Minority Leader and Albay Representative Edcel C. Lagman scored as “evasive, trivial and unresponsive” President Benigno Aquino’s standard answer that the opposition is “expected” to criticize his administration and its officials.
Lagman said that his call for the resignation of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and Presidential Communications Group Secretaries Ricky Carandang and Herminio Coloma cannot be dismissed by President Aquino as mere ranting or politicking of the minority bloc in the House of Representatives.
Lagman explained that the accusation of “palpable incompetence” and “culpable indifference” of these Cabinet members resulting to the hostage-taking fiasco is a serious indictment based on admitted and irrefutable facts.
The Bicol solon observed that the entire nation and the whole world were horrified witnesses to the tragic bungling of the Aquino administration’s response to the first major crisis to confront it.
President Aquino’s explanation of his absence during the 11-hour siege that he “purposely tried not to interfere” makes it even worse according to Lagman because the President failed to make a decisive and immediate presidential action as demanded by the crisis situation.
Lagman underscored that the statement of Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda that the resignation call was premature and should wait for the result of the investigation failed to consider that responsible police officials and Sec. Robredo himself have admitted major lapses and serious inadequacies in the authorities’ negotiations and rescue operations.
Lagman said that Robredo’s defense that the incident was purely a “police matter” is shortsighted and faulty because it overlooked that the tragedy has direct repercussions on the country’s international standing and economy.
Even granting that Robredo’s assessment is correct that it was only a police concern, he cannot escape responsibility because he has jurisdiction, control and supervision over the Philippine National Police (PNP), Lagman added.
Carandang and Coloma are equally liable for failing to enforce existing international protocol for media covering hostage-taking incidents to ensure the safety of the hostages and prevent the leak of official planning and execution of rescue operations.
Neither a postmortem of the tragic hostage-taking fiasco nor a contrite presidential apology will be enough if the heads of high ranking responsible officials are spared.
Palpable incompetence and culpable indifference must not be condoned in order that bungling and inept hostage crisis operations will not be repeated and to assure foreign governments that ineffectual and errant performance of government officials will not be tolerated.
Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Secretaries Ricky Carandang and Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Group should all resign and take responsibility for the fatal blunders in the handling of the hostage crisis last Monday.
Robredo exercises jurisdiction over the Philippine National Police (PNP) whose ground commanders and SWAT elements bungled the negotiations and rescue operations resulting in the death of eight tourists from
Concerned police officials have already admitted the serious failures and major defects in the handling of the crisis situation, and command responsibility is lodged with Robredo who failed to take full control of the situation and did not immediately respond to the scene of the crisis which lasted 11 hours.
Carandang and Coloma failed to rein in media practitioners from broadcasting live police rescue operations which allowed the hostage-taker, former Police Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, to monitor the coverage on the tourist bus television and anticipate police action.
Crisis protocol for media covering hostage-taking incidents has long been established internationally so that the safety of the hostages is not compromised and official planning and execution not exposed.
Both Carandang and Coloma failed to enforce this protocol on the media which covered live the crisis situation. In fact, Carandang even defended media’s improvident live coverage.
Likewise, there is no report that either Carandang or Coloma went to the venue of the crisis during the 11-hour ordeal.
If Robredo, Carandang and Coloma do not resign voluntarily, President Benigno Aquino III should fire them from the Cabinet for palpable incompetence and culpable indifference, and for being unmindful of the adverse effects of the hostage crisis, if not properly addressed and solved, to the economy, tourism and overseas employment.
LAGMAN ASKS SC TO RULE STOCK
The transcendental question which the Supreme Court has to resolve in the pending Hacienda Luisita case is the constitutionality of the “stock distribution option” as an alternative to land distribution.
The High Court must not forfeit the opportunity of expunging from the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) a 22-year old aberration which derogates on the constitutional mandate of land-to-the-tiller.
The Supreme Court has the authority to adjudicate, whenever possible, “the entire controversy in a single proceeding, leaving no root or branch to bear the seeds of future litigation” as enunciated in Caurdanetaan Piece Workers
The constitutionality of Section 31 of RA No. 6657 (CARL) which authorizes “stock distribution option” as a sufficient compliance with the agrarian reform law has yet to be ruled upon more than two decades after the enactment of the provision.
Grant of shares of stock in lieu of land distribution is repugnant to the precise language and genuine spirit of the Constitution which mandates the distribution of the land to landless farmers and regular farmworkers who till the land.
Section 4 of Article XIII of the 1987 Constitution unequivocally provides:
“The State shall, by law, undertake an agrarian reform program founded on the right of farmers and regular farmworkers who are landless, to own directly or collectively the lands they till x x x To this end, the State shall encourage and undertake the just distribution of all agricultural lands x x x.”
Under the said provision, there are only two questions to be answered: (1) Are the agrarian reform beneficiaries farmers and regular farmworkers tilling the subject landholding?; and (2) Are the farmers and regular farmworkers landless?
If the answers are both in the affirmative, then there is no other option under the Constitution than to distribute the land to the covered beneficiaries.
The farmers and regular farmworkers in Hacienda Luisita are qualified landless tillers who are entitled to land distribution, not stock awards.
No amount of conformity by farmer-beneficiaries can legitimize or sanctify a contrived arrangement or deal designed to circumvent the Constitution.
The principal issue before the Supreme Court is not whether the Presidential Agrarian Reform Council has the power to revoke the Hacienda Luisita “SDO”.
The primordial concern is not the validity of the “SDO” relative to the prescriptive period for the distribution of shares of stock to the beneficiaries.
Neither is the main issue the abridgement of a covenant or contract nor the dilution of the farmer-stockholders’ shares.
While these are relevant ancillary issues, the transcendental question is whether “stock distribution option” is a valid and constitutional recourse to land distribution.
Whatever landlords conceptualize will always be for the good of the landowners and inimical to the tillers of the land. This is the tragic case of the “stock distribution option” of which the sugar barons of Hacienda Luisita are the principal proponents and self-serving beneficiaries.