Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has confirmed that veteran lawyer Salvador Panelo is only temporarily acting as his Presidential Spokesman following the resignation of the generally popular Harry Roque who is set to run in the 2019 midterm elections in support of Duterte’s policies. As Duterte searches for a permanent Spokesman, perhaps it is time to look beyond The Philippines itself and look also at the prospects of a worldly, politically aware OFW (overseas Filipino worker) who is ready, willing and able to do the job.
Of course, some Filipinos would say that this would be disadvantageous because such an individual might be more removed from the centre of political life in Manila. Yet in the age of news websites, social media and ubiquitous satellite television, it is entirely possible to stay connected to developments in Philippine politics from another time zone, let alone from another country. Of course any OFW born in The Philippines will know their home culture as well as any local, but the wildcard for such a perspective candidate lies in their understanding of the cultures and mentalities of foreigners.
While western mainstream media has teamed up with domestic corporate media in The Philippines to run uniformly negative stories about Duterte, one important way to fight back at an official level is by having a spokesman who knows about a culture or ideally multiple cultures abroad so that he or she can directly challenge the defamatory claims made in the foreign media about Duterte in a way that strongly resonates with foreign audiences.
The force of President Duterte’s character has already elevated the stature of The Philippines abroad more than many in The Philippines have thus far grasped. As a unique individual with a clear vision for reform and unmistakable speaking style, Duterte makes international headlines in the way few of his predecessors ever could. For a country looking for foreign investment and seeking to promote tourism, Duterte is a valuable public relations pioneer who gets coverage for free whereas other nations often have to pay for such front page coverage in respect of promoting intentional awareness of their country.
But with the publicity comes the untruths that ought to be countered by a dynamic spokesman who understands global perceptions of The Philippines (both past and present) and is furthermore aware of how the arrival of Duterte to the national stage in 2016 has change these international perceptions of The Philippines. Of course there may be someone who has lived and worked in The Philippines all of his or her life with just these qualifications, but chances are that someone exposed to foreign economic and political systems while also being exposed directly to the mentality of a foreign culture could help to more universally articulate Duterte’s principles, policies and beliefs with a kind of clarity that the wider world would not only understand but come to support.
In an age where the world is becoming ever more inter-connected – so much so that even North Korea is coming out of its geopolitical isolation, the fact that millions of patriotic Filipinos work outside of The Philippines is a supreme national asset. China has realised that the millions of Chinese outside of the People’s Republic of China are a similar asset, but many living in The Philippines still have not yet fully comprehended that their friends and family abroad can help to strengthen The Philippines as a whole in ways far more meaningful in the long term than merely sending money to those at home.
Among the millions of OFWs throughout the world, it is likely that there is at least one talented and articulate person happy to return to The Philippines and become President Duterte’s future Spokesman.