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Palace releases wrong statement on seating arrangement

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar. Philstar.com/Jonathan Asuncion, file
VIENTIANE – Was it a case of overexcitement?
Malacañang has issued an erroneous statement claiming that President Duterte would be seated between US President Barack Obama and United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon during the gala dinner for leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The statement, which was issued Wednesday morning by the Presidential Communications Office, was picked up by both local and international media, creating a buzz among journalists covering the ASEAN meet here.
It claimed that media from all over the world “are up in excitement” for the event. The statement also predicted that Duterte and Obama would “possibly say something positive” to one another after their bilateral meeting was moved to a later date.
“Presidents Duterte and Obama will be seated next to each other, which expectedly, will focus all cameras on them to deliver to the world the encounter of the two. Incidentally, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also seated on the other side of President Duterte,” the statement read.  
The press release was at least partially correct when it claimed that the media would anticipate the event, which happened days after Duterte criticized Obama for supposedly meddling with his anti-drug war. Both Obama and Ban have received tough words from Duterte because of their supposed intrusion into the Philippines’ internal affairs.
But the seating arrangement, which would have made headlines, did not materialize.
During the gala dinner, Duterte was seated between Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Russian Prime Minister Medvedev instead.
Some government sources admitted not knowing the basis of the information relayed by Malacañang.
“We don’t know where they got that (information),” an official said.
Asked to explain the erroneous information released by his office, Andanar said: “No, it was supposed to happen tomorrow once Lao-PDR transfers the chairmanship to our country and based on the protocol, we are made to believe that it is going to be our president, president of Lao, and Barack Obama, or vice versa.”
He was referring to Thursday’s formal turnover of the ASEAN chairmanship to the Philippines, which will host the conference next year.
“But then again things can be changed right on the spot. For instance, the ASEAN-China meeting, even the lineup of those who can talk first, second, third was changed. So these things may change.”
Sen. Alan Cayetano, an ally of Duterte and chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said the news about Duterte sitting between Ban and Obama created “excitement”
“Even the ministers, because we were going around, getting to know the others. Even they were asking us, with either Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and the president, or Barack Obama and President Duterte,” Cayetano said.
“It’s about also imagination, expectation, et cetera. I’m not talking about the media. I’m saying everyone in the hall… Even us, were looking at who was sitting beside whom.”
When reminded that it was Malacañang that released the information about the supposed sitting arrangement, Cayetano clarified that he was not accusing the media of inventing things.
“No, no. I didn’t say you were inventing anything. I said there was an excitement. Don’t read anything (into it),” the senator said.
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