MANILA, Philippines - Facing criticisms and blame for the botched hostage rescue operation in Manila, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo may find it hard to get lawmakers to confirm his appointment to the Cabinet, a senator said.
Sen. Francis Escudero, a member of the Senate panel to the Commission on Appointments (CA), believes Robredo’s competence is in question because of the bloody outcome of the hostage crisis, where eight tourists from Hong Kong were killed.
“Maraming senador at mga kongresista akong nakausap na maraming katanungang nais ibato at ipukol kaugnay ng naganap na hostage crisis (I’ve talked to many senators and congressmen who have so many questions to ask regarding the hostage crisis),” he told reporters at a news forum on Thursday.
“Marapat lang siguro na ipukol at ibato ang anumang katanungan kaugnay doon sa kalihim ng DILG na siyang namumuno at dapat may core competence sa hostage crisis na naganap (Maybe it’s just right to hurl any question regarding the crisis to the DILG secretary who’s supposed to lead and have core competence on the matter).”
The DILG oversees two units blamed for the bungled response to the hostage-taking last August 23: the local government of Manila and the Philippine National Police (PNP).
Robredo had said, however, that he was actually not part of the management committee that handled the crisis. He said if he’s indeed liable for what happened, “you will not see me any minute longer in this office.”
Earlier, the Palace also admitted it assigned DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno to handle the police, and Robredo to focus on local government units.
Escudero finds this confusing.
“Wala naman sa batas ang hatiang tulad niyan,” he said. “Ang kalihim ay kalihim ng buong departamento.”
Escudero said the arrangement should have been made public at the time Robredo was appointed, and not only after the crisis.
“Isa ‘yan sa mga bagay na dapat niyang liwanagin hindi lamang sa imbestigasyon kundi lalo na sa pagharap niya sa CA (That's one of the things he has to explain not just in the investigation on the hostage crisis but also when he faces the CA),” the senator said.
Asked if Vice President Jejomar Binay -- who initially wanted to be DILG secretary before Robredo was appointed -- could have done a better job in handling the crisis, Escudero did not give a direct answer.
He’s a known supporter of Binay, and actively campaigned for the Noy-Bi (Noynoy Aquino-Jejomar Binay) tandem in the 2010 elections.
“Sa pagkakaalam ko, malawak ang karanasan ni Vice President Binay noong siya’y mayor pa kaugnay sa maraming hostage crisis na naganap sa Makati na naresolbahan nang payapa (As far as I know, Vice President Binay has wide experience as mayor in handling several hostage crises in Makati, which were resolved peacefully),” Escudero said.
Escudero said the CA, which is composed of 24 members from the Senate and House of Representatives, may convene and hold hearings in the next two to three weeks after the credentials of Cabinet appointees have been submitted.