POSTSCRIPT / June 10, 2010 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Nation is now all ears to Aquino’s every word

EYE-OPENER: That press conference of Sen. Noynoy Aquino right after his proclamation as the president-elect was an eye-opener to most people who had failed to catch his mind in the hustle-bustle of the last election campaign.

With all eyes and ears focused on him yesterday, despite the paucity of time, he was able to give with his brief but direct responses a good idea of how his mind works as an agent of change.

His responses foreshadowed some detailed action plans, but time prevented his elaborating on them. He had to fall back on a general statement that the first order of business is to define the problems, partly by sifting confusing statistics.

The right attitude for us to take at this point — 20 days before his oath-taking at noon of June 30 — is to trust him as the more than 15 million Filipinos who voted for him do.

The incoming president, who has a sparse track record as an executive, needs time and space to define more accurately the problems bedeviling the nation so he can fine-tune his plans of action.

In good faith, we must give him all the time and space that he needs.

* * *

CLEAR RESPONSES: Those of us who want clear direct answers to specific questions will give Aquino high grades in that presscon. Transparency and honesty are at a premium in this milieu muddled by double-talking politicians.

Some of Aquino’s quick, direct answers to tricky questions:

* He will retain Director General Jesus Versoza as chief of the Philippine National Police, and will replace Gen. Delfin Bangit as armed forces chief of staff. Early on, Verzosa had offered his resignation while, in contrast, Bangit did not.

* Although incoming Vice President Jojo Binay (of another party) has expressed interest in becoming secretary of the interior and local government, Aquino did not rule out his naming somebody else.

* Sen. Mar Roxas, his vice presidential partner that Binay defeated by some 700,000 votes, will be given the Cabinet post of his choice after the one-year ban on losing candidates being appointed to government.

* Replying to a question, Aquino did not rule out the prosecution of President Arroyo after she steps down if evidence warrants such action. He said reconciliation must not be at the expense of justice.

* When asked about possibly getting married while in office, the 50-year-old bachelor did not give even just a hint, as they carelessly do in showbiz, that he might.

* * *

ZINGERS: Ricky Carandang of ABS-CBN asked me the other day if I was the one who sent them some KFC zingers. Since I have not encountered zingers in my daily soaking in the Lifestyle food channel, I had to ask what zingers were. He said they were like nuggets, which I recognized.

No, I didn’t send them zingers, I said. Then it must have been the other Federico Pascual, he said in jest. And we laughed over it. (Contrary to misimpressions, Ricky and I are not sworn enemies. I think.)

The shadow of that “other” FP has been bothersome. This was not the first time his name messed up mine, also courtesy of ABS-CBN (see Postscript, June 6, 2010).

* * *

TRUTH SERUM: I told Ricky my plan to take ads in the papers warning the public that a certain FP (photo to be posted) has been taking my name in vain and that I will not honor any transaction entered into by the impostor. I heard Ricky laugh on the phone. I guess.

Later I texted to caution him about the nuggets as, I said, they might be spiked with truth serum! It would be disastrous, I solicitously warned, for ABS-CBN to be forced to tell the truth in its TV Patrol reports. That elicited another “ha ha!” from him. I’m sure.

He has to laugh at my jokes, I mused. My restless lawyer might just decide one slow day to file charges over their dragging me into the midnight appointments mess and maliciously tagging me as an apologist of the Arroyo administration.

* * *

POST OFFERED: Later in the day, Jimmy Gil Live of the other station called. Jimmy, jolly as usual, was laughing, I swear, when I recalled that light exchange with Ricky about zingers, warning ads and truth serum.

To fill him in and give the right perspective, I also told Jimmy a detail that I asked Ricky days ago to keep confidential.

Only very close friends know that, without my asking for it, President Arroyo actually offered me way back in April a board seat in the Philippine National Oil Co. I politely declined it with thanks.

I did not have to explain to her, because I knew that the President understands, and respects, why a professional newsman like me will not want to disturb his independent stance vis-à-vis the government.

* * *

WATCHDOGS: We all have friends in government — this is a small town — but I think I have kept my proper distance while doing my job that is at times akin to walking a tight rope.

As we tell aspiring journalists in the classroom, the local press functioning in a libertarian setup (largely borrowed from the American model) takes an adversarial position in relation to the government.

That is probably why we in the press are sometimes called watchdogs, as dramatically opposed to being lapdogs — as the press toiling under the gun was widely regarded during the dark night of Marcosian martial rule.

We trust that incoming president Noynoy Aquino will also understand our difficult job as members of the Fourth Estate.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 10, 2010)

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