For the spokesperson of a chief executive who changes his stance on issues or suddenly declares his friend as his foe, what is the best strategy to still become the face and voice of one’s principal?
On Tuesday, during an interview with DZRH’s Damdaming Bayan program with Cesar Chavez, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar shared some tips on how to become President Rodrigo Duterte’s effective mouthpiece amid the top leader’s changing stance on issues such as his administration’s peace talks with rebels and his on-and-off friendship with his former professor Jose Maria “Joma” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
“Nasa mindset lang ‘yan…Usually ang spokesperson ng Presidente or ‘yong press secretary, they speak on behalf of the President. Now, I learned from a very good friend that in order to be effective sa style ni Presidente Digong, you have to speak around the President,” said Andanar, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
“Kung ano ang sinasabi ni Presidente, you must not go out there at sasabihin mo, ito ang ibig sabihin ng sinabi ni Presidente. No, you just say it as it is. Huwag mo nang i-translate pa kung ano ang sinabi ni Presidente.
[You must stick to what the President says, you must not go out there and say that this is the meaning of what the President said. No, you just say it as it is, Don’t translate what the President is saying.]
“Do not interpret kung ano ang sinabi ni Presidente [Do not interpret what the President is saying], you have to speak around, not on behalf,” he stressed.
Asked by Chavez to explain how the chief executive’s spokespersons do it, for instance in the case of his often-changing relationship with communist rebels, Andanar said, ” You just say it as it is. ‘Yon ang sinabi ni Presidente kanina, at kung ano ang sinasabi ng Presidente, ‘yon ang polisiya, ‘yon ang public policy. Kung ano ang huling sinabi ni Presidente, ‘yon ang public policy.”
[That’s what the President said a while back, and what the President is saying, that’s the policy, that’s the public policy. What the President said last, that’s the public policy,]