PALACE  CLAMS  UP ON MAJOR ISSUES:  LESS TALK, FEWER MISTAKES?

MANILA
, January 21, 2006, (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Less talk, fewer mistakes... and maybe less controversy.

Malacañang appears to be sticking to its plan to sell more good news this year rather than issuing statements on political and controversial issues.

President Arroyo has also been more visible and talking more about her projects in efforts to improve social services for the people.

Malacañang has kept its distance from the controversy raised by the escape of four Oakwood mutineers from military custody last Tuesday, a security breach that triggered talk of another power grab in the works.

Mrs. Arroyo was not publicly seen nor was any celebration staged to mark the anniversary of the EDSA II street protests that ousted former President Joseph Estrada and installed her to power exactly five years ago.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the President is focusing on her job of providing more food, housing, education, low-cost medicines, health insurance as well as jobs to the people, especially the poor.

"Maybe it’s about time that we pay attention to what will really help our countrymen," Bunye said.

He said the government would like the economic gains to be felt by the people rather than talking about politics and dwelling on rumors of another destabilization plot.

"What the President wants to discuss with the people now when she goes to different places in the country is her programs to improve basic services," Bunye said.

Though the Senate has resumed its investigation into the wiretapping scandal that began Mrs. Arroyo’s political crisis, Bunye said Malacañang would rather refrain from commenting on the same issue which, he said, was "rehashed."

Coup rumors heated up anew following the escape of the four Army officers who had participated in the short-lived Oakwood mutiny against Mrs. Arroyo in 2003.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita earlier said Malacañang would want to improve its communications strategy to inform the people of what the government has been doing for them.

Ermita said President Arroyo would be more visible to the public in overseeing that her projects are properly implemented and felt directly by the people.

Ermita said the Palace now had a revitalized communication plan to ensure the public would not be fed bad news as a daily staple.

He said the officials involved in communications have reviewed what was accomplished last year to figure out which positive stories were missed or underreported.

"The name of the game, really, is how to effectively communicate those (stories) that we feel our people should know, that (the government) can help in the overall improvement of our citizens," Ermita said.

"(We talked about) what went wrong, why we have not been able to project as much as we think we should project and the issues that we must project starting January of 2006," he said.

Aside from the good economic indicators, Ermita said the administration will come up with an effective information strategy.

Ermita noted improvements in the delivery of basic social services, especially in providing cheaper food and medicine, were hardly reported.

He said the government must also be able to highlight the poor people’s access to education and health care.

President Arroyo and officials had complained about the media’s focus on negative issues and scandals, saying it had ignored the gains made by her administration.

Now that the President has weathered the worst of the political crisis, Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo would be more open.

"Now she’s more relaxed, more confident," Ermita said.

He said the President thought before that it was better for her to be seen working and governing "hands on," touring the countryside rather than "talking" most of the time.

Ermita said the President expressed belief that her reforms were paying off and the people should know about them.

"(She feels) that what she’s doing is okay," Ermita said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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