cover everything,” said Esperon to explain the need for multiple spokespersons.
He said the new system would ensure more “focused discourse” and distribute the workload of public relations, given that none of the spokespersons are working for the NTF-ELCAC on a full-time basis and have their own regular work at the agency they belong to.
New ‘media bureau’
Meanwhile, the “media bureau” now headed by Egco is tasked with scheduling regular press briefings and processing requests for interviews with the spokespersons, depending on the information being sought.
Esperon also said the bureau would be “responsible for the dissemination of information as well as for establishment of linkages wih all partners in media.”
It’s the first time the NTF-ELCAC has said it would hold regular press briefings.
Notably, Egco is also head of the Presidental Task Force on Media Security. The task force, the first that Duterte created, has done nothing significant about the red-tagging of journalists, including Mindanao Gold Star Daily associate editor Leonardo “Cong” Corrales, Manila Today editor Lady Ann Salem, and others, except to note them and promise to validate them.
The new public relations regime comes after back-to-back controversial remarks by Parlade, one of the task force’s two spokespersons at the time.
Parlade likened community pantry organizers to Satan while the NTF-ELCAC, on its Facebook page, shared content linking community pantries to communist propaganda. He then called senators “stupid” for threatening to defund NTF-ELCAC projects over these claims.
On Monday, Esperon admitted Parlade’s remark about lawmakers was “not the best statement,” but backed up the military officer, saying that defunding NTF-ELCAC initiatives “might be unreasonable.”
Esperon devoted a chunk of the Monday press conference defending the task force’s billions-peso-worth Barangay Development Program.
Still, Esperon had already cautioned Parlade against talking about community pantries in public. This did not stop Parlade, however, from telling Rappler on Friday, May 7, that some community pantry organizers were “agitating” people and that this could lead to them aiding armed communists or communist propaganda. – Rappler.com