Interview with Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar by Pinky Webb – The Source (CNN Philippines)

 PINKY:                                               Thank you for joining us. I’m Pinky Webb. Change is coming at the Philippine News Agency through its newly formed editorial board. The big change was announced after the government website drew flak from the public after using a wrong Labor Department logo, sharing an article from China that questions our victory of the arbitral ruling and using a photo of Vietnam soldiers at the height of the Marawi crisis.

But other than the PNA, the communications department also faced another controversy, this time involving one of its Assistant Secretaries. The hashtag #firemocha trended online last week.

Let’s go straight to the source of the story, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. Sir, belated happy birthday to you, thank you for coming over, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Thank you, Pinky, it’s great to be back.

PINKY:                                                                Sir, I wanna start with #firemocha that trended last week because of what she had posted, a caption waiting, calling VP Leni Robredo and the three other senators to the wake of a policeman. The problem was the wake was actually published in the Inquirer a year ago, did you talk to her about this, napag-usapan ninyo?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            I saw a trend and I saw the hashtag trends. Well, during that time, we were in the middle of solving other problems in the agency, the Philippine News Agency. So aah—

PINKY:                                                                What did she say about it?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Well, she basically just—alam mo naman si Mocha kasi, she just moves forward eh. Whatever happens to her online and whatever hashtag trends, ang sabi ko nga, you know, it shouldn’t be ‘fire Mocha,’ it should be ‘Mocha on fire.’

PINKY:                                                                Oo, she was on fire. Meron ngang isang twitter, hindi ko na sasabihin, ang sinabi niya fire Mocha does not mean to set Mocha on fire, hindi ba. Now, but what did she say. Did she say, “Sec. Mart, pasensya na, nagkamali.” How does she explain that?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Right from the very beginning, sinabi naman niya sa akin na her facebook page is her own facebook page and since meron siyang disclaimer doon na whatever she says there does not reflect the government’s position or department’s ideas or whatever we feel, sa kanya iyon. And—

PINKY:                                                                And you are okay with that, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            I’m okay with that, because there is really an argument from another school of thought that would say that, when you are politically appointed, does it mean that you stop being political. When person becomes a congressman or senator or Vice President or a President do they stop?

PINKY:                                                                Yeah, actually there are two schools of thoughts. Tama.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Di ba, dalawa iyon eh.

PINKY:                                                                I submit to that, there are two ways of looking at it.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            So nasa gitna ako.

PINKY:                                                                Ay wala ka pang paninindigan kung nasaan dapat.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Well ako, well you’ll see it in my post, on my own facebook page. So I have to really be in the middle and I have to be objective to what I do.

PINKY:                                                                Okay. So her’s is—sinasabi nga ni Mocha, private. You know, sa palagay po niya karapatan niya po iyan. Pero the question remains, sir. She posted a photo na kailangan kayo bibisita, VP Leni and three others senators dito, waiting? Papano naman po mangyayari iyon, kung iyong namatay pong police noon eh one year ago na. So, how will you describe that?


SEC. ANDANAR:                            Magandang tanong iyan, Pinky. Sa palagay ko ganito lang iyan. I think that, that is really the price that she has to pay. Kasi unang-una may disclaimer siya na kung anuman ang gusto niyang sabihin, sa kanya lang iyon, walang kinalaman ang PCOO dito. Sabi ko okay. We agree to that. So kung meron siyang mga napo-post na nagiging controversial si Mocha, then she will have to answer for that. But then again, of course, as the head of agency I still end up answering.

PINKY:                                                                No, but sir how do you feel that it was a photo of a wake of a policeman who died a year ago?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            I have so many problems in my department.

PINKY:                                                                You just sweep it under the rug.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            No, I don’t sweep under the rug. I just ano—when I see her at the office, “kumusta ka na, okay ka lang ba?” “Okay lang, sir. Kasi gusto kong bantayan, gusto kong protektahan si Presidente.” You know, si Mocha Uson, still in a campaign mode until now.

PINKY:                                                                She really protects the President.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            She really protects the President and you know, whether we like it or not or the opposition like it or not and—we have to accept the fact that’s her unique selling proposition, her—

PINKY:                                                                Doon siya nakilala ano.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Her huge following on line.

PINKY:                                                                But still, sir, pasensiya na po. I submit to what you are saying that kanya po iyon. Ang question ko po kasi, is it was a wrong a photo. How can VP Leni and three other senators visit a wake a year ago, today, iyon yun. So, iyon ang tanong ko sa inyo, sir. How do you treat that? Pinapabayaan n’yo na lang, parang ganoon po?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            No. Number one, sinabi niya na it’s her own facebook page. Kahit anung sabihin ko sa kanya. Sabihin, “no, it’s my own.” Hindi necessarily kung ano iyong—basta ako iyon ang sinabi mo, I respect your decision na iyon ang posisyon mo diyan. I have  8 or 9 more agencies to run and a few hundred more people to look after.

