Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Hyatt 10’s duplicity and hypocrisy on presidential apology

In serious studies of the presidency, there is a recurring complaint against its highly personalized character and vast powers. No adviser holds office independently of the president. Cabinet secretaries and agency chiefs are hired and fired at whim, which means they are without constitutional power.
It was in light of taming power and excess that the much-hyped resignation of the Hyatt10 (8 cabinet members and 2 agency chiefs) from the Cabinet of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was viewed and welcomed. Yet, as we learn more about the events at the time and the individuals constituting the group, we find that there is less and less to like about them.
Indeed, the depiction of Hyatt 10 as “Hayop 10” is turning out to be correct. The people in the group that the media portrayed as holier-than-most are as grubby and unscrupulous as our pork-addicted politicians. Obsessed with positions and budgets, they could cost the nation billions more before the books of the Aquino presidency are closed.
First apology, then double-cross
From Mindanao, former press secretary Jesus Dureza (during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presidency) has sent me an intriguing update on the subject of “presidential apologies” that spreads villainy like peanut butter.
It appears that the public clamor for PNoy to apologize for his role in the Mamasapano incident has stirred Dureza’s not-so-fond memories of Hyatt 10 and the Hello Garci controversy.
Here’s an excerpt from Dureza’s note:
“If we recall, the Hyatt 10 were the ones who prevailed upon former President Arroyo to say ‘I’m sorry’ for the Garcillano issue. I know this because I sat in the Arroyo Cabinet when the issue was discussed.
“The president herself intentionally skipped attending that session day to allow the whole Cabinet to freely and openly discuss the pros and cons. We were deeply divided. The majority did not agree that PGMA should say ‘I’m sorry.’ But one faction with Secretaries Dinky Soliman, Ging Deles, and Cesar Purisima as leaders argued that the President must apologize openly to the nation to save her government.
“When PGMA did what they advised her to do, the next thing they did was to treacherously abandon her. They resigned en masse from the Cabinet, wrongly believing that her government would then collapse.
“That’s all behind us now. Coincidentally (or by stroke of fate), they are all now cozily seated in the Aquino Cabinet. Question: are they also similarly advising PNoy to say “I’m sorry’?”
Why did the majority opinion in the Arroyo Cabinet not rule? Was it the noise that president Cory was stirring outside? Was she promoting a coup for a change?
In any case, GMA did listen to the aggressive lobby for an apology by Hyatt 10.
If the object of the apology was to save GMA’s government, why did they resign? Or was the point precisely to bring down her government?
Dureza concluded his missive by offering unsolicited advice to President PNoy: Don’t listen to them, Mr. President. Look what they did to the former president!
So here’s my question to this bunch of bureaucrats. Have you advised President Aquino to offer his apologies to the nation for the Mamasapano tragedy?
In truth, according to The Manila Times sources at the Palace and in the Cabinet, none of the Hyatt 10 veterans has advised Aquino to apologize for Mamasapano to save his government. They have studiously stayed away from the controversy. They are anxious to keep their posts and their huge budgets.
Hypocrisy and double cross
Their failure to advise Aquino to apologize adds the sin of hypocrisy to Hyatt 10’s duplicity and deception of President Arroyo.
They arm-twisted Arroyo into apologizing, ostensibly to save her government. In the case of Aquino, whose presidency is twisting in the wind because of Mamasapano, their advice is for him to keep his lips zipped.
It’s doubly a disservice to the public, because their intervention in the national interest could spare the nation further grief.
Compare them with former congressman Walden Bello, who had the courage of his convictions, and resigned his seat in the House of Representatives, in protest against Aquino’s failure to take responsibility for Mamasapano. Bello is not even a member of the Aquino administration. He was just an ally in Congress.
When they announced their resignation in 2005, Hyatt 10 took refuge in patriotic pretensions.
They declared: “The President can be part of the solution to this crisis by making the supreme sacrifice for God and country to voluntarily relinquish her office and allow her constitutional successor, the Vice President, to assume the Presidency. Resignation is a legitimate constitutional option for effecting leadership change. Given the crisis in the Presidency, this is the least disruptive and painful option that can swiftly restore normalcy and eventually bring us to prosperity.”
At the time of this statement there was no crisis in the presidency. The fact is that the apology they forced on President Arroyo and their collective resignation created the appearance of a crisis.
That situation proved momentary. Things quickly stabilized when former president Fidel V. Ramos and Speaker Joe de Venecia visited Arroyo in Malacañang. And soon GMA was moving forward to managing the economy in earnest and strengthening relations with other countries.
As for Hyatt 10, most of them, except for one member who succumbed to illness and another who was exposed for his ties to Janet Lim-Napoles, went on to join the new government of President Benigno BS. Aquino in 2010.
Soliman, Deles and Purisima were rewarded for their efforts with the same key positions in the new administration. Florencio Abad moved on to greater heights of ignominy as the budget and management secretary. Others took lucrative positions in government corporations.
Did Hyatt 10 in any way resemble the group of happy warriors described by Shakespeare in Henry V: “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”
No way. This was from the start a cabal for selfish ends.
With Hyatt 10’s primal survival instincts, it won’t be surprising if they are now already plotting to keep their posts in the next administration – by changing stripes or making a deal. (Bobi naughtily reported last year that Purisima has intimated to VP Binay that he wants to keep his strategic post at Finance.)
But their top priority, like that of President Aquino, is to avoid the jailhouse.
Cautionary tale for future presidents
For writing these words, I will be seen mistakenly by some as an Arroyo partisan, which I am not. I write this as a serious observer and student of the Philippine presidency. I had the privilege of working with two presidents (President Marcos and President Ramos), and I value greatly the experience and insight that those stints gave me on presidential politics and policymaking.
Mr. Dureza’s piece of news on Hyatt 10 is interesting as presidential history and as a cautionary tale for once-and-future presidents of the republic.
Journalism, I learned early, was invented as an antidote to gossip.

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