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PNoy played favoritism

>> Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I don't think so but Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) has reported [read here] that President Noynoy Aquino -from the very start and even before he ordered the investigation by De Lima’s team - did not want to involve his close friends, Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and retired Philippine National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa in any wrongdoings. But I think PCIJ needed to investigate further and carefully in order to get their facts straight and not base on assumptions and hearsays.
Obviously and expectedly, De Lima’s response to the PCIJ report is “not true”.

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila De Lima denied on Wednesday a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) which says President Benigno Aquino III wanted from day one to clear 3 officials, perceived to be close to him, of wrongdoing in the botched hostage rescue that left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead.

Citing reports from insiders, the PCIJ article says that during the Incident Investigation and Review Committee's (IIRC) September 17 meeting with the Chief Executive, on the day the President received the IIRC Report, without even reading it in its entirety, he had expressed reluctance to pursue criminal and administrative sanctions against 3 close personal and political allies.

These 3 are Department of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and retired Philippine National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa.

The Palace has been criticized for sparing these 3 officials who are perceived to be close to the President.

In an interview with radio DZMM, De Lima, who served as chair of the IIRC, denied the President had wanted to clear the 3 officials from day one.

"Yung sa from day one ay na-cleared na, siguro po, hindi totoo yan. Wala namang ganoon. Siyempre alam ko yan, si President Noy ang nagpaimbestiga nyan, and as far as I'm concerned, sa pagkakataon na na-discuss yun, wala siyang sinasabing ganoon," De Lima said.

Blood and sweat in IIRC report

She said the fact-finding panel had poured blood and sweat into the 82-page report it drafted and submitted to President Aquino, after two weeks of marathon hearings and deliberations into the Manila hostage crisis.

The report was aimed at determining who should be held liable for the August 23 incident that left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead.

"Hindi ho madali yung pag-iisip ng recommendation, may parte dun na nag-agonize din po ako sa specific recommendation. Naisip namin na may ilan-ilan na hindi lulusot sa preliminary investigation pa lang. Naisip namin i-refer natin sa tamang forum na magsasagawa ng preliminary investigation para mas ma-evaluate nila," De Lima said during the interview with DZMM on Wednesday

On Monday, the President released his own recommendations following a review by the Palace legal team. Some of them were in stark contrast to the report of the fact-finding panel.

De Lima clarified the IIRC's recommendations for the criminal charges are open-ended.

"Pwedeng yung ilan diyan ay dadaan muna sa DOJ [Department of Justice] for preliminary investigation, prosecutors na ang mag-eevaluate at mag-dedetermine ng possible criminal culpability. Depende na rin yan sa decision ni President Noy kung saan niya gusto i-refer, either to DOJ or to Ombudsman," she said.

Presidential prerogative

De Lima maintained she respects the President's prerogative to review the IIRC report, but admitted a review was never in the plan.

"Medyo nagulat lang ako nung pina-review, but we recognize it's a prerogative of the President."

De Lima said she had met with the Palace legal team on two occasions, a third one with the rest of the IIRC panel, regarding their recommendations to the President.

"We were still hoping na ia-adopt pa rin yung recommendations namin, pero nung nakita namin na may iba, okay, that's the prerogative of the President. Nirerespeto namin na prerogative ng Presidente yung review nung nakita niya yung report. Prior to that, walang ganoon na usapan."

During those meetings, De Lima said the IIRC's recommended sanctions against Mayor Lim and administrative charges against Undersecretary Puno and former PNP Chief Jesus Verzosa were among the contentious issues.

Contentious issues

"Ine-explain namin kung bakit may criminal charges dahil sa handling kay Gregorio Mendoza. Para sa akin, yun ang nagpa-complicate sa sitwasyon regarding Mayor Lim. Parang yun ang naging proximate cause ng pamamaril ni Rolando Mendoza. In the first place, it was an unlawful arrest, lalo na yung nakakagulat galing kay General Magtibay, under oath, na yung order ni Mayor Lim at nandoon si Gregorio, 'dalhin sa Tondo'," De Lima explained.

She said the phrase "dadalhin sa Tondo" meant "posibleng ipa-salvage [possibly summarily killed]."

De Lima said they also debated with the Palace legal panel over administrative charges against Puno and Verzosa.

"Kung pwede sana may administrative charge nasustain ni President Noy, pero wala daw nakikitang sapat na basehan. He [Puno] was monitoring the incident on orders of the President, hindi [siya] dapat makialam pa because it was a local crisis," she said.

"Kailangan meron din administrative charge, and even if retired na siya [Verzosa], meron jurisprudence na pupwede. Kahit local thing, as chief PNP, sa tingin ng IIRC, kailangan may high sense of responsibility, due dilligence din."

Mulling resignation

De Lima admitted she had considered resigning over her differences with the President. However, she added that a simple difference of opinion with the Chief Executive should not prompt her to step down.

"It just crossed my mind pero nung nagisip-isip ako, difference in opinion lang naman kako ito. Alam ko pwede mo i-consider yung resignation when there's a difference in policy with the President, yung hindi na kayo talaga nagkakasundo."

De Lima said that while there were differences on certain recommendations, most of them were substantially adopted. She added she feels she continues to enjoy the trust and confidence of the President.

"On further reflection, hindi madaling bagay yung resignation, lalo na't tinanggap ko yung bagay na yan. Gusto kong makatulong sa administrasyon na ito at nafi-feel ko naman yung tiwala ng Presidente Noy nung in-offer nya yan, hindi lang yung IIRC."

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