MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III said on Thursday the hostage crisis which left 8 Hong Kong tourists dead will “not define” his adminstration.
"Our government is now focused on taking the necessary steps to prevent this tragedy from happening again. Let me just say that this incident will not define this administration," he said in his closing statement after an interview with ABS-CBN, GMA-7, and TV5.
"In the end, my administration will be judged on what we have accomplished and what we will accomplish in the coming years: a reduction in poverty in our country and the restoration of a government that is honest and sincere in its efforts to build a better nation," Aquino said.
The president had answered questions from anchors Mel Tiangco of GMA-7, Ted Failon of ABS-CBN, and Paolo Bediones of TV5.
Meanwhile, a political scientist said the Aquino administration will become a failure if it fails to recover from the August 23 hostage crisis.
Prof. Edmund Tayao, political science professor of the University of Santo Tomas, said it is too early to say if the Aquino administration is a failure.
“It is too early to say that this president is a failure. If the government is not able to get up from this crisis, then this one will be the defining point,” he said in an interview with ANC's Tony Velasquez.
Aquino had an all-time high trust rating of 85% immediately after he assumed presidency on June 30. But the hostage crisis is expected to impact his trust rating.
Test on leadership
Tayao said the hostage incident is a test of Aquino's leadership, especially since “factions” within his administration are surfacing.
Tayao believes Aquino is currently “trying to accommodate” the people behind him and unite them, and for him to be able to do this, he needs to have strong leadership skills.
“The only difference, whether the factions become significant or otherwise, is with leadership. Clearly, the president has to show that he is really forthcoming in his instructions, in his pronouncements, and in his decisions,” he explained.
Aside from leadership, Tayao said the hostage crisis has also tested the organizational capacity of the Aquino administration, which has yet to reach its 100th day in office.
According to Tayao, the hostage incident should be treated as a learning experience on who to appoint and in reforming organizations.
“Right now, I would still suspend judgment [on Aquino’s leadership]. We’re still in the first 100 days, the president is still busy, we are still planning, and again, it's still in the organizational stage,” he added.
Change administrative code
The incident, however, has exposed the need for reforms, from government procurement and even division of functions between the national and local governments.
Tayao said the Aquino adminstration should institute changes in the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), especially with regards to the responsibilities handled by Acting Secretary Jesse Robredo.
“The DILG secretary must clearly be the DILG secretary. If you want to separate the function of the police, then change the administrative code and have another department handle the police or internal affairs,” he said.
As DILG secretary who serves at the pleasure of the president, Robredo should be the one to handle the police force, Tayao said.
He also added that the president is going against the administrative code when he asked Interior and Local Government Undersecretary for Peace and Order Rico Puno to be on top of the police force.
“The reason why people want Sec. Jesse Robredo to leave the department is because the secretary has command responsinbility, he sits in the NAPOLCOM [National Police Commission]. Clearly he is the one who serves directly at the pleasure of the president,” he said.
If the president wanted another person to be responsible for the police other than the DILG secretary, then he should amend the administrative code so that there will be one department handling local governments and another handling the police, Tayao said.Aquino earlier disclosed that Robredo is only serving in an acting capacity as secretary of DILG.