MANILA, Philippines - Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) would stay as a member of the Aquino Cabinet, despite a House resolution calling for her resignation, Malacañang declared yesterday.
“The President is standing by Secretary Deles. He has full confidence in Secretary Ging Deles,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City where the government held a meeting in preparation for typhoon “Juan.”
“It is unfortunate that a resolution was passed but the President continues to repose his confidence on Secretary Deles. There is no change (in that trust),” said Lacierda, noting that Deles’ reported adversary, Lanao del Norte Rep. Fatima Aliah Dimaporo, had been inconsistent in her stand.
“The text of Rep. Dimaporo somehow is inconsistent with the statements that (Davao) Rep. (Marc) Cagas made on the floor,” Lacierda pointed out, implying that Deles and Dimaporo had settled their differences, but Cagas apparently agitated the situation.
When asked if President Aquino would ask his allies in the House of Representatives to withdraw the Deles resolution, he replied: “They have not discussed that yet. There is no discussion yet so we will let you know what decision the President will make.”
Deles belongs to the so-called Hyatt 10 group, the Cabinet members of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who resigned to protest alleged election fraud involving Mrs. Arroyo. She is also closely identified with the Liberal Party headed by former senator and defeated vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas. Communications Group Secretary for Operations Herminio Coloma is hopeful the reported differences between Deles and Dimaporo would be settled amicably between themselves. “Differences between members of the Cabinet and the legislators are best threshed out and resolved amicably,” he said, when asked about the Palace’s take on a House resolution that called for Deles’ resignation.
“We are hoping that both sides will still find a common ground that will enable them to work together for the public good,” he said. “We regret that their initial interaction has escalated into the passage of a House resolution.”
Deles had insisted that she did not offend the sensibilities of Dimaporo when she briefed her on questions regarding the Social Integration Program following the committee hearing on the 2011 proposed national budget last week. “We take note that Secretary Deles has emphasized that she did not see herself to be in conflict with Rep. Dimaporo despite a contrary perception on the part of the latter,” Coloma said.
“Congresswoman Dimaporo and I had a cordial exchange of ideas on an issue that is close to our hearts,” Deles said, adding, “I was very glad to see that there is a young, intelligent Muslim woman leader who shares my passion for the peace process.”
Deles, who posted her statement on the government portal www.gov.ph, said that Dimaporo even sent her a “text message thanking her for her replies during her interpellation and during their private conversation.”
“She said that they agreed to continue their conversations even as Secretary Deles noted that in a follow-up text message, Congresswoman Dimaporo asked for books that Deles wrote on the peace process,” a portion of the news release stated.
Congressmen approved a House Resolution calling on Deles to resign after she allegedly insulted Dimaporo at the sidelines of the budget deliberations at the plenary late Friday.
The House was about to resume deliberations on the proposed P234.8-million budget for the OPAPP when congressmen took the floor to criticize Deles.
Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong said Deles insulted and demeaned Dimaporo, who was merely seeking clarification during a break on the deliberations of the OPAPP budget.
Deles was then at the House plenary along with other officials of the agency when lawmakers began grilling her.
In her letter to House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Dimaporo said she spoke with Deles on various issues regarding the peace process in Mindanao.
Dimaporo said Deles even raised her voice and “was defensive, bordering on hostile” at one point in front of other people.
She said Deles “started to get personal” and insinuated that she was intentionally delaying the budget hearings for the Office of the President.
Deles also asked why Dimaporo was asking questions on the floor when nobody was listening anyway. “She (Deles) cut me off, saying that she wished that before I had spoken to her, that I read up on her background. She told me to read her books,” Dimaporo said.
Mindanao peace process in jeopardy
Lawmakers warned yesterday that the peace process in Mindanao is in jeopardy if President Aquino insists on retaining Deles despite a resolution from the House of Representatives calling for her resignation.
Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas said Mr. Aquino should “exercise true leadership” and heed the resolution that was swiftly approved without debate by the House before dawn on Saturday as the chamber passed the administration’s proposed P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011.
