Top-ranking officials from 14 central banks and local organizations, gathered at a high-profile event jointly hosted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), may have received an unexpected directive.
A senior BSP official, Maria Ramona Gertrudes T. Santiago, reportedly urged attendees to steer clear of media interviews, citing concerns over misinterpretation and miscommunication by Philippine reporters.
“Given the reporters in the Philippines, their tendency to misinterpret or misrelay, it would be better if some of our economists and people refrain from being interviewed,” she said.
Known within the BSP as SAG Winnie, Santiago emphasized the importance of responsible communication during her participation in a panel discussion at the event. Recalling an undisclosed incident, she shared her experience of attempting to stabilize market reactions caused by unnamed economists’ statements given to the press, which resulted in unpredictable fluctuations.
SAG Winnie raised eyebrows as she cautioned economists about falling into the hands of reporters and stressed the need for increased responsibility when engaging with the media. “Maybe you know you’re playing into their hands, but still you do it,” she candidly remarked to the participants at the BSP-IMF gathering.
While it is crucial to remind BSP personnel and economists about the importance of responsible communication, some argue that implicating reporters in manipulation of news sources goes against the principles of modern central banking, which emphasize transparency and accountability.
In an era where transparency and openness are central tenets, fostering effective communication with the press is considered essential.
Santiago’s remarks contradict the statements made by her superior, BSP Governor Felipe M. Medalla in November 2022. Medalla emphasized the significance of public comprehension regarding the functions and motivations of the BSP, stating that the press plays a crucial role in facilitating this communication.
Former BSP governor Benjamin E. Diokno, currently serving as the Secretary of the Department of Finance, shares the same view as Medalla regarding the vital role of reporters in crafting a comprehensive narrative of the Philippine economy. In August last year, Diokno acknowledged the influential power of reporters, saying that they possess the ability to generate greater interest in the Philippines as an attractive investment hub, ultimately contributing to job creation and garnering public backing for the government’s economic reforms.
Throughout the history of the BSP, starting from Jose B. Fernandez Jr., who served as the 6th governor of the Old Central Bank of the Philippines, the institution, now known as the CB or BSP, has consistently maintained a harmonious and respectful relationship with the journalists who cover its activities, known as the BSP Press Corps.
From Amando M. Tetangco Jr. to the late Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. to Diokno and now Medalla – all these BSP chiefs have encouraged transparency and openness in central banking. That is, to make monetary policy decisions understandable to the public.