With his unit tagged “Office of Disinformation and Miscommunication,” can Sec. Martin Andanar still be worthy of a job that demands credibility, a raison d'être?
In a book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, bestselling author and satirist Al Franken cites the importance of painstaking research and fact-checking—really getting the facts straight—that his work went through, so that readers “can rest assured that almost every fact in this book is correct.”
And then he tells readers: “Either that, or it’s a joke. If you think you’ve found something that rings untrue, you’ve probably just missed a hilarious joke, and should blame yourself rather than me.”
If only Andanar could just brush aside as “jokes” all the boo-boos attributed to him since he sought to be appointed as head of the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), everything might be alright.
Or, if only it’s proper for Andanar to just blame others rather than himself, like Franken says, then he won’t have to be apologetic particularly to Congress while it goes over the PCO budget. And he won’t be the butt of jokes especially in social media where the sheer cruelty just might make him cry, again.
Unfortunately for Andanar, saying “I was only joking” won’t be acceptable to an apparently irritated Marlon Ramos, who wrote the recent Inquirer front-page article on the blunders attributed to him and the PCO, and others in local and international media who felt duped by a PCO news release that proved to be grossly erroneous.
The PCO had said last week that President Duterte would be seated between US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the gala dinner at the ASEAN summit in Laos. Such information turned out to be a bum steer.
Unlike Duterte who can easily get away with whatever fiery rhetoric he makes by simply dismissing as a joke any jolting or controversial statement he wants to recant, Andanar cannot just do so without risking being branded a big fool who ought not to be taken seriously.
And not being taken seriously is the worst that could happen to one whose job is to be trusted and believed. As I wrote in a previous column on Duterte’s State of the Nation Address, a communications chief’s essence for being is credibility. Without it, failure is inevitable. Credibility is the raison d'être, the reason for being; it justifies why the PCO should exist at all.
Credibility starts with correct information. Credibility is the basis of trust, the bond between the PCO and its clientele—the media and the people. And trust begins to crumble once it becomes stained by falsehoods, deception, blatant lies, and even perception of such.
Fortunately for the PCO, tolerance for deception in the Philippines can be much higher than in other countries. Had it happened in Germany or Japan where ethical standards can be uncompromising, a communications chief who can no longer be trusted would have resigned.
But unlike his bashers in social media, I’m not saying it’s time for Andanar to resign. I don’t share yet the view of some netizens that he has a propensity to lie through his teeth and ought to be fired. I just have the impression though that he has a compulsion to exaggerate sometimes—like when he implied Duterte’s inaugural SONA could drive people to tears and stir up patriotic feelings.
There were no TV images of people sobbing inside Batasan nor were there crying patriots scampering out on the streets during SONA day, the day Andanar’s credibility started to take a hit despite the explanation that his assessment of the draft speech supposed to be delivered by the President was subjective.
But Andanar’s downfall can be averted if he strives to learn and do his job better to rid himself and the PCO of the apparent incompetence described by the likes of Teddy Boy Locsin, Sen. Dick Gordon, Kit Tatad, and many others.
The faux pas at the ASEAN summit could have been prevented had he issued, even at the last hour before the gala dinner (he had about 10 hours to do so), a statement to rectify the earlier news release.
And Andanar shouldn’t be telling the world that his subordinates are solely to blame. It doesn’t do wonders for his leadership, nor for his character. (To be continued)