Miscommunication, disinformation office
VIENTIANE—Why not rename it Office of Disinformation and Miscommunication?
As if the controversy stemming from President Rodrigo Duterte’s verbal assaults on two world leaders was not enough, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) committed another diplomatic faux pas at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit here.
The PCO, headed by Secretary Martin Andanar, on Wednesday issued a press release claiming Mr. Duterte would be seated between US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the evening gala dinner.
“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,” the statement read.
“Incidentally, (Ban) is also seated on the other side of President Duterte,” it added. “The media from all over the world, including from the Philippines, are up in excitement as each await the event where the two leaders will possibly say something positive after the two nations mutually agreed to move the scheduled bilateral meeting to a later date.”
But the “excitement” over the supposed meeting of Mr. Duterte with Obama and Ban quickly dissipated and turned into disappointment as the three were seated separately during the gathering at the National Convention Center.
The press statement issued by Andanar’s office proved to be a bum steer, or “kuryente” in journalism parlance.
The President, who wore a maroon traditional Laotian garb, was seated between Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the far side of the long table.
Obama occupied the seat between State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma (Myanmar) and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei on the opposite end.
Ban was a few seats away from Obama.
When sought for clarification, Andanar said the much-anticipated encounter of the President with Obama and Ban was supposed to happen at the turnover rites for the Philippines’ chairmanship of the Asean summit.
As of press time, the three leaders had yet to meet at any of the related meetings during the three-day summit, which ended yesterday.
Andanar, a former radio and television broadcaster at TV5, previously drew flak from the public after claiming that the President’s inaugural State of the Nation Address would be heart-wrenching.
But the Chief Executive opted not to read his prepared speech in its entirety and instead delivered an impromptu with offbeat humor.
In an interview on Wednesday afternoon, Andanar confirmed that Mr. Duterte indeed would be seated next to the American leader and the UN secretary general at the leaders’ gala dinner.
Difficult to speculate
“It’s difficult to speculate, but certainly they will have their drinks and food together,” he told reporters when asked about his expectation of the meeting.
Mr. Duterte had blasted Ban and the UN rapporteurs for speaking strongly against the surge in summary killings since he ordered a take-no-prisoners campaign against illegal drugs.
The President even threatened to pull the Philippines out of the 193-member United Nations, calling it “very stupid” for issuing statements against his administration’s war on drugs.
Before flying to this Laotian capital on Tuesday, he warned Obama not to question him about the killings in his war on drugs or “son of a bitch I will swear at you.”
A day after, Mr. Duterte issued a statement expressing “regret” over his profanity-laced attack on the US leader. TVJ
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