Dear Secretary Edwin Lacierda

This is an open letter to Secretary Edwin Lacierda. I wrote this right after reading about his comment on the appeal from ABS-CBN employees to P.Noy. Full disclosure — I did meet with the disgruntled employees of ABS-CBN and I believe that they do have valid grievances.

Dear Secretary Lacierda,

I realize that you are new to the job. As presidential spokesman, every word you utter in an official capacity (and sometimes even in informal discussions) are no longer yours – but that of the President. It doesn’t help that the Office of the Communications Director has become almost a weekly zarzuela with similarities to the daily crossword’s neighbor: “Spot the Difference.”

I write not to add to your woes but to share some advice. When my father was alive, I marveled at his patience with constituents, the media, and politicians who came a-knocking with a request or two. His political career spanned decades. Through it all, despite ups and downs, he managed to keep his friends and gain the respect of his “enemies.”

I asked him about the patience thing. He said, “Dapat malalim ang pinagkukuhanan mo.” He said that one must respond only after understanding where the other side stood and why. I know this is often difficult given the 24/7 news cycle that you have to contend with. But it is sage advice from someone who took more blows than you can imagine, from the Marcos era to the twilight of his years as DFA Secretary under President Arroyo.

Let me now point out to you a specific example of how my father’s advice could come in handy. In the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Page 19, August 1 issue), at the very bottom of the article written by TJ Burgonio, you had this to say about the appeal from distressed ABS-CBN employees for the President’s help in their labor case:

“ABS is a publicly listed company. It has its own management. I think it’s a private entity. President Aquino doesn’t need to step into these because there are appropriate agencies to address these concerns of alleged labor problems.”

Given that you have a point that there are other agencies more equipped to address the employees’ appeal, but can you not, as the President’s alter-ego, ask these agencies to look into the complaints? Don’t you think that these workers would not have brought their appeal right to the very doorsteps of Bahay Pangarap had there been another way?

Did you even bother to know about the case/s involved? Or consulted with Labor Secretary Baldoz on where these cases (because there are more than one of them) are?

If you had, then you’d understand the snail-paced labor justice system that these workers are entangled in. You’d probably be a wee bit more sensitized about how daunting it is for these workers to even look for political allies and sympathetic ears in a bureaucracy that see no rhyme or reason in falling out of the Kapamilya network’s good graces.

All of you now working for P.Noy must understand the stirrings of hope that his promises have kindled. Right now, because you are fairly new, the credibility of these promises are embedded in words, than deeds. Every word is taken apart, brought together, like Lego pieces interlocking into sandcastles of hope.

In the case of the ABS-CBN employees, your one-paragraph commentary may have sent hope to withering lows. Take it apart.

“ABS is a publicly listed company.” So what? Because it sells stocks, it is now safe from public scrutiny?

“It has its own management.” Yes, it does! And obviously, some of its own employees do not see eye to eye with management particularly on the touchy issue of regularization.

“I think it’s a private entity.” Duh!

And here’s the clincher — “President Aquino doesn’t need to step into these because there are appropriate agencies to address these concerns of alleged labor problems.”

Hey, did you hear that? That was the sound of a heavy door slammed in one’s face.

The President “doesn’t need to” do anything. But he does and he will, if he knows that injustice thrives. Or at least I hope he will.

Because that is the essence of P.Noy’s high trust and approval ratings. He is Spiderman. So why snip his web? If you don’t know the issue, say that you will refer it to the proper agency. That referral is already a big thing.

But for you to say, and I quote: “President Aquino doesn’t needs to step into these because there are appropriate agencies to address these concerns of alleged labor problems” — makes people like me who believe otherwise darn nervous.

Ah kaya pala walang banggit ng labor concerns sa SONA — “because there are appropriate agencies to address these concerns of alleged labor problems.”

Ah kaya pala ganun ang treatment ng workers sa Hacienda Luisita — “It has its own management. (I think) it’s a private entity.”

Ah kaya pala tataas ang toll fees dahil sa VAT at mandatory ang pag-collect ng P600 kada papaalis na OFW as advance contribution to the Pag-IBIG Fund — “President Aquino doesn’t need to step into these because there are appropriate agencies to address these concerns of alleged labor problems.”

Secretary Lacierda, I know that you came from the ranks of civil society groups who opposed the past regime. But now, you are a part of government. You are presidential spokesman. You are the voice of P.Noy.

Alamin mo ang pinagmumulan ng kabilang panig. Laliman mo ang pinagkukunan ng pag-unawa sa lahat.

Ika nga sa pelikula ni Spiderman at pati ni Manny Pacquiao: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Believe me when I say that I sympathize with your plight. Yours is not an easy job. But at least you have a job.

Thanks and best wishes always.

Toots :-)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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  • myepinoy

    A great reminder not only for those who called themselves as public servants but for everyone.

    Salamat.

  • jonathan

    i am thankful na mayroong mga taong kagaya ni secretary lacierda presidential spokeperson sa gobyerno,. totally agree ako sa lahat ng mga sinabi ni secretary lacierda tungkol sa judicial system dito sa pilipinas. tama lang na ang lahat kahit ang supreme court na may independency ay mayroon din dapat na accountability, para ang sinuman ay mag dalawang isip na gumawa ng maling mga desisyon. I am so dis appointed lang sa mga media na nandun sa press conference habang sinasagot ng presidential spokeperson ang mga paratang ni G. Corona laban sa gobyerno….paulit ulit ng sinasagot ni sec.lacierda ang mga issue at pino point out ang stand ng ehekutibo ukol sa paratang ni Corona. ngunit parang hindi makaintindi ang mga reporter.pakiramdam ko tuloy may envelope journalism talaga at sila’y mukhang pabor kay Corona at Arroyo. ang matalinong tao kasi, minsan mo lang sabihan madali makaintindi. kaya thank you talaga at may mga tao pa pala sa gobyernong matino.

  • Pax Boviscum

    I’ve watched the press conference of Atty. Lacierda after CJ Corona’s retaliation in defending the independency of the Judiciary. Mr. Lacierda said.. PNoy will not appealling the decision of SC on the case of Luisita? Why PNoy? HE IS NOW THE PRESIDENT!! Dapat hindi na siya nakikilaalam sa kaso ng Luisita!! Dapat ang sinabi ni Lacierda.. The President will leave the decision to the Cojuangcos if they will appeal or not!! Or sana ang sinabi niya ay as much as he knows hindi na mag-aappeal ang mga Cojuangcos!! Is this kind of assertion is not IMPEACHABLE IN NATURE? Hindi ba CONFLICT OF INTEREST yon??.. So thus this means hands on pa din si PNoy sa case ng Luisita? I dont understand the premise that hindi na mag-aapela si PNoy sa case ng Luisita? Atty. Lacierda might forget that Benigno Simeon Aquino is now the President!! Ok granted CJ Corona ousted from office then the new CJ appointed by PNoy takes the sitting position.. How can we all sure that hindi na sila mag-aappeal? Just asking!!

  • http://raymondolivercruz.wordpress.com Raymond Oliver Cruz

    Thanks, Toots Ople, for this wonderful insight! Hope the concerned party learns from it…