PINKY:                                                                So what it is, you let her be. You leave her be?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Sabi niya kasi iyong facebook page sa kanya iyon, okay sa iyo.

PINKY:                                                                Ganoon na lang iyon. Hindi ho ba medyo natakot kayo doon sa posibleng backlash nga because of that. I mean, I guess this is my question, sir. As her boss do you say “Mocha I know that’s your facebook page, but you need to be a little bit more careful.” Meron ho bang ganoong sigurong parang advice?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Noong una meron siyang pinost about the photo of an army.

PINKY:                                                                Honduran police, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Ah police, yeah police na hindi sa Pilipinas. So after that, sabi ko lang kanya na…my advice to her, unsolicited advice, sabi ko, ‘that’s your own facebook page, you might as well probably think about hiring your own editorial team na…” Of course she has to spend for it, sarili naman niya iyon eh.

PINKY:                                                                Okay. You know, because it just went as far as people were saying, you know #firemocha nga, talagang nag-trend sa twitter. So anyway my guess—I guess it doesn’t faze you that much, it is fair to say that?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            No not really, because you know, Mocha enjoys the trust and confidence of the President. And the fact that she is always…most of the time, with him in activities, malaki ang tiwala ni Presidente sa kanya.

PINKY:                                                                Yeah, as a matter of fact, just very recently she was with the President again, when you were there, when he was asked about Agnes Callamard. Okay, let’s go to this, sir. Very controversial also iyong blogger. Sir, ano na iyong status doon sa accreditation ng bloggers?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Ganito lang iyon. Iyong accreditation na iyon, number one wala pa hong nag-a-apply.

PINKY:                                                                Wala pang nag-a-apply?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Wala pa. Number two, I have already engaged Malacañang Press Corps and they have also engaged me doon sa Department Order No. 15, which is basically an interim social media policy. Meaning, an intervening time na hindi pa nakikipagusap sa atin iyong mga stake holders, sectors that are interested or will be affected like mass media, traditional media, academe. So, now, they are engaging. So it’s good. It’s not a perfect document, we wanted it be perfect. It’s actually…it’s a historic document and we’ll see kung ano iyong isa-submit sa akin ng Malacañang Press Corps. Now, kung ano iyong kanilang mga gustong idagdag doon and we will incorporate it.

PINKY:                                                                So, are still in the process of fine tuning kung ano ho ang parang magiging buod or guidelines for the bloggers to be accredited, is that correct, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Tama, because when we started this last February, that was our actually reaction to what the President said. Noong bumisita iyong mga DDS supporters kay Presidente sa Malacañang at tinanung siya ni RJ Nieto kung puwedeng mag-cover iyong bloggers. You know, when the President says something its public policy. So, kami naman sumasagot lang naman kami kung ano ang sinabi ni Presidente. And so we created this and we in fact invited everyone, CNN included, doon sa all media ph. It was a forum held at the University of the Philippines to…para balangkasin itong social media policy. But unfortunately kaunti lang iyong nag-engage during that time. So sabi ko, when we create a policy, make sure that there is interim. Because I know that it’s going to invite, you know criticisms and—marami.

PINKY:                                                                Questions and criticisms.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Questions. So ngayon, so interim, di nandiyan na. Eh nakalagay nga, kaya nga interim.

PINKY:                                                                Ibig sabihin hindi pa ito final.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Hindi pa final.

PINKY:                                                                And conclusive. We will be taking a short break. Coming up, what are the plans to improve the Philippine News Agency? Secretary Martin Andanar will still be with us, after the break.

PINKY:                                                                Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. Sir, balikan ko iyong bloggers. So wala pa ring nagpapa-accredit hanggang sa ngayon?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Wala pa rin nagpapa-accredit. So kapag hinintay pa ng mga bloggers na maibigay sa akin ng Malacañang Press Corps, at kausap ko rin si Professor Danny Arao, then alam mo, this is an evolving document, baka paistrikto nang paistrikto iyong dokumento, baka wala nang pumasa.

PINKY:                                                                So, they can’t be accredited … no one is applying yet because it’s not yet open for accreditation?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            It’s open. It’s open. We sent it out, that’s DO 15. We released it. It’s an interim document; now we have all of the protests left and right. And so we’re waiting. We—

PINKY:                                                                Why is no one asking to be accredited if they asked the President if they can cover the President?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Beats me. [Laughs]

PINKY:                                                                [Laughs] Isn’t that weird, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Ako, I’m just doing my job.

