His more than two decades in broadcast and communications encompassed roles as TV news anchor, radio commentator, podcaster, and video and audio blogger, preparing him for his biggest communications role to date: Presidential Communications Secretary.

[1] Please update us on changes you had planned, or earlier announced, about your department and its communication strategy for the President.
— What is the name now of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) that you said on June 20, 2016 would be leaner and one letter less in its initials?

We have decided to retain the PCOO brand for practical considerations after realizing we do not have enough funds to defray the costs involved in having a change of name. Anyway, as Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

— Is your title now Press Secretary? The office of the press secretary has been restored? How does it relate to the PCO?
Since we have retained the PCOO brand, it follows that my position title is still PCOO Secretary or Presidential Communications Secretary.

— How has the reallocation of functions on messages of President Duterte between you and presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella—which you defined in a Feb. 27, 2017 department order—worked?
Spokesperson Abella and I have a very good working relationship. Since February, the realignment of functions has made life better and more productive for both of us. With his calm demeanor, he has been doing great in articulating the President’s pronouncements, and I think our styles complement each other.

[2] Early on, media was advised to get the meaning of what the President says–ignore exaggerations and jokes and go to his spokesperson and his communications office for clarification—before reporting and commenting. Has that advice helped journalists in getting the President’s message right?
Absolutely, and as you may have noticed in the past few months, there have been fewer instances when the need to clarify the President’s messages arose.

[3] The President’s complaints about media, as can be gathered from his public statements, dwell mainly on focus of stories. He griped about Inquirer’s slant on the drug war being directed against the poor and about ABS-CBN reporting on the wealth issue. Those are general criticisms. Would it help if your office could provide media with specific cases that support the President’s complaints?
A good example would be the media hype over the EJK or extra-judicial killings. While most of the headlines focus on the body count as a result of the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, very few are reporting on the real score and the fact that the campaign is more than just eliminating the drug problem but also about finding a long-term solution. That’s why the PCOO, DOH (Department of Health), DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), PNP (Philippine National Police) and PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) jointly came up with the #RealNumbersPH forum to present the facts and actual figures as well as what both the government and private sector are doing to heal not only the users and pushers, but the entire nation.

[4] How has your office addressed the information needs of regional centers and rural communities, which are barely reached by the “national media” that cater mainly to their Manila audience?
We launched the Provincial Communication Officers Network or PCO Net precisely to address this concern, along with the strengthening of our existing platforms in various specialized agencies under the PCOO.

[5] How have you adjusted with your work after the initial turbulence in your relations with journalists?
Those were birth pains that accompany the transition period every time there is a change in government. I believe somehow we have hurdled the so-called turbulence quite well, and we hope to have better working relations with them.

[6] What are the thrusts of your office other than staying on the President’s messages to the nations?
We are working on improving our state-owned media agencies, our facilities (broadcast hubs) and more importantly, we are investing in our human capital by giving our personnel, our reporters and editors the proper training here and abroad for them to improve in their fields.

[7] What would you like to see more and less of regarding media coverage of the President?
More impartiality and fairness while at the same time lessening the tendency to create intrigues and hostility.

[Interviewed by PACHICO A. SEARES]

Read also: Covering Duterte after Year One
Read also: Deciphering the man

(CJJ12 was published in hardcopy in September 2017.)