PNoy left phone in Manila

09/23/2010 - MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers and spectators burst into laughter after Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang candidly told the House of Reprentatives appropriations committee that President Benigno Aquino III left his phone in Manila.

This was during the budget hearing of the Office of the President before the House appropriations committee on Thursday.

Carandang and Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa were defending their offices’ budget proposals for 2011. Carandang came late.

When he arrived, he was asked by House minority leader Edcel Lagman if the President has responded to his text messages. This was in reference to media reports that Carandang has been on texting range with the President, who is on official travel.

Carandang responded: “I have been texting the president, but I was informed by the staff he left his phone in Manila. I don’t think he got it. I started to text his close-in staff.”

An embarrassed Lagman then promptly stopped his questioning of Carandang amid the laughter in the hall.

Appropriations committee chair Jun Abaya thanked Carandang for his “good answer.”

Later on, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay told Carandang that while they appreciated the candor, he should never say that again. “I admire you for your honesty. I hope you don’t repeat that.”

Magsaysay asked Carandang if there are other ways he is in touch with the President. “Di po ba iniiwan ang data sa inyo on where you can contact him? Dun pa lang, miscommunciation na. How come you texted him using the wrong number?”

Carandang said: “There are different ways. We have 2 staff. There's a phone which is the more immediate way of contacting him. I've been sending him informal SMS, but we've been sending daily briefers. He's aware of what's happening.”

'It's birthing pains'

Carandang was later joined by fellow Palace Communications Group members, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma.

They were all quizzed on their lack of coordination, which had previously led to conflicting, oftentimes embarrassing messages from Malacañan.

Carandang stressed he crafts the messages Lacierda is supposed to deliver over Coloma’s facilities.

Coloma is in charge of the old Office of the Press Secretary and the old government mass media group.

The 3 stressed they coordinate with each other.

Magsaysay, however, reminded them of the confusion over the release of media guidelines for hostage situations.

Carandang had said there was none [media guidelines] after Coloma said there already was one.

Carandang said: “I agree with you there has been confusion. Part of it comes from fact my office is a new office. Previous administration had a press secretary in charge of everything . It’s birthing pains.”

Carandang told Magsaysay when she asked how long before the birthing pains are over that there was no confusion already.
Why many talking heads

Coloma, meantime, justified the need for many talking heads.

He cited the 100 members of the Malacañan Press Corps, as well as various obligations to the media that makes it impossible physically for just one person to handle the job.

Coloma said:

“With the MPC [Malacañang Press Corps], there are more than 100 members, print, radio, TV, online media. In the course of a day, many members of the MPC would be asking for information, and it's physically impossible to respond to all queries.

"From 5 a.m. to 10 a.m., if we tune into radio and TV, this is the news commentary period of the day, so many news and opinion programs wanting to get the side of Malacañan on almost every issue. They would want the Palace's reaction. That's why we endeavor to answer as many if not all of those queries.

"By 11 a.m., we need to conduct a press briefing because of the deadline of newspapers. There are also late breaking news [so there's] another presscon at 2 p.m.

"From 4-6 p.m., we continue to be interviewed by radio stations. After prime time news, there are also calls to answer and appear in programs."

Lacierda said inquiries via SMS are "normally...sent to all of us. Normally, a reporter would ask us and we coordinate with each other on the proper response to question."

The 3 stressed they coordinate and talk to each other.

Lacierda and Carandang both are under the Office of the President though they have Cabinet rank.

Carandang’s office has a P50 million budget proposal for next year. (ABS CBN News)

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