PINKY:                                                                No, but what are you hearing? Bakit walang nagpapa-accredit so far?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Nothing. We’re just waiting. Hindi naman ako … sabihin ko, ‘O, Blogger ABC, pa accredit ka na.’

PINKY:                                                                Hindi iyong ikaw pa ang lalapit.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Eh di utang na loob ko pa iyon, ‘di ba.

PINKY:                                                                Okay. Pero iyong sinasabi mong binabalangkas, in the event, there will be guidelines?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Definitely. It will be—in fact, the first version was really strict. Iyong sinabi sa aking ni Congresswoman Brosas sa Kongreso na United Nations…what you call that? Iyong UN standard, ganoon. So of course, habang tumatagal siya, pakonti nang pakonti kasi iyon din naman ang naging suhestiyon sa amin ni Attorney Trixie Angeles, na legal ni Mocha. I mean, Mocha is the head of our social media. So kami naman, we’re just getting the cue from her office.
PINKY:                                                                So lahat ng magpapa-accredit ay dadaan kay Asec. Mocha?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Yah.

PINKY:                                                                Siya ang mag-a-approve, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Yah, yah.

PINKY:                                                                Is there a number—

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Well, PCOO will approve it, of course. Pero dadaan sa kaniya.

PINKY:                                                                Ah, dadaan muna sa kaniya siguro bago sa inyo, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            So PCOO and then—

PINKY:                                                                No, Asec. Mocha.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Ah, Mocha. Mocha and then goes through me and then—

PINKY:                                                                PSG, sir, ‘di ba?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            PSG.

PINKY:                                                                Okay. Sir, ilan ang ia-accredit? How many are you looking at?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Depende kung ilan iyong mag-apply.

PINKY:                                                                Is there a maximum that you’re looking at, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Wala naman.

PINKY:                                                                Wala pa rin. But at any given time—Because from what I researched, sir, that – for example, I’m just doing this hypothetically – you accredit 30. Kahit na accredited sila, at the end, it still up to the PSG pala kung papapasukin sila o hindi.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Yah, of course.

PINKY:                                                                So final say pa ang PSG?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Presidential Security Group. So kailangan natin respetuhin iyong kanilang analysis nung security ng Presidente. And if they say five, then five, okay; if four, four; three, one or none, wala.

PINKY:                                                                So puwedeng nandoon po sila at puwede silang pigilan ng PSG. Huwag lang sasama ang loob nila dahil ganoon ang magiging parang patakaran?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Once na ma-accredit sila ng PSG, tuluy-tuloy na iyon – for on event only.

PINKY:                                                                Yes, that’s right, sir. Oo, iyon na nga, so sa susunod na even, sir—

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Apply ulit.

PINKY:                                                                Of course apply, prior to the event para hindi na po sila magpagod. So at least, sir, may guidelines, sir, that they will have to strictly follow.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Of course, yeah. And of course, it’s an evolving document, and who knows what’s going to be added tomorrow or the next day.

PINKY:                                                                I mean, what is a number even you’re looking at? Kasi if the President said yes, ilan po kaya ang sapat na numero for them to be accredited?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Hindi ko alam, Pinky, because to be honest, this is the first time we’re doing it in this country. Although, they have that with White House, I think they have only one or two bloggers there covering in the White House. Depende talaga. It’s not going to be easy because every day, you have a President who is very active.

PINKY:                                                                And very spontaneous.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Very spontaneous. Iyong mga bloggers kasi, mga advocates iyan eh ‘di ba. Mayroong mga bloggers for energy, may bloggers for welfare, may bloggers for business, then they will have to choose their activity.

PINKY:                                                                All right, let’s move to another topic, sir, the Philippine News Agency. Kumusta na po? ‘Di ba, well, there were problems, blunders again.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Naku, ang daming problema sa PNA. Alam mo, Pinky, this is really an agency na napabayaan all throughout the years. When we came in, we came in with a set of workers na permanent – regular workers. So hindi naman dapat brusko ang isang government official na pumapasok at sabihin na, ‘Walang kuwenta itong mga ito. Our way is our way. You know, our way or the highway.’ Hindi naman ganoon ‘di ba. So we need to give the benefit of the doubt to all of these workers.

