AN image makeover for President Arroyo backfired yesterday when Palace reporters fumed that her first news conference in seven weeks was choreographed and foreign media complained about being shut out.
Arroyo has begun a public relations campaign to ride out the worst crisis of her four years in office over allegations of vote-rigging and graft in her family.
The news conference got off to a bad start, with members of the Malacañang Press Corps saying they had to submit questions in advance and that reporters from state-run media were given priority.
"It was a very strictly staged-managed press conference," said Lynda Jumilla of ABS-CBN. "Many of the questions there were of no use to us. They were not the questions we wanted to pursue."
One of the reporters asked Arroyo where she found the "inner strength" to cope with the crisis.
"From the Lord, from praying," replied Arroyo.
What a softball sipsip question from that unnamed reporter. Kanino kaya siya nagtratrabaho. Out that reporter! LOL.
Journalists working for foreign media outlets were surprised to discover they were not allowed to cover the President’s remarks, which were carried live on radio and television.
"We are drafting a letter to Secretary Bunye expressing disappointment at not being included," said Karl Wilson, president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Association of the Philippines (Focap).
"It’s a travesty," said Gil Cabacungan, of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. "It’s like we were used to legitimize the press conference."
Members of the Malacañang Press Corps were given cue cards Tuesday by staffers of the Office of the Press Secretary who asked them to submit their questions for Arroyo’s press conference at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Some preferred to list only their topics, anticipating that they might be stricken off the list if Palace officials knew that they would ask controversial questions, such as whether Arroyo would give orders that would enable Garcillano to surface.
Others pulled out or changed their questions after being told that four reporters already wanted to ask about the truth commission, eight about Charter change, and six about impeachment. About 40 reporters expressed desire to ask questions.
Press Undersecretary for Media Relations Isabel de Leon compiled the questions and topics.
Shortly before the press conference started, OPS officials ordered members of the Focap to leave the Ceremonial Hall on the ground that it was an "exclusive" press conference with the MPC.
The Focap members contented themselves with watching television monitors at the Press Working Area.
A few minutes before the press conference, Bunye announced that only eight questions would be accommodated because Arroyo only had 30 minutes to spare.
And one of those questions came from that sipsip reporter.
About a third of the press con was taken up by Arroyo’s monologue about her administration’s achievements – which she already took up in her State of the Nation Address on Monday but were not picked up by the media.
The dismay started when Bunye picked reporters from the National Broadcasting Network (NBN) 4 and Radyo ng Bayan – both government media entities – to ask the first questions.
The eight other reporters who were allowed to ask questions were from The Philippine Star, DZRH, DZMM, Manila Bulletin, Bombo Radyo, Remate, Ang Pilipino Star Ngayon, and Manila Standard Today.
Phil. Star and Manila Standard? No surprise there, if you know what I mean... (hi sassylawyer!)
The topics ranged from the omission in the SONA of the charges raised against her, her relationship with Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos, Charter change, her coping with the political crisis, the status of the truth commission, and the proposed 2006 budget.
Bunye said he picked the reporters who would ask questions based on "representations per topic."
He did not pick Inq.7’s Lira Dalangin-Fernandez who had said she would ask a question on the Garcillano issue.
After the press conference, the tension continued all the way to the press office, with confrontations breaking out between some reporters who were able to ask questions and those who were excluded.
Others assailed the Palace in interviews with television and radio stations and foreign wire agencies.
The Focap and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines issued statements denouncing the prior restriction made by Malacañang.
The MPC has not issued a statement. MPC president Ferdie Maglalang said he would call a meeting of the MPC.
But Maglalang, in several media interviews, said: "To put it in proper context, we should thank the President for giving us part of her time to have a press conference."
PCIJ blog reports on the media rigging by the Arroyo admin:
What was obviously intended as a PR blitz, however, went awry, with the Palace’s insistence that only Malacañang reporters be allowed to attend the press conference. The Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines was miffed that they were left out. And even the regular Palace reporters were upset that they were not able to ask their questions. Reporters were asked to submit their questions in advance, but many were not given a chance to query Mrs. Arroyo. “We were used,” said Inquirer reporter Gil Cabacungan.
Balita ko, yung Phil. Star na raw ang bagong paborito ng Malacanang.
