2009 (STAR) By Marvin Sy - Malacañang yesterday urged Cabinet members who cannot support the choices of President Arroyo, including the standard bearer of the administration for the 2010 elections, to do the honorable thing and resign.

Secretary to the Cabinet Silvestre Bello III told radio station dzXL that Cabinet members, as alter egos of the President, are expected to take the same stand as the Chief Executive on all issues.

Reacting to reports that Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo was supporting opposition presidential bet Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III of the Liberal Party (LP), Bello said that Romulo should know what to do.

“We, as members of the Cabinet of President Arroyo, are the alter egos of the President. So if we cannot support the choice of the President, the only honorable thing to do is leave the Cabinet,” Bello said in Filipino.

“You cannot be the alter ego of the President and take a different stand as the President,” he added.

While Romulo has not categorically said that he was supporting Aquino, he gave broad hints about his political alliances in a recent interview.

“In 2007, I voted for Noynoy Aquino so my ties with the Aquino family have been deep and lasting, I’ve always been with Tita Cory (Senator Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon Aquino)

and voted for the Aquinos,” said Romulo in an interview with ABS-CBN’s Europe bureau during President Arroyo’s visit to London.

Bello did not question the credibility of the report about Romulo and went on to describe him as a very respectable, very credible and very effective member of the Cabinet.

“As a person, I have very high respect for him (Romulo). I know when he makes a decision it is for a very good reason and I know that he knows what he will do after he makes his statement,” Bello said.

Bello said that he expects Romulo to do “what is proper under the circumstances.”

He said that a loyalty check among the Cabinet members is unnecessary as every one of them is aware of what they must do as the alter egos of the President.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said that the statement of Romulo should not be a cause of concern for the Cabinet.

Fajardo said that the matter would be discussed among the members of the Cabinet first as a purely internal matter.

She said that Romulo did not say that he would vote for Aquino and was merely stating his deep ties with the family of Aquino.

Fajardo admitted that Cabinet members are expected to support the presidential candidate of the administration, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr.

In the case of Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) commissioner Jaime Jacob, Fajardo said that it was only proper for him to resign because he expressed his intention to campaign for Aquino.

“In that case his job as a commissioner of PAGC could be affected, so it is safe to say it would be good for him to resign if that is his intention,” Fajardo said.

Sen. Aquino said it was unfair to criticize and ask Romulo to quit his position because everyone should be entitled to his or her own opinion and political stance in a democracy.

Aquino said it was dictatorial to compel every single member of the administration to back its candidates as he revealed that many others in the Arroyo government had told him they were supportive of his candidacy.

Pasig Rep. Roman Romulo, son of Secretary Romulo, said he will not follow his father and will instead support the candidacy of Teodoro.

“I am 100 percent for Gibo (Teodoro),” the younger Romulo said.

Rep. Romulo said he sees nothing wrong with various calls for his father’s resignation in the Arroyo Cabinet if this is Malacañang’s policy.

“Lakas-Kampi members who will not support Teodoro should also make clear their choices. The party leadership should lay down a policy – whether they have to resign or file a leave of absence (from the party),” he said.

Rep. Romulo, vice chairman of the House committees on national defense and on veterans affairs, said he does not agree with his father’s choice not to support the administration’s presidential bet.

Lawmakers have mixed reactions

A senior administration lawmaker clarified yesterday that there is no need for Secretary Romulo to resign if he has only expressed his support for the presidential candidacy of Sen. Aquino instead of the aspirant that President Arroyo is expected to endorse.

House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong, a former secretary of justice of Mrs. Arroyo, said that he is also confident that no other Cabinet member will follow Romulo and support other opposition presidential aspirants

Romulo expressed his support for Aquino while in London accompanying President Arroyo on her three-nation official trip. Romulo had also served as budget secretary of the late President Corazon Aquino, Sen. Aquino’s mother.

“I don’t think other Cabinet members will follow him. It (Romulo’s preference for Aquino) will have no effect (on the administration candidate) because he is just expressing his own personal political preference,” said Datumanong.

He said Romulo is a very professional member of the Cabinet, but he advised the foreign affairs secretary not to campaign for Aquino while he serves President Arroyo.