We came in with the 2003 website; it’s 2016 when we came in. Napakaluma ng website. We changed it. The website did not have a mobile site; we’ve created a mobile site for them. There was no application; we created an application. There was zero social media presence; we placed it on Facebook. We retrained the editors. We sent some of them abroad for training, and the reforms continue. In fact, by the end of September, we should have our own online newscast already just like Reuters, just like Xinhua News Agency, Bernama.

We only have one PNA. The Philippine News Agency is not an agency of the President, the government. It’s the agency of every Filipino. So that’s why I was inviting everyone, sina Professor Arao, KBP, PPI. I invited them, if you want to help then come and help kasi nag-iisa lang ito eh. It was ran to the ground, and we really don’t want—who would expect an editor of, what, 30 years na hindi alam kung ano ang logo ng DOLE ‘di ba. Diyos ko naman ‘di ba. Sino naman ang mag-e-expect din na i-a-upload ang isang commentary ng Xinhua News Agency—

PINKY:                                                                Na hindi pabor sa atin.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            And we all know na napakainit ng isyu, panahon pa ni Presidente Aquino – Noynoy Aquino. Napakainit nito, napaka-sensitive, why would you upload it.  Well, anyway, that person already opted for retirement – sobrang napahiya. At ito namang … doon sa DOLE, iyong editor doon, ganoon din dapat, nakipag-usap siya na imbes na tanggalin siya, i-suspend siya ng isang taon kasi pa-retire na raw siya, ganoon. So maaawa ka rin eh, ‘di ba. Ang tagal na diyan, mga 30 years na sa PNA.

PINKY:                                                                So talagang napabayaan, sir. Ang website 2003, last updated?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Well, I’ll ask you, have you read PNA before this? ‘Di ba, you don’t read PNA. And gusto nating buhayin because the progressive countries like Malaysia, like China, they have their own news … Bahrain News—

Alam mo ba, pumunta ako ng Bahrain News Agency, sabi ko, ‘You know what, Secretary’ – Minister ang tawag sa akin – ‘You know what, Minister, we learned from the PNA during the 70s. They taught us. They gave us the stylebook, etc.’ Saan tayo ‘di ba? And yet our budget is so low.

PINKY:                                                                Iyon nga, I want to discuss your budget, sir. Hindi po ba, there were—you were also in Congress for the budget of your department, sir?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Ang budget ng PNA ay nasa 60 million plus.

PINKY:                                                                60 m?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            60 m. Ito iyong pampasuweldo ng tao, because we have 19 bureaus all over the country. Pampasuweldo lang iyan, wala pang capital outlay. So we asked for about 13 million na capital outlay. And we’re hoping that it gets approved. Kasi how can you improve your Philippine News Agency kung iyong mga—

Ultimo computer, Pinky, Diyos ko…computer mismo ng editor, walang computer. You know, in Cebu, punta ka ng Cebu, the Queen City of the South, iyong mga monitor namin, iyong mga malalaki pang monitor. Mga Pentium yata iyon.

PINKY:                                                                Okay, a lot needs to be done, Secretary.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Madaming problema.

PINKY:                                                                Pero iyong editorial is in place already?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            The editorial board is in place. And then, soon we will be launching this consultative body that is composed of different journalism organi… well, journalist’ organization in the country, who will help in overhauling the entire PNA.

PINKY:                                                                But who is the head of your editorial board?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            The head of … it’s me.

PINKY:                                                                All right, so balik pa rin sa’yo.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Yeah, well, like every day, I get about a hundred stories and… there’s seven of us. [laughs]

PINKY:                                                                Sir, quickly, before you go, I’d just want to get your reaction, of course, on Kian Delos Santos, Senate hearing and the President promising the parents of Kian of a fair … what is the stand now of Malacañang? Moving forward siguro, sir, because of a possible, possible lang po na lapse in police operations?

SEC. ANDANAR:                            I was there during the…kasi nag-seek ng audience ang Delos Santos Family, parents ni Kian kay Presidente. So I was there. I was taking photos of that. And ipinangako ng Pangulo sa kanila na bibigyan talaga ng hustisya, lahat susuportahan iyong pamilya para makamtam ang hustisya every step of the way. Nandoon si Secretary Vit, si Attorney Acosta ng PAO, VACC was there. At hindi pababayaan ng Presidente. Nakita ko rin, you know, nagyakapaan ang Pangulo. They embraced each other.

Basta ang Ehekutibo ay nasa, ano lang, proseso. Kailangan talagang mabigyan ng hustisya itong mag-asawa at iyong pamilya ni Kian.

PINKY:                                                                Secretary Martin Andanar, sir, maraming salamat po sa inyo. Thank you, sir.

SEC. ANDANAR:                            Thank you.