WAR IN THE PALACE
Tonypet J. Rosales | Editor
IT APPEARS the most bloated government department—the Communications Group PNoy—simply can’t get the job done. To arrest the President’s sagging image, the administration is bringing more people into the fray, a move that could spark new hostilities between the Samar and Balay groups in Malacanang.
Since 2010, despite an awesome PR machinery, Malacanang never really got a hold of the public relations game. A series of missteps, snafus, blunders and miscommunications (beginning with the mishandling of the Luneta hostage incident involving a tour bus filled with Chinese nationals) have kept the President’s team of spokespersons and speechwriters busy fending off critics.
On Tuesday, a newspaper report by that the Palace is in “PR crisis mode”, hiring the services of a foreign pollster and political strategist to help reinvent the image of the President after the government’s net approval ratings plummeted to a record low.
The report said a crisis management team under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Samar Group) and a political strategy team under Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (Balay Group) has been activated to help refurbish PNoy’s image which has taken hit after hit since assuming the presidency in 2010.
A Palace source said Roxas is bringing back one Paul Bograd, the political strategist said to be responsible for Mar’s “Mr. Palengke” brand which made the DILG secretary No. 1 senator back in 2004. Bograd’s assignment: to fix PNoy’s image which suffered massively because of the Supreme Court’s adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
On the other hand, Ochoa has made changes in the Palace media group starting with the appointment of Presidential Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma as presidential spokesperson taking the place of Edwin Lacierda who is identified with Mar’s Balay group.
Ochoa is also said to have reactivated members of the Samar group involved in the 2010 campaign, including television director and PNoy cousin Maria Montelibano. Montelibano served as head of Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM) during the time of President Cory Aquino and was also the designated point-person for media in Noynoy’s 2010 campaign.
While Bograd’s appointment can be considered a slap in the face of Secretary Coloma, observers believe that recent turn of events is symptomatic of a leadership breakdown in Malacanang. The administration is slowly falling apart and may eventually cost the ruling Liberal Party (LP) the 2016 presidential elections.
Seed of Discord
The conflict between the Samar and Balay group started shortly after Mar Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay. Balay is the the group that met regularly at the residence of Roxas and its core is composed of the LP leadership together with the Black and White Movement and Ronald Llamas’ Akbayan. Samar Avenue in Quezon City is where Montelibano’s media bureau and Ochoa’s legal team held fort. PNoy sisters Pinky and Ballsy and Sonny Belmonte also regularly joined the Samar meetings.
The difference between the two groups emerged when Balay members started blaming Samar for the emergence of the winning NoyBi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem. In 2010, Mar’s presidential candidacy was floundering (he was usually ranked 4th in the ratings) and things looked up only after he gave way to Aquino and ran for vice president instead.
However, in the last weeks before the elections, Binay eventually caught up with Mar in the ratings.
From sure winner, Roxas became a pathetic loser. The two camps exchanged barbs blaming each other for Mar’s loss with Balay—despite the polls—claiming the Binay win as a fluke. The seed of discord had already planted as early as 2010.
The latest polls showing the President’s net satisfaction ratings at an all-time low, forced both the Samar and Balay groups to reactivate their crisis management teams. The Palace is in panic and by racing to save the President and effect a quick turnaround—Pnoy and company could find himself in even deeper trouble.
Mar’s panic is understandable because his chance of becoming the LP standard bearer and winning the presidency in 2016 is directly proportional to PNoy’s pop ratings. If PNoy crashes and burns, Roxas might as well kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.
Palace insiders say Ochoa is concerned with the way the LP has handled the DAP issue. The August 23, 2013 speech of the President defending the DAP was reportedly the idea of Roxas who managed to convince PNoy to deliver the speech on primetime television despite Ochoa’s protests.
“Ochoa believes the (Senate President Franklin) Drilon and (Budget Secretary Butch Abad are dragging the President down with them,” the Palace source said.
Abad is the architect of the DAP which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Drilon—who failed on his promise to scrap the Senate pork—tried to make up for his failure with an attempt to salvage the impounded money by circumventing the TRO issued by the SC by having the funds declared as “savings” that the President can use in the event of a calamity. Drilon’s antics reportedly did not sit well with House Speaker Belmonte.
The situation has become a fight for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s life that even the “First Bunso” Kris has been put to active PR service.
