Palace: No failure of leadership during hostage crisis

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2010 10:28 AM | Updated as of Aug 31 2010 09:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday said it is unfazed by the possible dip in President Benigno Aquino III’s popularity rating following the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis.

In an interview, Presidential Communications Group Secretary Herminio Coloma said the dip in popularity is to be expected given the tragic outcome of the hostage-taking incident.

He rejected perceptions that there was a failure in leadership during the critical hours of the hostage crisis.

“Hindsight is the clearest of all visions…In our opinion, there is no failure of leadership.  Ang ating pangulo po ay nasa kanyang tanggapan. He was exercising his role as a leader in the way he deemed fit, ginagawa ang mandato na binigay ng tao sa kanya,” he said in an interview on ABS-CBN morning show “Umagang Kay Ganda.”

Aquino has been heavily criticized for failing to peacefully resolve the 12-hour hostage crisis that saw 8 Hong Kong tourists killed inside a hijacked tourist bus in Manila.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman on Monday said Aquino mobilized various Cabinet members at the height of the hostage crisis. She said Palace officials did not broadcast their movements to stop hostage-taker Rolando Mendoza from "upping the ante" in the negotiations.

She said President Aquino was at the command post at the Emerald Restaurant and had discussed the situation with Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Political analyst Gladstone Cuarteros, meanwhile, said Aquino’s decision to keep a low profile during the 12-hour hostage crisis will have an effect on his trust ratings. He said Filipinos expect their leaders to step up and take charge during times of crisis.

“Sa ganoong kahaba-haba na krisis, nasaan ang Pangulo natin? Pwedeng nagtalaga ng isang emisaryo o tauhan at nagbigay ng utos kung ano yung gusto niyang mangyari,” he said in an interview.

He added that the President need not be physically present during the hostage crisis but should have issued a statement that the situation was being addressed. He said the President could also have assigned an undersecretary to resolve the problem.

Cuarteros said many Filipinos did not know where Aquino was during the 12-hour hostage crisis, which does no reflect well on the President.

He added that he expects the government to work on silently repairing the damaged relationship between the Philippine and Chinese governments.

Dr. Prospero de Vera of the University of the Philippines also noted that it was a huge mistake for the President not to have handled the crisis directly.

"Filipinos have a very high expectation of their president, and they want a president who responds in times of crisis. And this recent incident has shown that people were dissatisfied with the response of the President," De Vera said. 

He added: "I expect the approval rating to go down from between 10% to 15%."

For another political analyst, however, a decline is just normal especially in the case of President Aquino who started his term with a record-high trust rating.

"Kahit wala 'tong krisis, mangyayari talaga iyon. Pero ang babantayan mo diyan siyempre, kung gaano kabilis, hanggang saan bumagsak," said Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Economic Reform.