“Romulo is a very professional Cabinet member, for as long as his job is not affected or his support is just secondary to his work, he can stay. But when he starts to campaign for Noynoy, that’s a different story and (I think) he should leave,” he said.

Zambales Rep. Ma. Milagros Magsaysay, another administration lawmaker, disagreed with the position of Datumanong and said that it would be better for Romulo to resign.

Magsaysay reminded Romulo that Aquino is a member of the opposition and as such, he is very critical of the administration of President Arroyo.

“I think he (Romulo) will have a problem because he is supporting someone who is hitting the administration that he is serving. He will have to make a decision soon as he cannot serve two masters,” she said.

President Aquino’s former economic planning secretary Ralph Recto said Romulo should not resign just for announcing his support for Sen. Aquino.

“Bert Romulo is the brightest light in the Cabinet and it would be a monumental folly to snuff him out on the petty basis of his tentative choice for 2010,” Recto said in a text message to reporters.

Recto, who recently resigned from the Cabinet to prepare for his planned run in the 2010 elections, was reacting to the call of Speaker Prospero Nograles for administration officials backing candidates other than Teodoro to resign.

Nograles said he expected the administration officials and ruling party members to support Teodoro.

Romulo is an original member of Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi), which President Arroyo founded in 1997 when she was a senator.

“You don’t make a senior statesman a casualty of politics or the first victim of a purge. Dogcatchers you can fire anytime, but you don’t serve your foreign affairs secretary his walking papers just because his politics doesn’t jibe with yours,” Recto said.

“And you don’t subjugate the welfare of overseas Filipino workers and diplomacy to political whims,” he said.

Recto said Teodoro is a strong and competent candidate and Cabinet members and other administration officials should not be arm-twisted to support him.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile advised Romulo to resign from his post if he could not support the administration candidates in the 2010 elections.

“If you cannot support your administration’s decision, then the logical thing that you should do is honorably resign from your position as a member of the Cabinet. If I were in his place, if I cannot support the stand of my president, then I have to resign from the Cabinet. That is addressed to Mr. Romulo,” Enrile told reporters.

Enrile said Romulo’s pronouncement showed there was division in the administration.

“Some members of the Cabinet are not supporting what is perceived to be the candidate of the administration,” Enrile said.

Enrile said Romulo was apparently not toeing the line of the administration and should be sanctioned if he were a member of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the members of the Cabinet should discuss their positions with President Arroyo if they would like to continue working for her administration.

“At the very least, they should talk to the President because they are alter egos,” Zubiri said.

Zubiri said the announcement of Romulo was expected because of his close ties with the Aquinos and that he was not expecting other Cabinet members to follow.

Asked if it (Romulo support to Aquino) was an embarrassment to the President, Zubiri said it should not be but it would be up to the President to take what Romulo said.

Zubiri acknowledged that Aquino was a game changer and those who were loyal to Mrs. Aquino would naturally support him.

LP’s 12-year development plan hit

Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez, spokesman of the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, criticized the Liberal Party (LP) for laying out a 12-year development plan for the country, even as a president only has a fixed six-year term under the 1987 Constitution.

“Shades of Hitler promising a thousand-year Reich,” Alvarez said.

He said LP has become overly confident as if the party can dictate on the people how they should vote.

“A little humility will do all of us who are basically job applicants for government positions some good. Tenure is a matter for voters to decide. Today’s hero can be tomorrow’s heel,” said Alvarez.

The administration lawmaker said LP is “not in a position to eye 12-year political dominance in the country because the fate of the candidates lies ultimately in the hands of the electorate.”

Alvarez believes that the so-called 12-year development plan of LP was only meant to comfort Senator Manuel Roxas II, who gave way to Sen. Aquino as LP’s presidential bet.

“I think all this talk of 12 years in office is meant to console Mar so he will see himself as a president-in-waiting. I think Noynoy’s supporters should not make that bola (flattery) on Mar because it cheapens Mar’s very classy and statesman-like move of giving way to Noynoy,” he said.

Quezon Rep. Erin Tañada, LP spokesman, had earlier said the party’s leadership is now in a position to plan for a 12-year development plan for the country after Roxas accepted the offer for his to be Aquino’s running-mate.

Tañada said the Noynoy-Mar tandem is a formidable team. With Delon Porcalla, Aurea Calica, Jess Diaz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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