Kris’ strategy jumps off from PNoy’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the camera cuts away to the gallery and catches the “Queen of All Media” wiping off her tears as her PNoy mouths off the sacrifices of their parents Cory and Ninoy in his impassioned speech.
On August 1, on the occasion of Cory Aquino’s 5th death anniversary, Kris even hinted on the potential martyrdom of PNoy. “He [Noynoy] can’t do it on his own. We need to stand by him and give him strength. Please pray with us also that he stays alive,” Kris told guests after the Holy Mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
Kris, of course, was alluding to PNoy’s mentioning in his SONA of certain “dark forces” that were supposedly out to get him. While much of what makes the Aquino dynasty great has something to do with death, the idea of President Aquino dying to achieve a PR bonanza is totally out of the question.
If PNoy dies, then Vice President Binay becomes President defeating the whole purpose of initiating an ambitious PR mode to save PNoy’s neck and the LP from a public hanging.
What remains clear is that the scenario in the Palace remains as chaotic as ever with the administration content in plugging loopholes and providing band-aid solutions to the country’s problems. Common sense dictates that it is never wise to have two captains run a PR ship.
Right now, PNoy and company appear secure and safe—just like the passengers of the Titanic.
Karambola! A de M U 198 with Almonte
“Karambola!” is a more than decade old unique radio program aired from 8 to 10 am, Monday to Friday, on DWIZ, 880 Khz AM Band. It had a karambola or mixed bag of anchors, namely: Cong. Crispin “Boying” Remulla (Mountainous Southern District of Cavite), Cong. Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin (Makati; President Cory Aquino’s first Public Information Chief), Ed Javier (Paranaque Congressional Candidate), Atty. Dodo Dulay (MMDA and COMELEC Chairman Ben Abalos’ defense attorney), Cong. Jonathan de la Cruz, Cong. “Sonny” Escudero (Sorsogon; Marcos and Ramos; Agriculture Secretary) and Alvin Matthew Palmes Capino.
A week ago, Sunday, June 1, 2014, Alvin Capino was laid to rest at the Loyola Memorial Park along Santos Ave in Sucat, Paranaque. He was 64 years old when he died at his home in B F Homes on Thursday night, May 29. He died of cancer of the kidney. It was “Strike Three” for him. It was his third bout in two years. He was also diabetic and he did not like to drive and go out at night.
That is why, we did not see too much of him in our batch and class reunions. “We” are Ateneo de Manila University’s Batch 198. 198 is the sum total of 62 + 66 + 70, ie. Grade School ’62, High School ’66 and College ’70. Alvin belonged to College ’70 and was an AB Political Science Major.
After College, he worked with Lexington International, with Press Secretary Francisco “Kit” Tatad at the Department of Public Info or Malacanang Press Office, Pilipinas Shell and Mobile Oil Philippines. He wrote for the Observer, The Independent, The Phil Free Press, The Daily Globe and Today. He was an Anchor and Commentator for DZRH, DZRV and DWWW. Over a decade, he rose to Vice Chairman at Tony Zorilla and partners. He was a member of the Board of Directors of the BCDA from 2001 to 2010.
In four days our Batch 198 lost three members – Alvin on Thursday, May 29, Lito Villarama on Saturday, May 31 and Jed Natividad, BS Chemistry ’70, on Sunday, June 1. Thirteen years ago, in October – November 2001, I lost my best friend and classmate from Grade One to Third Year College, Gerardo “Gerry” Jaminola Katigbak Esguerra, to a stroke (during his son’s wedding) after a long bout also with cancer of the kidney.
Last Thursday, our Batch 198 organized and sponsored a forum with former General and FVR’s NSA Secretary Jose Almonte as the Resource Person. His topic ranged from Nation Building to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) to the Philippine China conflict in the South China Sea/West Philippine Sea. He fleshed out his principles and theory on Nation Building by taking us through FVR’s journey of running for the Presidency in 1992, winning, winning over the opposition and running the government for six years.
Then, we jumped to the present and he put us through a crash course on China and our problems with them in the South China Sea/ West Philippine Sea.
The day before, on Wednesday, June 4, at the Fernandina Media Forum at the Club Filipino, our main topic was Women’s Issues including Marital Rape, Child Rape, Profile of a Rapist, Abused Women and Abusive Men. Aside from resource persons Atty. Rowena “Bing” Guanzon and Women Involved in Nation Building Chairperson Emeritus Baby del Mundo, we also had the second rape complainant against actor Vhong Navarro, Miss Bikini Contestant, Roxanne Cabanero, and her lawyer, Atty. Mendoza.
