Roque says reduction in PCOO personnel, not tiff with Andanar, caused transcript delay
When the transcript of Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque's press conference on Monday, January 8, arrived late in Malacañang reporters' inboxes, there was talk that it was because of a growing rift between the spokesman and Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.
But the day after, on Tuesday, Roque laughed off this theory, saying reporters were just sowing intrigue.
The reason for the late transcript, he said, was the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) adjusting to its loss of personnel given the reduction of its budget this year.
At least, this was how it was explained to him by Assistant Secretary Queenie Rodulfo.
"Wala, absolutely no (fight with Andanar), lightning strike me. Kaya lang ang daming natanggal talaga kasi ang daming items dito sa PCOO na ASEAN-related," said Roque, in a tone meant to appease reporters who cornered him after the Tuesday press conference.
(None, absolutely no, lighting strike me. It's just that many were laid off because many budget items – job positions – in the PCOO were ASEAN-related.)
He was explaining how the PCOO did not renew the contracts of personnel who had been hired to help during the ASEAN summits which took place last year.
And because the ASEAN hosting duties of the Philippines are over, there is no need to retain the budget maintaining extra personnel.
A transcribing division and content department were among those which lost personnel.
"I lost 4 people in content and they lost a whole lot more in that office that used to be transcribing. I was told I will lose my PR (press release) writer so I'm back to writing my own PRs which is no problem," said Roque.
The transcript of his press conference with Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez was sent late likely because PCOO has not adjusted to the reduction in the number of transcribers.
"They are probably still adjusting," said Roque, who could not specify how many transcribers were dropped.
Roque's separate office
He said the personnel problem was compounded by the lack of a Malacañang issuance creating Roque's Office of the Presidential Spokesperson which would allow him to hire more people.
Back in November, he said he would be making changes to his staff after the 2017 Christmas and New Year holidays.
The expected issuance is also supposed to separate Roque's office from PCOO. At the moment, the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson us under the PCOO. Former spokesman Ernesto Abella was a PCOO undersecretary while Roque was given the rank of secretary by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The complete January 8 Palace briefing transcript was received by reporters around 6 pm on Monday or 5 hours after the end of the press conference.
This is unusually late given that complete transcripts are typically received within an hour or two after the briefing.
On Tuesday, however, it seemed things were back to normal as the full transcript arrived within the usual timeframe. – Rappler.com
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