P-Noy to speak in Davos,” was a major newspaper’s headline last Sunday, put in screaming fonts across the front page, as if Aquino joins the big league of European leaders who have addressed that prestigious meeting.
“Davos” refers to the conference held in the same Swiss Alpine town annually called the “World Economic Forum,” which has grown since its founding in 1971 to become the largest gathering (2,600 this year) of the planet’s big names in the high fields of human endeavor.
The banner’s subtitle was “Daang Matuwid goes to the World Economic Forum” (WEF), as if President Aquino will be teaching the world a thing or two in governance. Wow!
That would mean that Daang Matuwid has become among Davos’ “big ideas” to be discussed just like other WEF topics this year such as “China’s Next Global Agenda,” “Is Religion outdated in the 21st Century?,” and “The Eurozone Crisis.”
It would certainly be a momentous achievement for our President. The only Asian to address the WEF has been China’s Premiere Wen Jibao last year, but that was the so-called “Summer Davos”—and held in Tianjin, China. Indeed, only European leaders have addressed the conference so far, as opening or keynote speakers such as Russia’s Putin in 2009 and Medvedev in 2010, France’s Sarkosy in 2010, and Germany’s Merkel last year.
You mean it would be Aquino in Davos 2013?
Only if you believe everything you read in the newspapers. That however was what the deputy presidential spokesperson, Abigail Valte pathetically tried to portray, helped tremendously by that newspaper which fell for that spin. Other newspapers headlines didn’t buy the spin though, and simply reported it as minor story: “Aquino to attend Davos Forum,” “Noynoy goes to Davos,” and even just “President Aquino going to Switzerland.”
So will Aquino be speaking at all at Davos? Well he is—as one of the 280 panelists in the conference’s 79 back-to-back sessions lasting 15 minutes each over five days. The session he’ll be joining has six panelists, which gives him 2.5 minutes to talk, if he’s aggressive enough to assert his allotted time.
Credit Aquino’s people for scrambling to get him into the WEF, one way or another. Until January 21, Aquino wasn’t listed among the 280 session panel members in the WEF 2013 website. But Valte had claimed on January 20 Aquino was to be the keynote speaker in the “WEF ‘Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI).”
But PACI is not Davos. PACI is the name about two dozen CEOs of global European companies gave to the meetings they agreed in 2004 to regularly convene to share and document experiences in dealing with corporate corruption. Because they met in the Davos meeting in 2004 and are regular WEF participants, they were allowed to carry the Forum’s trademark in the group’s reports.
Valte claimed corruption is a topic in the WEF meet. It is not. She qualifies her statement that Aquino will speak in the “anticorruption forum on the sidelines of the Davos meeting.” Sidelines? Sidelines of the Davos meeting which has 79 15-minute consecutive sessions? Did Aquino’s people ask some PACI members to meet at a coffee shop (or the bar) during the breaks, for him to give them his “keynote address”?
Whatever, there has been no PACI announcement that it would meet “at the sidelines” or wherever for Aquino to address its members. It appears that the initial plan to get Aquino into Davos had been aborted.
So they managed to execute Plan B. They managed to squeeze Aquino as one of six speakers in the session “Resiliency in Diversity,” which, according to the program, will discuss Asean economies’ next wave of growth with special focus on Myanmar and Laos.
The term “speakers” as used by the WEF is often a misnomer. Except for the welcoming and keynote speakers, as well as few discussing specialized topics, most are actually members of a panel of four to six people discussing a particular issue in one of the WEF’s sessions (Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a panelist in 2007 in the session “Asean’s 40 Years: A New Future” and in 2009 on the topic “Rebooting the Global Economy.”)
In the WEF’s original program, the session “Resiliency in Diversity,” the “speakers” consisted solely of CNN Asia-Pacific Managing Editor Ellana Lee, the Myanmar vice president as well as the deputy prime ministers of Thailand and Laos. It was revised only yesterday to include Aquino and Malaysia Prime Minister Abdul Razak. The Malaysian leader was originally scheduled in three other sessions.