MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino expressed yesterday his full trust and confidence in Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who considered resigning when her recommendations on the Aug. 23 hostage crisis were modified by Malacañang.
“She will stay. She still has my trust,” he told STAR editors in an interview at the Presidential Guest House. “That is not a problem. You have to read her resignation statement. Everything is there, all the questions have been answered.”
De Lima had admitted to reporters that resignation had crossed her mind, particularly when Mr. Aquino referred the recommendations of the incident investigation and review committee (IIRC) which she headed to his legal team in the Palace.
She nevertheless chose to stay, pointing out that differences of opinion are normal in any organization, and explained that should issues on major policy cases arise, then that would probably be the time for her to go.
De Lima and her colleagues in the fact-finding panel wanted the government officials involved to face both criminal and administrative charges, but Mr. Aquino chose to file only administrative charges, insisting that he does not want to file cases that would not prosper.
“The differences in opinion on specific recommendations raised in the IIRC report are far from policy differences,” she said.
“They are issue-specific. If any Cabinet member or alter ego of the President is asked to resign based on differences of opinion on specific issues, the President will always be left without a Cabinet.
“Resignations from positions of trust and confidence are usually based on irreconcilable differences on questions of policy. There is no such difference between the President and me.
“We cannot be so onion-skinned as to contemplate resignation every time our perspective is not adopted in its entirety by the President.”
De Lima said she understands that Mr. Aquino listens to other advisers and decides which advice is most appropriate.
“When I accepted his offer to serve his administration, I did so knowing fully well that this came with the conditions of the job,” she said.
“In arriving at the best courses of action, full debate and discussion among the President, his Cabinet and advisers is not only expected, it is in fact encouraged. And precisely because of the nature of a debate, certain positions are bound to differ, even be opposed to each other.”
Angara to De Lima: Don’t be onion-skinned
Sen. Edgardo Angara advised yesterday De Lima that she must not be onion-skinned over President Aquino’s decision to revise the IIRC’s recommendations on the Aug. 23 hostage crisis.
“She’s needed there more than ever, she is intelligent... she is a big loss to the Aquino government (if she decides to leave),” he said. Angara said Mr. Aquino can review or amend the IIRC report since De Lima is his alter ego.
“That’s part of the process, Secretary De Lima is the alter ego of the President... he (Aquino) has the right to review, amend or reverse the IIRC findings, so that’s part of the process,” he
Angara said he understands the apparent show of dismay by the Hong Kong government over the Palace’s decision to douse the recommendation of the IIRC.
“We understand the dissatisfaction of the HK government and victims because their citizens were killed, just as we too would be angry if the same thing happened to our tourists or overseas Filipino workers,” he said in Filipino.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sergio Osmeña said De Lima should bow to presidential prerogative.
“If you disagree, then you resign,” he said.
“Unfortunately in this world, not even husbands and wives would agree on everything. So she should give in to the President sometimes. And she made the right decision to stay because she is one of the best appointees of the President to the Cabinet.”
Osmeña said De Lima is not being onion-skinned.
“There are just some people who feel strongly about certain things,” he said. “It’s not a matter of being onion-skinned.”
De Lima must resign at once if she does not agree with the decision of the appointing authority, according to Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.
Delon Porcalla & Christina Mendez, Philippine Star