My short stint in Congress convinced me that one should not shun traditional power if one wants to effect change in society, because that’s where it actually happens.
In the beginning people said you can’t effect change because you’re just a mouth. I’d like to pinpoint one of my best accomplishments so far: third telecoms carrier. It started with an interview with Ted Failon: “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you! Bulok talaga telecoms natin. I have to go outside.” What happened apparently was that the President got calls from executives complaining about me, but instead of getting mad, he said, “Hay nako, unless they improve their services, I’m going to allow a third carrier in.”
Some areas [the President and I] don’t agree on—death penalty, lowering age of criminality—but then again that’s no problem because that’s decided by Congress. If Congress legislates it, I’d still have to support it because it’s a pet bill of the President. And I’d have no problems with it; Why? because people know where I stand and because my personal views do not matter in my current engagement. I have been saying that in this capacity, I have lost my personal opinion, I’ve had to set them aside. I have to carry the opinion of the president—that’s why I spend so much time with him, I have to make sure I’m saying his thoughts, and not mine.
I’m not turning my back on my advocacies and personal opinions, I’m just setting them aside for the time being, because I’m doing a job which I think will effect the same kind of changes I want. I’m so confident that even if I toe the President’s line now, people will know ultimately on certain issues I have very strong beliefs and they will never change.
I’ve stopped thinking about what the press says. Unfortunately, I’m probably the most active proponent of freedom of expression and freedom of the press. So I have to to walk the talk. My ultimate defense against writeups which I feel are unfair is that I don’t read them. I stopped subscribing to Inquirer. Rappler? I don’t read them. If I get bashed on Facebook, I block them. I’m very focused on what I do, I can’t please everyone.
PHOTO: Jilson Tiu
PHOTO: Jilson Tiu
It’s scary how I really think like the President. He’s just misunderstood—people think he’s a criminal. How can he be a criminal, he’s more narrow-minded when it comes to the rule of law than I am, and I’m the defense lawyer, he’s the public prosecutor. Their minds are very black and white. It’s either pursuant to the revised penal code or against the RPC. That’s why he will defend the police to the high heavens, or have them arrested.
[One of my first encounters with Mayor Duterte was on] a flight to Davao, there was a delay, but we were already on the plane. I very calmly argued with PAL that they should feed us because it was already dinner time. So it was 30 minutes of argument without any screaming and getting upset. I got my way and there was food for everyone. And lo and behold, he tapped me and said, “ ang gal ing galing mo.” He was literally at my back hearing every word I was saying. He heard how I argued for everyone on the plane.
I was supporting Binay. There was an opportunity to move over to Duterte’s camp, but I had to explain to [Duterte], “Mayor, you know me already, I’m a man of my word, if I had known you were running then, I would have supported you, because at least you did not have the same baggage as Binay,” and I acknowledged that Binay had very heavy luggage.
Early on, already I was the only one defending [the President's] foreign policy, even his Cabinet was shocked when he made that statement in China, when he said “I will break up with America.” It was only one Cabinet secretary and I clapping.
He’s very playful with his language, you don’t know when he’s kidding, you don’t know when he’s serious. Thats why I can’t rely on transcripts. I’ll get the transcripts a few hours later. But you don’t know how he said it, you need to see exactly how he said it. Medyo conscious rin sya when I’m around so he behaves. But all the remarks that he got flak for, I wasn’t around. He knows I’m listening intently, I’m like a reporter that can’t be scooped by his subject.
The bloggers, you just have to tolerate them. They hit me viciously but that’s part and parcel of freedom of expression. I’m not too bothered, and if the other bloggers believe them, well. I didn’t lose sleep, I just kept on blocking them, you can’t shit in my backyard, asshole, block block block.
I’m really grossly disappointed when traditional media reports fake news, although I’ve only been a victim of it once [the Philippine Rise incident], but I couldn’t get over it because it was so glaring, and I thought my gosh, this was absolutely unforgivable.
Believe it or not, if I don’t have a press briefing, I miss it. I was a professor for 15 years, it’s no different from a classroom except we talk about different issues and presidential positions. The Malacanang Press Corps are an intelligent bunch, very professional, I’m so happy with them actually.
I’m actually quite fond of Pia [Ranada] and so is the President, and so I do miss her in my press briefings, but what can I do. They’ve been together since the campaign when she was embedded.
[What I relish most about my job] is being the first to know. Can you imagine, I have license to ask the president what he thinks and no one else knows what he thinks. That’s thrilling.
This job was completely unexpected, I nearly died when I got the call, “would you like to be spokesperson?” You’ve got be kidding. No one really lasts at this post. Look at the pictures of my predecessors, pinakamadami. Average shelf life is one year, it’s the most stressful job.
I had a sense that the President was going to offer [a position], because at an event of the councilors' league, he told me in front of everyone, “ tama na yung advocacies mo, come join me, come join me.”
At the back of my mind, well it would be nice to be Secretary of Justice, or to be Ombudsman. Ha? Spokespeson? What. I actually went to him and said no,
I cannot accept for three reasons: I have a terrible temper, an incredibly big mouth, I’m going to be a liability and the two of us we will implode. He said, “ah thats ok, I have many assets, you can be my liability.”
My wife, she lost sleep again. She thinks I should be more careful. I said, Sweetie, if I become the person you want me to be, always calculating, it won’t be much fun. For me to last in anything, I have to enjoy it. I’m playful with my language, whats wrong with that?