The resolution stemmed from the insulting treatment Lanao del Norte Rep. Dimaporo reportedly got from Deles on Wednesday last week during a break in deliberations on the proposed P234.8-million budget for the OPAPP. “In my humble opinion, the President should realize that the peace process is at stake here,” Cagas said. “I’m not anti-PNoy. My father was a close supporter of his mother (the late President Corazon Aquino) and was jailed for that. I want this administration to succeed even if I’m with the minority (bloc in the House),” he said. Dimaporo is also a member of the minority bloc.
He scored Deles for referring to Dimaporo as not knowing about the situation in Mindanao just because she was a new lawmaker.
“Of course they (Muslim lawmakers) know the situation on the ground, Congresswoman Dimaporo comes from the political family there,” he said.
He said the peace process in Mindanao could be jeopardized because of Deles’ prejudice.
“If Deles continues with her arrogance and hostile attitude, then the peace process is in danger,” Cagas said.
House Majority Leader and Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said he regretted the turn of events but said the budget must not be held hostage by the incident.
“When we have to choose between a Cabinet official and the budget, we will save the budget,” Gonzales said.
Cagas said the lawmakers are not expected to withdraw the resolution if Deles “does not change.”
He said the minority bloc would still push for the reduction of the OPAPP budget to P1 if Mr. Aquino insists on retaining Deles.
Sulu Rep. Loong proposed the appointment of another peace adviser that will deal solely with the Mindanao peace process.
“The President should consider our sentiment, we can’t have somebody there whom we can’t trust,” Loong said.
“If he wants Deles, he should divide the responsibility and look for somebody who will handle the peace process in Mindanao. Maybe Deles should just deal with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army).”
As OPAPP chief, Deles supervises the peace efforts with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front that controls the CPP-NPA.
DepEd receives seeds of Yes for Peace Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Legal and Legislative Affairs Alberto Muyot of the Department of Education (DepEd) received yesterday seed questionnaires of the “Yes for Peace - Bayanihan para sa Kapayapaan” campaign from its lead organizer Ernesto Alcanzare during the regular flag raising ceremony at the DepEd Central Office in Pasig City.
In response to President Aquino’s call for people’s participation in the peace process, Education Secretary Armin Luistro issued DepEd Memorandum No. 428 enjoining all school heads, teachers and schoolchildren from Grades 4 to 6 and students from 1st year to 4th year high school from both public and private elementary and secondary schools as well as representatives of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (BSP), the Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) and Alpha Phi Omega (APO) to undertake activities to generate as many responses to the Yes for Peace campaign in cooperation with the Philippine Postal Corp. (PPC) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). In his Memorandum, Luistro stated, “The campaign aims to encourage at least 10 million peace loving Filipinos, 10 years and older, to speak as one to provide a people’s democratic mandate for the four goals of the comprehensive peace process, particularly the permanent cessation of hostilities between the government and all rebel groups in 2010 through the six paths to peace.”
Vice President and BSP president Jejomar Binay called upon all peace loving Filipinos to be living heroes, saying the Yes for Peace is a collective step towards peace and progress.
He added that these goals can be achieved if everyone becomes a “Buhay na mga Bayani para sa Kapayapaan” (living hero for peace).
During the turnover of seed questionnaires, Alcanzare called on the help of teaching and non-teaching personnel in maximizing the participation of all concerned to reach the target set and deliver these to the President on Dec. 16, 2010 – the first day of the Christmas season.
Lawyer Domingo Alidon, president of the DepEd National Employees Union, strongly urged the 14,000 union members to provide needed administrative assistance to help ensure that DepEd Memorandum No. 428 is immediately and widely disseminated to all bureau directors, regional directors, schools division/city superintendents/district supervisors, school heads and teachers.
With the full support of the DepEd administration and the DepEd National Employees Union as well as other sectors of society, Alidon is looking forward to turning the traditional Christmas ceasefire between the government and armed rebels into a permanent peace.
Paolo Romero, Philippine Star