Trixie’s Duchenne smile

When then presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. chose lawyer and vlogger Trixie Cruz-Angeles to head the presidential communications office, it was an indication of his disrespect for the truth. The least Marcos needs for the office is a truth-teller.

As the government’s chief communications official, among the key responsibilities of Cruz-Angeles is to communicate clearly and concisely the statements and the activities of the President.

But it would seem that the press secretary still has the mindset of a vlogger. She appears to be exaggerating her statements to popularize her subject.

In a bid to magnify Marcos’ meeting with US President Joe Biden on September 22, Cruz-Angeles told reporters that out of “a lot of requests” for a meeting, “it is significant that he (Biden) spoke only with President Marcos” on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York City.

She added: “While it is true that he spoke with one other person, that was a postponed meeting. So, all the more it becomes significant that President Marcos has been able to speak with the US president.”

Hours later, news reports and netizens posted screenshots from the official website of the White House showing that Biden also met British Prime Minister Liz Truss, French President Emmanuel Macron, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, as well as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres after they addressed the UNGA last week.

After her initial claim had circulated in media and social media platforms and following the release of the White House announcement of Biden’s other meetings, Cruz-Angeles apologized for what she described as a “slight confusion” that her earlier statement may have caused.

But before apologizing, she asserted that only the request of Marcos for a meeting with Biden was granted on the sidelines of the UNGA.

It wasn’t a mere “slight confusion.” It was an attempt to misinform.

Her excuse for the twisted information was that the meetings that Biden had with other world leaders had been set but postponed and pushed through only during the week.

Marami pong nakipag-usap nguni’t ang napagbigyan lamang ay ang kahilingan ng bansang Pilipinas, kung kaya’t kitang-kita ang kahalagahan ng miting na ito ng dalawang lider (Several asked for a meeting but only the request of the Philippines was granted, so it clearly shows the significance of this meeting of the two leaders),” she maintained.

Last month, Cruz-Angeles had a similar pattern of exaggeration and, in the process, created confusion in her public statements. She said on August 12 that Leocadio Sebastian had resigned as undersecretary and chief of staff of the Department of Agriculture. She said he did so “in his letter” to the president dated August 11.

More than two weeks later, she said Marcos had not accepted Sebastian’s resignation because the undersecretary was still serving a 90-day preventive suspension. According to her, Sebastian was suspended in view of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding an unauthorized sugar import order he had signed on behalf of the president. While clarifying Sebastian’s employment status, Cruz-Angeles maintained that he had resigned.

When then executive secretary Vic Rodriguez appeared at a Senate hearing on September 6, he contradicted Cruz-Angeles’ earlier statements, clarifying that Sebastian only asked to be “relieved” from his posts in the Agriculture department.

He then asked Richard Palpal-Latoc, deputy executive secretary for legal affairs under the Office of the President, to explain that Sebastian “did not resign from the position” and “can still be appointed to another position equivalent to his CESO (Career Executive Service Officer) rank.”

Cruz-Angeles must be reminded that part of her job as press secretary is to clarify, not obfuscate, statements for the public to understand better communications involving the president and the government. She is no longer a social media strategist for someone who is widely known for spreading fake news and disinformation.

In 2017, she told senators in a public hearing that she had worked in the presidential communications office to “feed” information for the propaganda blog of then assistant secretary Mocha Uson. However, Uson later said Cruz-Angeles “had nothing to do with [her] social media accounts.”

If we have a press secretary whose statements need to be fact checked, she’s doing the country a disservice.

Even with her Duchenne smile when she speaks in press conferences and Facebook live, Cruz-Angeles is easily caught lying through her teeth. Then it becomes a mischievous grin. It would be a disgrace if that makes her suited for her job in the Marcos administration.


The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.
This column also appeared in The Manila Times.