'Malacañang imagination?' Palace gets ASEAN seat plan wrong

A DIFFERENT ARRANGEMENT. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) sits beside Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo at the gala dinner during the second day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane on September 7, 2016. Photo by Noel Celis/ AFP

A DIFFERENT ARRANGEMENT. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte (C) sits beside Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (L) and Indonesia's President Joko Widodo at the gala dinner during the second day of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Vientiane on September 7, 2016.

Photo by Noel Celis/ AFP

In the middle of the confusion generated by a Palace statement over the supposed seating arrangement at the gala dinner of Southeast Asian leaders and their dialogue partners in Vientiane, Laos, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano pinned the blamed on "media's imagination."

"We are again a victim of imagination, speculation, and possibilities," Cayetano said in a media briefing late Wednesday evening, September 7.

Cayetano later said, "Let me clarify. I’m talking about the media's imagination."
To this, a journalist objected saying, "Malacañang imagination?"

This comes after the Philippine Office of the President issued a press release saying President Rodrigo Duterte will sit in between US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gala dinner on Wednesday.

The announcement was released hours before the event. In other words, it was Malacañang that got the seat plan wrong.

The Philippine Office of the President announced on Wednesday, "Presidents Duterte and Obama will be seated next to each other, which, expectedly, will focus all cameras on them to deliver to the world the encounter of the two."

"Incidentally, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is also seated on the other side of President Duterte," it said.

The specific office that issued the press release is the Presidential Communications Operations Office - Electronic Data Processing (PCOO-EDP) division.

Press 'created the excitement'

Cayetano explained that "there was also an excitement about Duterte," and delegates "were also talking about" issues surrounding the Philippine leader.

"Remember, the international press and our local press created the excitement," he said.

When confronted by objections from a reporter who said, "No, no, no, no," Cayetano responded: "I’m not talking about the media. I’m saying everyone in the hall."

Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, for his part, later explained that this seating arrangement "was supposed to happen" on Thursday, September 8, when Laos hands over the ASEAN chairmanship to the Philippines.

"Based on the protocol, we are made to believe that it is going to be our President, President of Lao, and Barack Obama, or vice versa," Andanar said.

"But then again things can be changed right on the spot," he added.

Even on Thursday, however, this seating arrangement never happened.

It was not the first case of miscommunication for the Palace. (READ: How state of lawlessness was miscommunicated).  – Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com