OPS revival is Andanar’s idea
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - October 22, 2018 - 12:00am

To his credit, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar started the spadework to revert his department to the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS) as early as when President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in June 2016. This has been in the pipeline long before Senate president Vicente Sotto III officially raised two weeks ago the possibility of reverting back to OPS during the public hearing of the proposed 2019 budget of the PCOO.

The OPS was unceremoniously abolished and was replaced by PCOO as a new multi-headed entity. The PCOO reorganized the OPS and was renamed under Executive Order (EO) 4 that was signed on July 30, 2010 by former president Benigno “Noy” Aquino III. By virtue of EO 4, new sub-offices were also created in addition to existing OPS-attached agencies.

The following government agencies were placed under PCOO, namely: News and Information Bureau (NIB); Philippine News Agency (PNA); Philippine Information Agency (PIA); Intercontinental Broadcasting Corp. (IBC); People’s Television Network (PTV-4); Philippine Broadcasting Service-Bureau of Broadcast Services (Radyo ng Bayan) PBS; Radio-Television Malacañang Bureau of Communications Services (BCS); National Printing Office (NPO); APO Production Unit; OP Web Development Office (commonly referred to as the President’s New Media Team); and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO).

So all this time, Andanar has been instituting reforms leading back to the OPS set-up.

During his watch, all public engagements of the President have become accessible to all Filipinos here and abroad via Facebook. But Andanar’s innovations at the PCOO were overshadowed when certain PCOO-attached agencies committed gaffes from computer glitches to manmade errors, some of which might have been deliberate.

Undaunted, Andanar grappled with the PCOO’s hydra-headed-like set up of the government’s chief information body.

Let me reprint excerpts of Commonsense dated Nov. 25, 2016 when Andanar first bared his planned return of the OPS before former press secretaries through the years who once served respective administrations past:

“The OPS came into being a few months after the late president Corazon Aquino was swept into office as a result of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution. The late veteran journalist Teodoro Benigno became the first press secretary to head the OPS. (Benigno later joined The STAR as columnist a year after he resigned from the Aquino Cabinet.)

Andanar made the announcement during a “reunion” dinner of former press secretaries he hosted…last Nov. 15. I had the honor to be invited to the “reunion” by special request of the former press secretaries, according to Andanar. I supposed this was because of the fact I have covered four presidents at Malacañang Palace whom each of them served during their respective terms. All of them obviously knew me as their common denominator.

Except for a few who were not able to attend it, among those present were (arranged from the most recent to the past decade) former PCOO Secretary Herminio Coloma, Crispulo “Jun” Icban Jr., Ignacio “Toting” Bunye, Mike Toledo, Adolfo Azcuna, Lourdes “Deedee” Siytangco and Francisco “Kit” Tatad.

A special prayer was made for the former press secretaries who passed away already. They included Benigno, Jesus Sison, Cerge Remonde, and Rodolfo Reyes.

The 63-year-old Coloma credits himself as one of the original P-Noy Cabinet who survived his six-year term at the so-called “snake pit” at the Palace. Coloma stayed on from day one of P-Noy until the end of his term last June 30 this year and formally turned the PCO helm to Andanar. Coloma is now the executive vice president of The Manila Bulletin.

Icban, on the other hand, cited he had the “shortest stint” at the OPS during the nine-year watch of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He served the last five months into office of Mrs. Arroyo. The 81-year-old Icban, also the oldest among them, returned to his old post as editor-in-chief of The Manila Bulletin after his brief OPS stint.

But Toledo claimed he had the shortest stint actually. The youngest of them all at 55 years old, recalled that former president Joseph Estrada appointed him shortly before the latter was ousted from office in January 2001. Toledo took over the OPS from former press secretary Ricardo “Dong” Puno who resigned earlier in order to run for the Senate in May 2001…Toledo is currently the head of the media bureau of MVP Group of Companies.

Bunye served the longest during the Arroyo administration from 2002 up to 2008. During his six years office at the Palace, Bunye also served twice as “acting” executive secretary aside from his being concurrent presidential spokesman. After he resigned, Bunye was named by ex-president Arroyo to the monetary board.

Now 71 years old, Bunye writes a weekly column at The Manila Bulletin…

Like Bunye, Azcuna was also multi-tasking during Mrs. Aquino’s six-year term…Retired from his previous stint as associate justice of the Supreme Court, 77-year-old Azcuna is the current chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy.

And the most senior of them all is Tatad from whose Ministry of Information during the martial law regime was the predecessor of the OPS. He served for 11 years in the Cabinet of ex-president Ferdinand Marcos until he resigned in 1980 to dramatize his objection to the late dictator’s refusal to lift martial law…Now 77 years old, Tatad currently writes political column at The Manila Times.

Andanar’s fellow Cabinet member, Peace Process chief Jesus Dureza – who was also once the former press secretary of Mrs. Arroyo – could not make it due to a dental procedure. Dureza offered to host their next “reunion” and agreed to meet again in a dinner next time to be held at the Palace to celebrate the return of the OPS.”

I just don’t know if Dureza’s offered hosting of the next get-together of ex-press secretaries ever came to pass at all. Surely though, Andanar’s OPS idea will soon turn to reality with the go-signal from President Duterte.

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