The government has implemented a minor revamp in its communication team for better information dissemination on efforts to address the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque has been designated to lead the government’s communication efforts during the public health emergency based on a new Palace memorandum.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, on the other hand, will step back from his communication duties as Roque takes over the announcement of resolutions issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) related to the coronavirus response.
Nograles, spokesman of IATF, previously conducted almost daily virtual press conferences to give updates on IATF decisions on the government’s coronavirus response. The former Davao lawmaker stopped holding his remote press briefings on Wednesday.
“Yes, nagkaroon na ng pag-utos ang ating Executive Secretary (Salvador Medialdea) that information sharing will now be centralized through the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson,” Roque said in a Palace press briefing when asked if he was taking the lead over the government’s communication campaign.
Under Medialdea’s memorandum, Roque said Dr. Maria Rosario Vergeire, undersecretary of the Department of Health, will remain as spokesperson on issues related to public health. Vergeire has been holding almost daily public briefings on COVID-19 updates.
“The memo said the only authorized persons to speak on behalf of government are number one, the presidential spokesman, and number two, Usec. Vergeire of DoH for health related matters,” Roque said.
Asked what prompted the change in the communication strategy, Roque said he was not aware of the basis for Medialdea’s decision but said that he will just follow the memorandum.
The latest change in the communication strategy came amid the rumored brewing turf war between Roque and Nograles. Rumors circulated that Nograles was reminded to stick to IATF resolutions and not dwell on the President’s pronouncements during his press conferences.
Roque returned to his old post as the President’s spokesman last week, more than a year after he decided to seek an elective post. He replaced Salvador Panelo in the middle of the government’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate its impact on the people. Panelo remains as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.
Prior to Roque’s appointment, Nograles conducted virtual press conferences from his residence almost everyday, sharing with the public the decisions issued by the IATF. The task force is the government’s policy planning group on COVID-19 response.
Nograles also became active on social media, even posting a tribute dance for health workers on TikTok. He later defended his action after drawing flak from some netizens, saying his work continues despite his TikTok appearance.
He recently wept while being interviewed by Willie Revillame over the plight of frontliners. (Genalyn Kabiling)