MANILA, Philippines - From rock stars to traitors: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad once used this to describe how they were regarded after he and several Cabinet members resigned en masse from the Arroyo administration over corruption issues.
They were called the “Hyatt 10” because 10 of them in the Arroyo Cabinet announced their resignation at the Hyatt Hotel in Pasay City in 2005.
A day before their resignation, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced a major Cabinet revamp, apparently in a preemptive move since she had already been informed of their plan by then Vice President Noli de Castro.
De Castro would have replaced Arroyo if moves to oust her had succeeded, according to reports.
In the 2010 elections, the group of Abad was then called the “Balay Group” that supported the tandem of President Aquino and Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II in the 2010 elections.
Roxas lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay, who was supported by the “Samar or Noy-Bi Group” of Sen. Francis Escudero and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
It was called “Balay” in reference to the house of Roxas in Cubao, Quezon City.
The “Samar” group was called such because of its headquarters on Samar Avenue also in Quezon City.
The Hyatt 10 was composed of then education secretary Abad, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles, who held the same position during the time of Arroyo; then National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Imelda Nicolas, Trade Secretary Juan Santos, the late Budget Secretary Emilia Boncodin, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, Land Reform Secretary Rene Villa, Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina and Internal Revenue Commissioner Guillermo Parayno.
Abad, along with Purisima, is credited for his key role in the country’s economic growth under the current administration, while Deles is acknowledged for her contribution to the forging of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Roxas, on the other hand, is seen as possible standard bearer for the Liberal Party and the Balay Group in 2016.
The Balay members also hold vital positions in the Aquino administration, which is seen as an advantage for the presidential candidate they will support in 2016.
The situation shows how important it is to assess not just the candidates but the groups behind them as well.
Infighting in the Aquino administration is caused mainly by the existence of two factions, which the Palace denies.
Aquino is perceived as the one shielding his Cabinet members from criticism rather than the other way around and this makes him look better or worse, depending on who is talking.
But for his Cabinet, infighting’s worst effect is felt most during difficult times, including the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda.
One wonders if the President and his Cabinet are pushing each other up or pulling each other down, or if Aquino can still afford to let go of people close to him at this time when his administration only has two years left.
Still, everything depends on the circumstances. During good times, nobody minds the difference between the Balay Group and the Samar Group. But in times of crisis, lines are drawn and those perceived to have messed things up are called to resign or accept termination.
Indeed, from rock stars one day, government officials can evolve into something else the next.
Arroyo never recovered from her political crises after the “Hello, Garci” cheating allegations, the Hyatt 10 resignation and corruption scandals one after another.
In her prayer before Abad’s budget presentation at the Palace, Deles revealed more about what the Cabinet members were going through at this time along with Aquino.
“We raise our voice in prayer in this holy month of Ramadan when all humanity is blessed through the fasting, prayer and sacrifice of the Muslim Imam worldwide. God Creator, Jesus Redeemer, Holy Spirit, Sustainer, today we are gathered together at a time more challenging than most. Several issues threaten to engulf the ship of state and thus derail our ‘tuwid na daan’ (straight path),” Deles said.
Aquino, during the meeting, announced his rejection of Abad’s resignation, saying allowing the Department of Budget and Management chief to quit would mean an admission that the DAP implementation was wrong even if no funds had been misused under the program.
“We, individually and as a Cabinet, under the leadership of President Aquino, have embraced public service as our calling. But the season of disquiet and turmoil has so sorely tested our souls. Legal cases have been filed against our fellow Cabinet members ascribing bad faith and more, where there is none,” Deles said in her prayer.
“As we seek the way forward through today’s discussion and debates, we ask three things. The first is to remind us that politics can become friend, not foe. In fact, many of us have wagered on transformational politics, embracing governance as premier arena for social change,” she said.
“Remind us that the power of naming is the power of defining and redefining. Help us in this hour of doubt to hold fast to this vision of a new politics that stands in judgment of the old, even as we know that politics is a two-edged sword. Make us politic enough to become serpents and gentle as doves. Sharpen our skills and keep fresh our vision,” Deles said.
The second thing that Deles sought was for “God Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer” to grant them “humility.”
“Boldly striking out on daang matuwid, we have called the high and mighty to account for wrongdoing through due process. We have instituted reforms across our respective spheres of governance. We have initiated and enriched social programs to fast-track our anti-poverty mandate. But always we must ask ourselves: Have we done enough? Or too little? Or too much? Or too late? Have we done the right thing in a right way? So many of our people still have needs we have not served. Too many of our communities are still sundered and their potential stunted. Give us the humility to heed and honor the lessons from our missed targets and shortcomings,” Deles said.
“The third and final thing we seek today is grace – abiding grace, amazing grace. All of us here have devoted our passions and seasons to making real a credo, the common wealth for the common will. As former activists, some of us, and as government functionaries, all of us, this fire still burns in our belly. But we know that our best can only go so far. We know that life has a way of confounding our best-laid plans. And so we come to you this morning seeking your mercy, your compassion, your grace.”