Miriam defends PNoy: He's no awful manager

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 14 2014 02:53 PM | Updated as of Mar 14 2014 10:53 PM

MANILA - Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago came to the defense of President Aquino and disagreed with Senator Serge Osmeña's description of the chief executive as an "awful manager."

Speaking to reporters, Santiago said she knows the challenges that face a president, having worked closely with some of the country's past presidents.

Santiago said Aquino should be given leeway in making his decisions, including his choice of Cabinet secretaries.

"I will be very careful in criticizing a president because I have close, first hand observation of how difficult it is to make a decision when you are faced with certain set of facts which are not capable of control. They are all beyond your control," Santiago said.

"So you have to own up to your own decisions and assume responsibility no matter how fearful the outcome might be. That is why President Aquino is taking his own time in effect."

Osmeña had expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla on the handling of the country's power shortage and had asked Aquino to fire the energy chief.

Santiago said Aquino has the prerogative to decide which Cabinet secretary to keep.

"He does not act on the promptings of politicians because remember, President Aquino will be a retired politician by 2016. He has to live with himself, he has no more political future and that I think entitles him to some degree of prudence when he is making important decisions particularly on the membership of his official family, his cabinet who are each his alter egos. They speak and they act, as if they were the president," she said.

"So politicians cannot come along and charge the president with coddling another politician just because there’s been no agreement on whether that politician should remain in office or not. I would say that I would view the matter with sympathy from the perspective of President Aquino."

Santiago said she would describe Aquino as an independent-minded person who would consider the viewpoints of people around him but would not be rushed into making judgments.

"Definitely, President Aquino is not a hawk. But it is so facile to say that he is a dove. He’s not that either. I think what characterizes him is his independence of mind," she said.

"Because all of us around him have our own points of view. Like me for example, I will always take the legal viewpoint. But he also has to consider the reaction of the international community, the international relations aspect. How will our neighbors react to this? I can argue about Philippine constitution and international law in our favor. But in reality, how will a neighbor react to that?

"So I will have several countervailing points of view around the table. I will not be alone counseling him. And in this kind of a job, the President I think prefers to... act slowly rather than to rush into mistakes. He has a great fear of rushing to judgment."

Santiago served as President Cory Aquino's agrarian reform secretary and immigration commissioner.

She gave advice to President Joseph Estrada and was also close to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

"So I know that it us very easy to criticize but it's very difficult because I know that every president must act within his own peculiar set of circumstances which are always navigating their way around international politics," she said.

"Things never remain the same so you cannot say that if someone negotiated with a favorable treaty during his time that someone didn’t do the same thing in his time is a failure because the circumstances are so different."