PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo named Manila Bulletin Editor-in-Chief Crispulo “Jun” Icban Jr. as acting Press Secretary vice the late Cerge Remonde.


The President, during an informal lunch with the Malacanang Press Corps. said the Office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is preparing the necessary documents and paperwork to transmit Icban’s appointment to the Commission on Appointment.

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Arroyo said she what she learned from appointing Remonde as press secretary was that it would be best to get a press secretary who is likewise from the media.


She expressed hope that Icban, being a mediaman himself, would “mesh well” with the media covering her.


Philippine Information Agency secretary Conrado Limcaoco said he was initially named Acting Press Secretary and later renamed as office in charge after he requested that another person be given the job of heading the Office of the Press Secretary (OPS).


Limcaoco added that is difficult to fill the “unfillable shoes of Secretary Remonde.”  

“While I would love to be with you for the longest time possible, I also think you realize that holding two concurrent positions- one in PIA where the government information machinery—much of it anyway—is working with me and one here where the Malacañang Press Corps has to be attended to heart and soul is an impossible thing to do na magkasabay,” he said in an ambush interview.  


Icban, who chairs the Capampangan in Media Inc. (Cami), was an alumnus of the University of the Philippines where he obtained a degree in A.B. English and graduated magna cum laude.


The 74-year-old former editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian also obtained his Master of Arts degree in Journalism from Syracuse University in New York where he studied on Fulbright and Smith Mundt grants in 1957 to 1958. He was also a previous recipient of a Nieman Fellowship study grant at Harvard University.


Icban served as a general assistant in the editorial department of the joined the Manila Times in 1954 until he became a reporter covering the Department of Foreign Affairs. He later became an editorial writer and eventually the news editor of the Manila Times, a position he held until the paper closed down in 1972 during the Martial Law period.


Icban, who co-authored the book “Philippine Mass Media in Perspective” UP Institute of Mass Communication Dean, Gloria Feliciano, also served as professorial lecturer in journalism and English at the Philippine Women’s University (PWU) from 1956 to 1957 and at the UP-Diliman from 1958 to 1973.


The Acting Press Secretary joined the Manila Bulletin as consultant to the publisher in 1974 before becoming news editor and later as editor. He became Editor-in-Chief of Manila Bulletin on November 25, 2003 and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the said paper.

Ermita, in an ambush interview in Malacañang after the eulogy for Remonde, said Icban will be named Acting Secretary until he has been confirmed by the Commission on Appointments and would later be given an interim appointment when Congress goes on recess.


Asked if there is still time for Congress to go over Icban’s appointment, Ermita said it depends how soon the CA can agenda his name for deliberation or confirmation.


“That’s the choice of the President. First Jun Icban is a known personality, the President, I’m sure may have considered some names but ako mismo, I’m not privy to the thought process for that choice by the President. But I can be very sure that the President knows that he is capable,” he said.

Icban, who is expected to go on leave from Manila Bulletin until the President’s term ends on June 30, 2010, was informed by the President during the New Year Vin d’Honneur in Malacañang, Wednesday afternoon.


The President during the celebration approached Icban and Manila Bulletin chairman of the board on Emilio Yap informing them of her plans to “borrow” the paper’s editor-in-chief to fill the vacancy left by Remonde at the OPS.

Remonde, whose body was brought to Malacañang for public viewing and necrological service Thursday afternoon, was conferred posthumously the Order of Lakandula with rank of Bayani during simple ceremonies at the Heroes’ Hall.


Arroyo acknowledged Remonde for being instrumental in her victory especially in Cebu citing that he frequently interviewed her in Cebuano when she was still a new senator which helped Cebuanos remember her.


“That exposure helped me because it made many people  in the Visayas and Mindanao realize that I spoke Cebuano and that culminated in my landslides in 1995, 1998 and in 2004 in the Visayan-speaking provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao,” she said.

The President added that since then she had been discussing and even consulting Remonde “not in politics but in our governance work… in caucus proposed measures that would involve the media.”

“I learned early then to take Cerge's opinion into account. And that was carried on not only in my work as senator but in my work as president with Cerge beside me…He was a very sensitive person. When he would be hurt, he would let me know about it and we will always make up. But he was also a person of very wise counsel. His questions even in Cabinet meetings in discussions and debates were questions that a journalist would ask. He always brought the journalist's perspective into our discussions and that made us the better for the decisions that we made,” she added.


Arroyo said Remonde was the peak of his second career as a Cabinet secretary, when he perished, and she mourns the loss of the “faithful and talented media man and public servant”.  

“Cerge, we will miss you but as you have Senor Sto. Nino beside you, and as Marit (Remonde) said last night, Santo Nino and Sinulog have played such important parts in the milestones in Cerge's life. We pray that you are now singing Pit Senor in heaven. Goodbye Cerge, rest in peace,” she said in her message.


Outgoing United States Ambassador Kristie Kenney likewise shared her happy thought about Remonde citing that she still finds it difficult that he is already gone.

“It’s hard to believe his not going to come out around the corner any minute,” she said after the President conferred on her the Order of Sikatuna with the Rank of Datu with Gold Distinction.  

Kenney, who will leave on Monday for the US, will be succeeded by Harry K. Thomas, who President Barack Obama has nominated as the first Afro-American US envoy to Manila. (JMR/Sunnex)