Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles has been given the presidential green light to support the government’s communication team.
President Duterte directed Nograles to hold a press briefing about his fresh directives during Monday’s Cabinet meeting, an assignment usually carried out by his spokesman Harry Roque.
Following the President’s order, Nograles returned to the Malacañang press briefing room Tuesday morning for a virtual press conference organized by the Presidential Communications Operations Office-Office of the Global Media and Public Affairs.
In the hour-long press briefing, the former Davao lawmaker appeared calm and modest while announcing the President’s new orders, including the halt in mining operations in an island in Tawi-Tawi, sanctions against internet service providers that fail to curb online child pornography, among others. He also answered several queries from the media during the online forum aired on government television as well as its PCOO's Facebook page.
An hour later, it was Roque's turn to hold a virtual press conference at the Palace briefing room where the entry of journalists is still prohibited since the coronavirus lockdown started last March.
Roque, known for being energetic and chatty at the podium, said he has no qualms about the role given to Nograles.
He clarified though with Nograles that issues outside the Cabinet agenda will stay part of his turf as spokesman of the President.
He said the release of government information will still be centralized through his office based on a Palace memorandum.
Such arrangement is supposedly meant to ensure clear information dissemination and avoid conflicting statements.
"Kahapon po sa meeting ay sinabi po ni Presidente na pupuwede naman siyang mag-discuss, iyong mga agenda na nangyari sa mga Cabinet meeting. At ako naman po ay sa akin ay okay lang iyon dahil ang dami ko nang topics na kinu-cover sa ating mga press briefing (In the meeting yesterday, the President said he could discuss the agenda tackled in the Cabinet meeting. I am okay with that because I cover many topics in my press briefings)," Roque said.
"Pero nagkasundo po kami ni Secretary Nograles na kapag hindi nakasama sa agenda ng Cabinet meeting ay dito na lang po natin sasagutin sa Presidential Press Briefing dahil mayroon nga pong danger na maraming nagsasalita, iba-iba ang sasabihin. (But Secretary Nograles and I agreed that if it is not part of the agenda of the Cabinet meeting, we will respond to such issue in the presidential press briefing because there is a danger of too many people talking but with different messages)," he said.
Roque then reminded fellow government officials about the existing communication setup in the Palace.
"Nagpapaalala lang po ako sa lahat ng aking mga kasama sa gobyerno, epektibo pa po iyong ating order ng ating Presidente, centralized po ang release ng information except siyempre kung kinakailangan na magbigay testimonya sa mga hearing ng Senado o ng Kongreso. (I am reminding all fellow officials in government, the order of the President about the centralized release of information except for those who testify in the hearings of Senate or Congress remains in effect)," he said.
In April 2020, the Palace designated Roque to become the government's lead spokesman as the government manages the pandemic. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire remained as spokesperson on issues related to public health.
Nograles stepped back from his communication duties as Roque took over the announcement of resolutions issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) related to the government’s coronavirus response. Nograles, co-chair of the IATF, previously held almost daily virtual press conferences to give updates on the government's pandemic response.