“Transparency,” “honesty” and “accountability” are common ingredients of the political ballyhoo often heard on the campaign trail. After the elections, they are stashed back into the drawers of hollow slogans that will be recycled in the next campaign season. A policy of secrecy takes place in lieu of the original campaign promise.
In Yap, by contrast, newly sworn-in Gov. Henry. Falan and Lt. Gov. Jesse John Salalu surprised their constituents with their unprecedented acts of openness.
At their Jan. 14 inauguration, our Yap correspondent Joyce McClure reported, Falan and Salalu received two sparkling gift bags, one of which when opened revealed a bottle of Chivas Regal and crisp $100 bills amounting to $4,000. Salalu only received the bottle of fancy scotch and 10 100s.
“The team was elected on their platform of transparency, honesty and accountability. Although they expected to be confronted with the prospect of this type of ‘persuasion’ since foreign powers that are trying to establish a foothold on the island are well known for giving out envelopes of money freely, they had pledged publicly to not accept outside influence in any form,” McClure wrote in an article published in our Jan. 21 online edition. “Salalu pulled the bottles of liquor and envelopes out of each one, fanning the bills to show that they were indeed real. The audience sat mute. They now had to decide what to do with the money and how to let their constituents know about the attempt to buy their influence.”
Falan and Salalu made it known that the Yap government is not for sale.
Prior to the inauguration, Falan told the assembled group of volunteers that a contingent of foreign investors had been seeking to meet with him. One such group was proposing to build a 100-room luxury resort in the center of Colonia, a project which Falan learned had been approved by the previous administration. No official announcement has been made about such enormous project which, like an urban legend, has been the subject of public rumors and speculation for a long time.
Finally, Falan outed the Chinese developers. But the Yap governor shunned the investors’ request for a private meeting and instead insisted on introducing them to a roomful of people. “That’s not how we work,” Falan said.
In a place where suspicious back-door deals have been almost accepted as a tradition, the Falan administration promises to lend credence and authenticity to the word “transparency.” And Joyce McClure, our intrepid correspondent, is there to update Yap citizens.
* * *
In Guam, transparency, honesty and accountability are the stuff of a myth. How many people in government got away with their public transgressions?
Local reporters who covered the previous administration encountered many challenges in doing their job. Phone calls were hardly ever returned. Emails were never read. Questions posted on whatsapp were ignored. By maintaining silence, they thought the story would go away. FOIA is the journalists’ best friend.
Communications officials tried to deal with a PR crisis by -- in the Trumpesque fashion--maligning the news organization that reported a story they did not want anyone to read. Press releases were centralized. Facts were given the Orwellian treatment, manipulated as they saw fit. You must be obtuse to bite every press release that came out of Adelup’s Department of Propaganda. Just ask Troy Torres, the repentant former press secretary.
With ace journalist Janela Carrera, former PNC news director, now at the helm of Adelup’s communications office, local reporters expect a better line of communication and straightforward answers to questions. As a journalist, she was inquisitive, relentless and skeptical. She is jumping on the other side of the fence, with her ethics of truth-telling still fresh, and hopefully, will not get stale.
Mar-Vic Cagurangan is the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Pacific Island Times. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org