Abante lists down some of the questions from the media na "na-censor" during the "press conference:
Ilan sa mga ‘na-censor’ na tanong, kabilang ang tanong ng Abante, ay ang mga sumusunod:
1. Sino ang Comelec official na inamin n’yo na kausap n’yo noong nakaraang eleksyon?
2. Ang pagtatayo ng Truth Commission ay ‘front’ lang daw upang takpan ang tunay na isyu ng pandaraya noong nakaraang eleksyon?
3. How damaging is the current political crisis to your administration? What lessons have you learned?
4. Sinasabotahe daw ng palace ang impeachment proceedings?
5. Malacañang behind move to oust Drilon as Senate President, bina-back-up daw si (Sen.) Miriam (Defensor-Santiago) bilang kapalit?
6. Hyatt 10 magte-testify laban sa inyo sa impeachment?
7. Are you in favor na referendum muna bago ChaCha?
8. Comment on negative surveys?
9. Birthday wish for Susan (Roces)? Is the door of reconciliation still open for her?
10. Would you still accept former allies from Hyatt 10?
11. How’s FG, Mikey? Comment on Sandra Cam’s implication involving you (GMA) on jueteng?
12. How confident are you that you will last your term given the current political situation?
More here, here and here.
The Trib also has a report on this:
Arroyo ‘makeover’ backfires, leaves media fuming
Thursday, 07 28, 2005
An image makeover for President Arroyo backfired yesterday when members of the media fumed that her first news conference in seven weeks was choreo-graphed, with members of foreign media complaining about being shut out.
Mrs. Arroyo yesterday showed rudeness to members of the opposition media, who complained of having been barred from asking questions during press conference.
Instead, only administration-friendly media entities were allowed to ask the Chief Executive questions despite the long list of tri-media reporters who wanted to take part in the affair.
All media entities perceived to be Palace critics were dropped from the list, among the Tribune.
As early as a day before the press conference, the office of the press Secretary asked Malacañang reporters who wanted to ask the Chief Executive questions to write their names in a prepared sheet.
What was intriguing was that the interested reporters were also asked to write their respective questions to Mrs. Arroyo for them to be arranged accordingly, a staff of Bunye said.
But minutes before the 11 am press briefing, Bunye, who acted as moderator of the event shocked media when he announced they would only entertain questions from eight reporters and make sure these questions would represent vital issues of the day.
The Palace also banned the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (Focap) from the affair, claiming it was exclusively for members of the Malacañang Press Corps.
Focap members who were not advised of such restriction were not allowed to enter the Palace Ceremonial Hall where the event took place.
“We are drafting a letter to Secretary Bunye expressing disappointment at not being included,” Karl Wilson, Focap president said.
Contrary to Bunye's statement, the questions asked did not represent vital issues but merely concentrated on Mrs. Arroyo's call for a Charter change, the recent state of the nation address, and other “light” issues.
The administration-friendly media entities chosen to ask questions were representatives of government TV station NBN-4, government radio station dzRB (Radyo ng Bayan), Philippine Star, dzRH, dzMM, Manila Bulletin, Bombo Radyo, Remate, Pilipino Star and Manila Standard Today.
Philippine Daily Inquirer's Gil Cabacungan said there has been an obvious attempt to control the media and use it as Mrs. Arroyo's propaganda tool.
“We thought all of us could ask questions, but tougher questions were weeded out. We believe the press conference is just a moro-moro, a make over of the President's image. Obviously, the President manipulated the media, the Malacañang Press Corps, we were made to look stupid but that's not our choice,” Cabacungan said.
On Bunye's alibi that he had not anticipated Arroyo's tight schedule, which forced him to limit the number of reporters, Cabacungan said, “They have no time? But Mrs. Arroyo still has time to pose for a series of photo sessions with the media. It could have been done in Luneta instead, if she wanted to.”
Cabacungan was referring to the photo session held after the press conference.
Those barred were supposed to tackle the election fraud issue, the audio tape scandal, the impeachment proceedings, even the accusation of Sandra Cam that Mrs. Arroyo benefited from Lilia Pineda's jueteng money, her sentiments on the current political surveys, Susan Roces, Senate President Franklin Drilon, the negative survey results, and other issues hounding the Arroyo administration.
MPC President Ferdie Maclalang said they will ask Bunye to explain the criteria he used in favoring the “privileged media entities in the said press conference.”
“What happened this morning showed the kind of news management this government has in the face of the crisis. To my mind, there seems to be an apparent policy of containment of media and we object to it,” he said.”