However, our resident fortune teller, Danny Atienza, also dropped by because he had some important and pressing matters to share with us. In general, he predicted impending doom. According to him, the government is bankrupt. The last two years of the Aquino Administration will continue to be a downward spiral. However, the next President will uplift the country in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He hinted that Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” C. Binay is sick and that the next President will be a woman. Late last year, he privately told me that it would be Senator Grace Poe L.
The removal of Gov. E. R. Ejercito was just the beginning and a sample of things to come. Many more would follow. However, E. R. would be able to make a comeback. The filing of plunder cases against the three senators, JPE, Jinggoy and Bong was imminent. Senator Revilla is sure to be convicted and jailed. Senator Enrile will get away. Senator Estrada’s future is an uncertainty.
The disqualification of Mayor Joseph Estrada will proceed and is imminent with a condition, “kung kaya”. Even if Erap is removed, the people will support him. He can even run for President with massive People’s support. DILG Secretary and Liberal Party Presidentiable Mar Araneta Roxas is a sure loser. Noynoy Aquino’s problems with Corruption, Pork, DAP and Malampaya Scandals as well as our conflict with China will continue and grow even bigger.
By the way, this week’s calendar is loaded. Tomorrow, Tuesday, June 10, the Supreme Court will deliberate and vote on the constitutionality of the DAP. My guess is that they will declare it unconstitutional but prospectively.
On Thursday, June 12, an anti Pork, PDAF, DAP, Malampaya, etc … protest rally at the Bonifacio Shrine near the Manila City Hall, will try to repeat the One million March August 26, 2013 Rally at the Luneta.
Where will these take us? To be continued…
THE race is on for the next Philippine President.
This early, eyed as potential candidates come 2016 are: Vice President Jejomar Binay (United Nationalist Alliance), Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas (Liberal Party), Sen. Bong Revilla (Lakas-CMD), Sen. Grace Poe (Independent), Sen. Francis Escudero (Independent) Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos-Recto (Liberal Party) and businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Of these seven potentials, six have some sort of political lineage in their favor. Binay, the longtime mayor of Makati City has risen to the vice presidency quite spectacularly. Roxas, is the grandson of the late President Manuel Roxas. Escudero, also the scion of a political clan, is a consistent Senate topnotcher. Same with Revilla whose family rules the province of Cavite. Grace Poe, topnotcher in the 2013 Senate race, is daughter of the late movie legend and defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. And Vilma Santos-Recto is the star governor of Batangas province and the wife of Sen. Ralph Recto.
And then there is businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan. Without political affiliation and any previous experience in public office (much like a Nancy Binay), political analysts see Pangilinan—or MVP as he is more popularly known—as a certified dark horse for 2016. And with good reason.
While Binay has no qualms about his dream of becoming President, MVP is quick to admit that “no political blood…runs through my veins.” But given his technocratic skills, MVP could probably fare better than the other potential candidates—whose only claim to fame and public office are their family names.
The chairman of PLDT, TV5, Philex Mining and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), MVP has “singlehandedly” built one of the largest business empires in the Philippines. MVP also has the education to back his business skills having graduated cum laude from the Ateneo de Manila University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics and having earned an MBA degree from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Synonymous to telecommunications, media, power , water, mining, education, infrastructure, sports etc., MVP—given his reservations of running for public office–seems a very good choice for 2016. All he has to do is ride on a platform that promises lower electricity, telephone and water rates and he is a shoo-in for the Presidency in 2016.
As it is, MVP already has much of the country on his plate. If he runs and wins in 2016—he’ll be President and CEO of Philippines, Inc.
- Manny V. Pangilinan : Miracle Man (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- PLDT, Gokongwei expanding alliance (manilastandardtoday.com)
- The social cancer of Philippine society (rappler.com)
- Nearly 100 Philippine rebels killed or captured (bigstory.ap.org)
- Binay lambasted online for ‘epal’ relief bags (technology.inquirer.net)
- Editorial : MVP for President (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Cavitex investment pays off for MVP group (rappler.com)
- Torrential rains shut down Philippine capital (bigstory.ap.org)
- Saskatchewan Offers 14K jobs for PH Workers (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- FirstPac eyes Cojuangco mill (manilastandardtoday.com)