Aquino scores in transparency

by Ellen Tordesillas

One good thing that can be said of the almost three-month old Aquino presidency is transparency.

Sometimes, too transparent to a fault but openness is still better that keeping people in the dark.

Aquino bungled big-time the Aug. 23 hostage crisis, wasted a lot of time trying to justify the bungling before finally doing something right: asking Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to head a panel that would investigate the fiasco.

Another correct decision was releasing the report to the public a few days after it was submitted to him. The release of the report to the Chinese Embassy ahead of releasing it to the Filipino public could have been handled better, of course. Also,he could have released the whole report including the recommendations.

Compare that to how Gloria Arroyo handled the “Hello Garci” scandal and the report of the Vice Admiral Mateo Mayuga who investigated the involvement of the military in the tampering of the results of the 20004 election in Arroyo’s favor. Up to this day, we have yet to see the full report although I’m not expecting much from it.

Malacañang has also been forthcoming with information about the United States visit of Aquino, his first.

Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa said they are spending P25 million for the trip and that he would be accompanied by a 60 man-delegation that would not include the usual coterie of junketing congressmen.

Records at the Commission on Audit which came to light when Arroyo was out of Malacañang showed that she made 88 trips to 42 countries and territories from 2001 to 2009. She visited 16 times during her nine years of unelected presidency. Just for 2009, Arroyo spent almost a billion pesos of taxpayers money for foreign trips.

The COA figures included only the expenses of the Office of the President. It did not include expenses for her trips by other departments like the foreign affairs department and Congress.

At least with Aquino, we don’t see wanton profligacy.

The composition of the business delegation has caused raised eyebrows. We see familiar names. Names that were associated with Arroyo: Ramon Ang,president and COO of San Miguel Corporation; Francis Chua, president of Philippine Chamber of Commerce, Inc.; Enrique Razon Jr., chairman of the Board of International Container Terminal Services, just to mention the most prominent.
I guess it means that as far as business is concerned, politics has only one color: the color of money.
I’m puzzled why President Aquino in his briefing on the results of the investigation of the IIRC report, gave the impression that media were included among those to be charged in court.

Abante got a copy of the recommendations and here’s the portion on media:

“ Against Michael Rogas and Erwin Tulfo, the endorsement of the results of this investigation to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP) for the purpose of imposing sanctions for violating the Code of Ethics applicable to broadcast journalists and to include the Radio Station Manager of DZXL, and person(s) in charge for directing the program, for allowing the ‘interview’ with the hostage-taker to be undertaken and aired endangering the lives of persons involved in the hostage-taking. It is further recommended, that the Department of Justice initiate an investigation to determine any other culpability.

“ Against ABC5, ABS-CBN and GMA7, the endorsement of the results of this investigation to the KBP, or appropriate media ‘watchdog’’organization(s), for the possible violation of their code of ethics in the coverage of a crisis incident.”

Unless he himself wants media charged which if my reading of him is right, is so unlike him. As Harry Roque of CenterLaw said, “Unlike Marcos or Arroyo, P Noy has no reason to repress press freedom. This is because unlike both Marcos and Arroyo, P Noy was vested with an overwhelming mandate by the people. With no skeleton in his closet, P Noy should allow the media to thrive and mature in an adolescent democracy.”

The IIRC is correct in citing lapses in ethics. But that’s no reason to shoot the messengers . Again as Roque said, “Bad journalism is not criminal conduct.”

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