What where the highlights of the Palace presscon announcing Aquino’s recommendations on who will be charged for the August 23 hostage fiasco? For me there were two important developments:
- DILG secretary Jesse Robredo and U-Sec Puno, along with former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa will no longer be investigated and charged, contrary to an earlier recommendation in the leaked IIRC report.
- Aquino thinks Archbishop Oscar Cruz is a grumpy old man who hasn’t really said anything good about his administration.
Why do I cite these two instances? Well, because they reveal the attitude and leadership values of this government.
From what was announced at the Palace press conference, it appears that Malacanang is really not serious in achieving accountability for the August 23 hostage crisis. This was the impression that was building up when a leaked memorandum on the Palace review surfaced recently, indicating that some officials will be cleared.
That Aquino merely admonished Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and Undersecretary Rico Puno for their roles last August 23 falls short of public expectations that top officials will made accountable. The removal of any administrative liability of former Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa also falls short of expectations on accountability.
Malacanang appeared to have modified the earlier (leaked) recommendation of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) which said Puno and Verzosa should be investigated for possible administrative and criminal liabilities.
That Aquino refuses to fire Puno raises questions on the leadership values of the president. That national officials got away with a slap on the wrist is not consistent with the pledge of accountability made by this administration.
In its original leaked recommendations, the IIRC said that :
“Against Police Director General Jesus A. Verzosa, the initiation of the corresponding administrative proceedings is recommended for Less Grave Neglect of Duty in his failure to execute lawful orders from higher authority when he failed to implement the order of the President to use the PNP SAF-CRG in the assault of the hostaged bus and for his failure to monitor the crisis situation at the NCMOC as provided in the CMC Manual and as such respond adequately and give effect to decisive actions as may have been needed, but instead proceeding to Cagayan De Oro in the middle of the hostage crisis.”
“At the same time, it is recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted by the appropriate government agency for any possible criminal liability arising from the commission of the above offenses and in the course of the execution of his command during the hostage crisis.”
” Against Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, the initiation of the corresponding administrative proceedings is recommended for gross negligence under the appropriate civil service laws, rules and regulations for neglecting to disseminate and ensure the implementation of the order of the President to utilize the PNP SAF-CRG in the assault of the hostaged bus and for failure to exercise with due diligence his supervisory powers over the PNP as ordered by the President.”
“At the same time, it is recommended that a preliminary investigation be conducted by the appropriate government agency for any possible criminal liability arising from commission of the above offenses and in the course of the execution of his duties as DILG Undersecretary during the hostage crisis and in assuming the position of the DILG Secretary as NPOC CMC.”
The Palace review modified these recommendations thus Puno and Verzosa are now off the hook.
Malacanang has kept accountability for the August 23 incident at the lower levels of government. It has invoked the vague provisions of a government crisis manual as a convenient excuse for the shortcomings and incompetence of the national leadership. The section of the IIRC report on National or Local Crisis says:
It appeared that at no point was the elevation to the status as a national crisis considered even while practically all the hostages were foreign nationals and even while representatives from foreign embassies or consular offices were already involved.
The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on Crisis Situations does not have clear parameters on when, or under what circumstances, should a crisis be elevated to national status.
Aquino’s repeated reference to the vague provisions of the government manual has served as a firewall for the national leadership. Malacanang insists that since there are no guidelines which will allow them to assume command of a particular crisis, they cannot be blamed for anything. It’s like saying that it is the manual’s fault, not theirs.
As for Archbishop Oscar Cruz, he only figured in this press conference when a Palace reporter referred to his statement that there is no reason why the Palace should modify the IIRC report. This elicited a strong reaction from Aquino who said among others, that Cruz has not said anything good about his administration and that the guy is a grumpy old man.
So that’s how it is with the president when it comes to his staunch critics?Whatever happened to his statement a week ago that his is a government that is willing to listen and not play deaf?