Media-shy Ochoa steps out of Palace shadowsBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Media-shy Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr. promised members of the Malacañang Press Corps (MPC) he would make himself more accessible to them next year, at the Christmas party he threw for the MPC Wednesday night.
The elusive Ochoa pledged to hold regular press briefings beginning January.
“We will study it, (but) if I could be of help, why not? I’ll try my best to accommodate (press briefings),” he said.
“The (MPC) says I should hold a briefing every week,” he said, drawing approving cheers from the members of the press.
“I said ‘next year.’ That won’t be long … but I hope this would not happen every week because I could run out of things to say, and we have so many talking heads already, isn’t that so?”
Since being named executive secretary by President Aquino, no one in the MPC could recall if Ochoa ever held a news briefing, a practice institutionalized by his predecessor, Eduardo Ermita, in the Arroyo administration.
Ochoa has held the media at bay from day one of the Aquino administration, largely keeping to himself and refusing to face reporters.
He however is indispensable to the media coverage of the Palace since he signs appointments and issues memorandums, and is expected to know the mind of the President on matters reaching the highest office.
Ochoa could also be picky about which Malacañang functions to attend, even if sometimes they are being held a few steps from his office. He is very rarely seen with the President, unlike Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
Apparently aware of the nonexistent relationship between Ochoa and the MPC, President Aquino has taken it upon himself to regularly brief the media on goings-on in the administration. Unlike his predecessor, Mr. Aquino has no qualms about sparing a few moments for the media in ambush interviews.
Currently, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte alternately brief the media at noon every day, with Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang popping in from time to time.
Asked what his Christmas message was, Ochoa said he wished Malacañang would be able to translate the achievements of the Aquino administration on the economic and political fronts into concrete programs that would be felt by the people.
“My wish for next year, or this Christmas, is for us to absorb the meaning of the achievements that P-Noy (President Aquino) has claimed … and how this could translate into more tangible and a more visible aspect toward … (the) progress of this country.”
He inadvertently admitted the Palace had a communication problem, pointing to the difficulty of convincing people to “see in concrete terms what (these gains) really mean (for the country).”
Seeking the help of the media in conveying these gains to the public, he said, “That’s the aspect that I would focus on if, as you say, I should conduct a briefing in the coming new year.”