DDI Strategic Communications Chief Executive Officer Edwin Lacierda, and Chief Operations Officer Abigail F. Valte shared their insights about their previous portfolios as spokespersons of President Benigno Aquino III, at the 2017 Talakayang Alay sa Bayan (TALAB) of Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) held last February 21.
Power in the spoken word
Lacierda took part in “Truth and Power: Reflections on Speaking for the President”, a forum hosted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He sat alongside other presidential spokespersons: Ricardo Saludo for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Kris Ablan for President Rodrigo Duterte.
In response to the title of the Inquirer forum, Lacierda said, “There is power in the spoken word… My authority as a spokesperson does not come from within. It does not come from the words we speak but because our authority comes from the close proximity with the principals for whom we speak… You also get to experience and learn from your principal how he makes decisions, consensus building, debates, coming up with national policy. In that regard also, as spokespersons, we speak truth.”
During the open forum, Lacierda also expressed his take on whether or not truth is the result of power, particularly in the context of the rise of social media influencers. He said, “Truth stands regardless of whether you have power or not. Truth is objective. You can spin or whatever but truth is always truth. It will always come out.”
On his biggest realization as President Aquino’s spokesperson, Lacierda echoed the dictum “Campaign in poetry, govern in prose,” made famous by former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. Lacierda said, “In the government, you cannot communicate as though you’re campaigning. Campaigns have a tendency to exaggerate. In government, it’s now based in policy. Look at the numbers. How did you do the conditional cash transfer program, that’s governed by numbers. When you deal with this, the campaigning has stopped. You have to govern. Otherwise, you’ll make up stories left and right.”
Public engagement through social media
Meanwhile, Valte served as a speaker for “Broadcast Journalism and Social Media Platforms”, a forum organized by the Association of Ateneo Communications Majors. As part of President Aquino’s communications team, Valte gave her thoughts on how the previous administration had relied on Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites not only to communicate government policies, but also to interact with the Filipino people.
“We chose to be on social media because it provides… direct, unfiltered access which is not a speaker-box type, meaning a voice that just talks into the kawalan, but there is an ability to talk to you guys directly,” Valte said.
Among the initiatives that were discussed during the forum were the social networking accounts of the Official Gazette online (www.gov.ph), the social media drive during the Philippine hosting of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, and campaigns related to natural calamities such as #ReliefPH, #RescuePH and #Lubak2Normal.
As a former Palace spokesperson, Valte also shared her two cents on the relationship between the government and media: “There is a perpetual push-and-pull between government and media, as it always should be… Laging may natural friction ‘yan because government will say something, and media will say ‘Are you telling the truth?’ And it creates a healthy relationship because the media that takes government’s word hook, line, and sinker is not a free press.”
The 2017 TALAB, which follows the format of alternative classroom discussions, is aimed at providing students an opportunity to reflect on the various issues confronting the nation. Vice President Leni Robredo, Senator Risa Hontiveros, and TV host Boy Abunda also keynoted the event.