Advice from an ‘unofficial adviser’

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

The Philippine Red Cross is not a government agency and, therefore, not subject to audit by the Commission on Audit.

President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte should have been advised to keep his hands off the Red Cross, even if his position makes him the honorary president of the humanitarian body.

The Red Cross is a “voluntary, independent and autonomous non-governmental society” that supports the government in humanitarian fields, according to its mandate.

The President’s pronouncement that PRC should be audited has put him in an embarrassing position.

Digong was out of line in attacking Sen. Dick Gordon as Red Cross chairman, threatening to have the humanitarian body audited.

Gordon, who’s been involved in the international humanitarian group, is one of the best leaders – if not the best, so far – that the Red Cross has had.

As PRC chairman, Gordon does not receive a single centavo.

A Supreme Court decision in 2011 said that there is no conflict of interest in Gordon being PRC chairman and senator at the same time. The same decision said that the government does not own the Philippine National Red Cross.

The Red Cross used to be called the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), but the word “national” has been done away with because it is a private – and not a government – organization.

If his quarrel with Gordon were of another issue, I would side with Digong as he is closer to me than I am to Dick. But not on this issue.

As a close friend of the President’s, I am deeply hurt and feel like crying when he makes egregious blunders in public.

It shows that he’s not receiving the proper advice from those around him at the Palace.

I would volunteer, if I may, to guide Digong in his public pronouncements if my advice were sought.

If I were his unofficial adviser, I would make Digong realize that people are now laughing at his rambling speeches and his gaffes.

As his true, genuine friend, I would tell the President that he’s wrong on certain issues even if some of his advisers say he’s doing the right thing.

Many of the people around him are driving a wedge between this columnist and Digong!

Three years ago, the Asian Journalists Association (AJA) wanted to confer on the President the Man of the Year Award for 2017 on his official visit to Seoul, Korea in June of 2018.

AJA, founded in 2004, has reporters, editors and columnists from 50 countries as its members.

As one of the directors of AJA, which is based in Seoul, I was given the task of informing the President about the award.

The yearly award from AJA is given to Asian leaders and individuals who have touched the lives of people in their country and in the region.

One year before, in 2017, Indonesian President Joko Widodo was given the Man of the Year Award for 2016.

I told the President about AJA’s conferment of the award on him in one of my visits to Malacañang.

The President said he would be greatly honored to receive the award.

If memory serves, he even told me, “Mabuti pa ang mga journalists sa ibang bansa recognized ako (How ironic that I’m recognized by journalists in other countries).”

The President’s official visit to Seoul was in the second week of June of 2018.

A member of the President’s official delegation, I asked Malacañang officials whether the conferment of the award by AJA was on his schedule. Negative, I was told.

But how could that be, I protested, when the President and I had already said yes and that preparations had been made by AJA members in Seoul.

On the plane enroute to Seoul and at the hotel where our delegation was billeted, I was blocked at every turn to talk to the President and remind him of the conferment of the prestigious award.

Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, then the Special Assistant to the President, could not help me in reminding the President about the scheduled award, saying it was out of his hands.

Deeply embarrassed, I told my colleagues at AJA that the conferment of the award was not on the President’s schedule. They were incredulous, to say the least.

I couldn’t tell them that Digong had an impenetrably thick cordon sanitaire.

Another instance the cordon sanitaire was at work was when Digong asked me if I knew people who could “cleanse (the Palace) of negative energy.”

Digong and I are believers in the metaphysical or supernatural.

I gathered “energy healers” from Montalban in Rizal province, Quezon province and Metro Manila to do as requested.

We were made to waait for several hours before we could enter the Palace. Apparently, Digong didn’t tell the Palace people of our visit or they didn’t believe in what the Big Boss believes in.

At another time, Digong dared me to sleep in a room in Malacañang where there were “apparitions.” When I called his dare, the Palace people blocked it.

The results of the “energy cleansing” are for another column.

Why do you think Digong would listen to me if I were his unofficial adviser?

Because he respects me as a friend and as a journalist.

I hate to bring this up again, as I’ve done so many times: I was the first one to urge the then mayor of Davao City to take a shot at the presidency.

He told me I was probably crazy since he was an unknown entity and didn’t have the money to fund the campaign.

The rest is history.



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