AUGUST 9, 2006 (STAR) By Aurea Calica - Former budget secretary Emilia Boncodin broke her silence yesterday to clarify the controversy over her appointment as director of state-run Petron Corp.

Boncodin, one of the so-called "Hyatt 10" group of former Cabinet members pressing for the resignation of President Arroyo, said she never came back to the service of Malacañang but earned her position at Petron as an "independent" director.

Boncodin claimed she was elected as a director of Petron, not by appointment of Mrs. Arroyo, as earlier suggested.

Boncodin said she was invited by Petron chairman Nicasio Alcantara to run as director during a recent shareholders’ meeting.

The former budget secretary pointed out that she earned her position since she is among the 200,000 small shareholders of Petron since it was privatized in mid-1990s.

The company cannot be considered a government corporation because it is not audited by the Commission on Audit (COA), Boncodin explained.

"But I was not born yesterday, so I suppose the President knew about it, because 40 percent of Petron is still Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC)," she said.

"My interpretation was that, she (the President) never objected (to my election) and so I am thankful for that," Boncodin said over dzRH radio.

As independent director, Boncodin said she is not supposed to represent the interest of any of the stockholders.

"Under the new rules on corporate governance, there should now be an independent director (for a corporation) and essentially your role is to look at the company from the point of view of an objective director," Boncodin said.

She refused to state categorically whether she maintained her position that the President should resign.

Boncodin was among the Hyatt 10 composed of 10 Cabinet secretaries and head of agencies who resigned their posts on July 8 last year and demanded Mrs. Arroyo also resign.

She said she would rather keep the issue private and devote her time on some other efforts to pursue reforms in government and society.

Boncodin stressed she had not severed her ties from the Hyatt 10 by meeting with her colleagues occasionally.

She said the other members of the group had taken different paths in pushing for reforms in the country.

"Since I resigned from the government, I thought it would be better to just keep my silence," Boncodin said.

The former Cabinet official said she could no longer avoid being tagged as a member of the Hyatt 10 for as long people would remember the struggle and commitment of the group.

"We cannot take that away anymore but even us in the Hyatt 10, we have different ways of expressing our views," she said.

Boncodin said she still admired the commitment of her colleagues like former social welfare secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman and former education secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad.

"To those who are not street parliamentarians, we all have a way of expressing our beliefs for the betterment of the nation," she said.

Following her resignation from the Cabinet last year, Boncodin is busy teaching at the University of the Philippines.

Boncodin said she had explained to her fellow Hyatt 10 members the circumstances of her election in the Petron board of directors.

"That (election to the board of directors) is something you cannot hide given the number of stockholders of Petron," she said.

Boncodin said her election to the Petron board would be on public record at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Boncodin admitted she was happy in joining the private sector as her most of her career was spent working in the government.

"I think this is a very good opportunity for me, to be invited as independent director of a huge company, which as far as I know, has been chosen one of the best governed private corporations in the Philippines," she said.

"I have served the government for a long time and that should be enough," she added.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, for their part, no longer countered Boncodin in her statements.

"Let’s just leave it at that," Ermita said.

"Let’s give it to her. We still respect former secretary Boncodin," Defensor added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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