MANILA, JULY 12, 2010
(STAR) By Delon Porcalla - Having survived an ambush attempt in August 1987, President Aquino is now “allergic to all kinds of ambush,” including the one staged mostly by broadcast journalists.

“He prefers press briefings than ambush interviews,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told government-run radio station dzRB yesterday.

Mr. Aquino himself made this clear in his first briefing last Wednesday in a humorous manner, indicating that he is more comfortable in a sit-down interview where almost everybody is not at ease.

“Sa buong term ng nanay ko, isang beses lang ako na-ambush (1987 coup d’etat). Pero dito mga tatlong beses yata ako na-a-ambush sa isang araw (In my mother’s whole presidential term, I was ambushed only once. But here, I am ambushed three times a day),” he said, drawing laughter from journalists.

Before the briefing ended, Mr. Aquino consulted reporters if they would be amenable to holding press conferences at the briefing room where the Malacañang seal was.

“Kunin ko lang sana ang opinion ninyo (Can I just get your opinions?). In lieu of ambush interviews, puwede ba dito na lang (can it just be here)?” he asked.

When Palace reporters shouted yes, the President again asked reporters: “Can I take your word for it?” But as soon as he left the room, TV reporters went back to the old habit of ambushing the interviewee.

Nonetheless, Lacierda said the regular press briefings of Mr. Aquino, which might hopefully be ironed out in the coming weeks with the announcement of the Communications Group heads, would be “one of the differences between him and (former) President Arroyo.”

“Hopefully, we would maintain a once a week press briefing. I think he (Aquino) enjoyed the first briefing. But again that would depend on his schedule,” he said, citing as instance Mr. Aquino’s first command conference at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City this morning.

‘Montelibano can’t be appointed’

Also yesterday, Lacierda said the President could not appoint his cousin Maria Montelibano to the recently organized Communications Group because of a constitutional provision that bars the designation of relatives in government.

“Kamag-anak po siya (Montelibano), at ayon sa saligang batas, hindi ho siya maaring maitalaga sa gobyerno (She is a relative, and under the law, she cannot be appointed in government),” he said when asked whether Montelibano would be given any designation in the Aquino administration.

While Montelibano might have helped Mr. Aquino in the campaign, where she was the “active” head of their media bureau, Lacierda said the President could still tap her in other capacities not designated in the government.

“We could use her expertise and advice in our work and she would surely help when needed in whatever capacity,” he said, adding Montelibano, who was with the transition team, had always been consulted and most helpful.

During the time of the late former President Corazon Aquino, Mr. Aquino’s mother, Montelibano headed the Radio-TV Malacañang, which reportedly was her brainchild.

Malacañang is expected to announce the appointments of broadcast journalist Ricky Carandang and former Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary Herminio Coloma in today’s press briefing.

“The more important thing is the structure (of the Communications Group) before the manpower,” he said, adding that social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter would be among the “feedback mechanism” the Aquino government would use.

Lacierda clarified though that not all complaints forwarded to the President would be granted and acted on right away as these would depend on how urgent a case is.

“Some of the concerns may also be forwarded to other appropriate agencies,” he said. But he assured the public of quick response on issues that need outright attention.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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