POSTSCRIPT / November 7, 2006 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cabinet resignations: All is not well inside?

MANAGING UNREST: A few swallows, they say, do not a summer make.

But the resignation of Avelino Cruz Jr. as defense secretary and that of Eduardo Manalac as energy undersecretary and president/chief executive of the Philippine National Oil Corp. within days of each other may be a hint of political summer creeping up on the Arroyo administration.

Their resignations, and their timing, call to mind the covey of Cabinet officials, later called the Hyatt 10 (after the hotel where they held a press conference) who also left the Cabinet in July last year over policy disagreements with President Gloria Arroyo.

At least the reason for the irrevocable resignation of Cruz is clear. His open disagreement with the administration’s pushing for People’s Initiative, his association with Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio who wrote the SC decision striking down the Initiative, and the intrigues within Malacanang apparently gave him no choice but to cut clean.

But clear or not, his reason for leaving the team shows a basic failure to manage internal differences of opinion.

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FAT CONTRACT: That of Manalac is being sold as having been prompted by health reasons, but the picture does not look as simple as a sickly official simply wanting to rest, recuperate and spend his retirement with his family.

His resignation comes when government is preparing to bid out the contract for the Malampaya gas field off Palawan. Some Palace officials reportedly disapproved of his preference for Mitra Energy Ltd. over Burgundy Global Exploration Corp. on the Camago-Malampaya development phase.

Again, such report of disagreement fall on the public ear as a recurring noise of officials quarreling over fat contracts.

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FORMIDABLE FOE: Cruz’s two-sentence, 22-word letter of resignation speaks volumes on how the President manages the team working with her.

It may be too late for this, but it is best for the beleaguered First Family to try to keep Cruz to stay and to ensure that his “alma mater” — the Villaraza & Angangco law firm that he and Carpio helped found — also stays on the Arroyos’ side.

Cruz was for some time the President’s chief legal counsel and the Villaraza & Angangco law firm had been a valuable backup and legal resource. It has helped the First Family squirm out of legal trouble.

The law firm knows too much for comfort. The First Family is lucky there is such a thing as legal ethics and confidentiality between counsel and client.

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TAMA NA!: It is given that President Arroyo has to unite the nation first if her social and economic reforms are to take root and possibly bear fruit before her term ends.

But while she needs national unity, or at least a consensus, Ms Arroyo seems to be doing her best to divide the nation by forcing the total revamp of the government and the reapportionment of political power through the revision of the Constitution.

By insisting on charter change at this time, and thereby adding fuel to the divisive debate, the President could be putting in jeopardy the very life of this fragile nation.

Without meaning to be disrespectful, many of us tired citizens want to ask the President to drop all plans to amend or revise the Constitution at this time. The wear and tear is just too much. Tama na, tigil na po!

The nation can survive and may even move forward without having to shift to a parliamentary government. But it may just disintegrate if the President and her boys insist on charter change.

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ERRATUM: On my commenting days go that the Chinese have bought the giant IBM firm and renamed it Lenovo, reader Byron Joseph A. Hallar of Bacarra, Ilocos Norte, wrote to clarify:

“Actually, IBM sold its PC/laptop division (not the whole company!) to Lenovo, a large Chinese company that was already manufacturing IBM Thinkpads and workstations for IBM. Lenovo has also licensed the use of the name “IBM” on its Lenovo laptops. IBM in fact still exists, inus its laptop and PC division.”

Thanks to Byron Joseph and other alert readers who send us comments, corrections and clarifications from time to time.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 7, 2006)

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