MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to take full responsibility for the bloody hostage rescue on Aug. 23 is a meaningless exercise that merely “cheapens” the presidency, Sen. Joker Arroyo said Sunday.
“It’s good for listening and good for the image. But it amounts to nothing. It has no effect because he will not resign, according to his advisers. It is an unnecessary comment. If he said that, does it mean that everyone who is under investigation is absolved?” Arroyo said.
Taking responsibility meant being accountable for the consequences, he told dzBB radio.
Arroyo scored Aquino’s Cabinet men and executives for not stepping forward and taking responsibility for the 11-hour standoff that killed eight Hong Kong tourists and their abductor, dismissed Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza.
“In this case, you cannot hold President Aquino accountable. But how come none of his people are owning up responsibility in the fiasco? If none of them is responsible, this makes it unfair for the President,” said Arroyo, who served as executive secretary in the administration of the President’s late mother, Corazon C. Aquino.
Sen. Loren Legarda said that while it was proper for the President to declare that the “buck stops with me,” he should still fire some high-profile officials.
“It does not free up the government officials
of their failure to do their responsibility in their jobs. Heads must roll,” Legarda said.
Not off the hook
Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III told dzBB that the Senate planned to question Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of the Interior
and Local Government (DILG) on his culpability in the fiasco.
“It does not mean that if you are the one investigating you won’t be investigated anymore. We will also ask the one asking questions later on,” Sotto said.
Robredo is vice chair of the committee formed by Mr. Aquino and headed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the bloodbath covered live by international TV networks.
Robredo has claimed he was “out of the loop” during the crisis because responsibility over police matters in the DILG had been given by the President to Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, one of Mr. Aquino’s election campaign managers and a shooting range buddy.
Sotto said “it did not look good to see” Robredo grilling his undersecretary in the De Lima probe on Friday.
Documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that Robredo signed a memorandum issued to DILG undersecretaries, assistant secretaries, bureau and service directors on Aug. 9 in which he designated himself as “the sole approving authority of department orders on the detail or extension of detail of police personnel to offices within or outside the department.”
Robredo issued another memorandum on Aug. 17 to Bureau of Jail Management and Penology Director Rosendo M. Dial and Bureau of Fire Protection Chief Rolando M. Bandilla Jr. where he reiterated the DILG secretary’s direct supervision over their agencies.
“If the President assumed full responsibility, and Robredo doesn’t have responsibility, what else is he for at the DILG?” Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Padilla said by phone.
“The point is, he’s the DILG secretary,” Padilla said, stressing that nothing would stop him from looking into police matters despite Puno’s designation.
Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa, 55, who is expected to retire on Sept. 14, issued a statement on Sunday to stress that his decision to retire three months ahead of schedule had been announced well before the hostage-taking.
“More than ever, it is imperative to take responsibility especially with regard to what has transpired in the past week,” Verzosa said.
“I take responsibility and accountability of all PNP units and all police personnel in everything they do and fail to do,” he said. However, he did not say how he should be held accountable.
Presidential spokesperson Herminio Coloma confirmed in a radio interview that Mr. Aquino had agreed to Verzosa’s request for early retirement “even before the hostage crisis.”
Even Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, in a message to his flock on the 25th anniversary of his congregation, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, has taken a stand on the government’s search for accountability in the Rizal Park bloodbath before global TV cameras.
“It is right that the President take responsibility for the hostage fiasco but by doing so, he saved the necks of those directly responsible,” Quiboloy said.
Quiboloy said the fiasco brought the nation “international shame, lost us millions in revenues and cost innocent lives.” He said that the Aquino administration appeared to be “directionless” and “stuck in a campaign mode when the country required that it should be in governance mode.”
Gil Cabacungan, Phil. Daily Inquirer