Should Inquirer pages be closed to gov’t officials’ open discussions?
Reni Valenzuela’s letter, “Andanar’s joy bad for democracy” (Opinion, 4/6/17) proceeds from a false assumption: that it was Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar who asked the Inquirer to allow him and, later, other Cabinet members, to write a regular column.
It’s the other way around, that is, it was the Inquirer that asked Andanar and other Cabinet members to write commentaries on its pages, consistent with its motto of “Balanced News, Fearless Views.”
Andanar himself explained the arrangement in his March 2 column: “The Inquirer has decided that starting this month several other members of the Cabinet will now also reach out directly to a newspaper audience, sharing this valuable space, distributing the writing load, and opening up to more ideas….
“Those on the opposite side of the aisle might not agree with this. But there is democratic virtue in government officials keeping up a dialogue with the public. One might not agree with what we say or with the policies we espouse, but if we dare to be there in your morning paper, sitting beside your cup of coffee, it might be possible to induce a conversation.
“So bear with us. The functionaries who will fill this editorial space beginning this month do want to be part of our civil conversation. Of course, we have a point of view. Of course, we have opinions. Of course, we have ideas. And it is part of our democratic commitment to put them out for our people’s consideration.”
Valenzuela argues that private media outlets, such as the Inquirer, should never allow government functionaries to write opinion pieces on their pages as the government itself has its own communications machinery. So where does he suggest should a principled debate and discussion take place? Out in the streets, perhaps with one side trading insults and shouting angry slogans at the top of their voices to drown out the other?
I suggest that the Inquirer clear the air regarding its decision to allow Andanar and other Cabinet members to write for the paper, just to make readers like Valenzuela realize that we do live in a democratic society where contrary opinions should be allowed, even encouraged.
PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OPERATIONS OFFICE
As we wrote in “The tradition continues” (Opinion, 3/16/17), the Inquirer invited Secretary Martin Andanar and later other Cabinet secretaries and key Executive officials including Undersecretary Jesus Melchor V. Quitain to write, in order “to provide a hearing for the administration’s point of view, and to explain the President’s position.”
We wrote that the weekly space, “View from the Palace,” would “also focus on policy and governance, offering insights into policy debate and strategic decision-making that drive administration intiatives.”—ED.
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