noy, the iirc & the unforgiving glare of live tv

MAKATI, Philippines – It’s tough to watch the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) investigating the tragic August 23rd hostage taking incident.  I am sorry but I have to say that Noy could have done better with his choices for the committee.  Their actuations under the tough glare of live television leaves more than a lot to be desired.

First off, I cannot understand the choice of having DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo and KBP President Herman Basbano on the panel.  My reservations of having both men on the panel have nothing to do with how I view their individual persons.  Rather, my reservations stem from the fact that having them on the panel ignores a trove of conflict of interest issues relating to the institution and sector that they come from and the potential culpability of the DILG and media in the tragic result.

I personally see the choice of Robredo as DILG Secretary as an inspired one.  It’s too bad that he is going to lose the opportunity to serve as DILG Secretary after this incident.  I can see the logic behind why he acted the way he did on August 23rd.  Reasons such as the need to follow protocol and institutionalize responses to crisis situations.  Nevertheless,  protocol also requires having competent people to make judgment calls in instances where protocol allows such.  And protocol allows such because not having such flexibility essentially makes us unthinking robots.

We have also heard the excuse that goes – “…we have only been in office so and so weeks.  We did not have time to address the deficiencies which contributed to this tragedy…”.  Okay, fine.  But if you were to make that an excuse – wouldn’t it have also made sense to loosen the reliance on protocol given that – who knows – the protocol could also not have been vetted properly in the so and so weeks that you have been in office?  Wouldn’t it have also made sense to loosen the reliance on protocol given that it could have been subject to the deficiencies that you say you did not have time to address in the so and so weeks that you have been in office?

To institutionalize things takes time and repetitive action.  Ordinarily, it should also be done without exception.  Pero, circumstances were anything but ordinary on August 23rd.  Hindi tayo puwede mag-practice kung may buhay na nakataya?

Mahirap din panoorin yung pagtatanong ni Robredo sa sarili niyang Usec – si Usec Puno. How can anyone expect that to turn out in any other way except, badly?  By Robredo asking questions in the position that he is in, he’s just shooting himself in the foot.  It’s either he turns out to have been clueless and derelict in his duties or  it reveals an unfortunate internal management issue that is better resolved out of the glare of live cameras.  Nakakahinayang.

Sayang si Robredo? Whether his actions on August 23rd showed who he truly is (i.e. he had us all duped) or he was saddled by this pathetic Balay and Samar group fight for spoils, Robredo did not show enough leadership nor decisiveness during the crisis.  And, to get back on point, why did he not have the foresight, courage, etc. to turn down the IIRC assignment and say – “My presence on the Committee will unnecessarily compromise its integrity given the scrutiny over my own department.  At the end of the day, I may find myself ultimately accepting responsibility for the failures of my organization on that fateful Monday evening and it behooves me to refuse this assignment to spare it from any real or perceived appearance of partiality or impropriety.  I am honored by the continued trust and confidence of the President but I have to say no.”

Herman Basbano’s own words reflect the conflicted position he is in.  He said something to the effect that he would refrain from asking Erwin Tulfo questions about RMN given that a parallel investigation was being conducted by the KBP on the actions of the radio station.  Enough said.

In general, the questions of the panelists (other than that of the courageous and sensible – Teresita Ang See and to a certain extent that of Sec. Robredo):

* seem to repeat so many questions asked and answered;

* seem to be a disjointed, rambling and pointless series of questions seeking an “A-ha!” moment; and,

* seem to be asked just so the questioner can have his voice be heard by the madlang pipol.

With so many questions being repeated, it makes you wonder whether they are even paying attention to themselves.  Nakakairita.  I mean, to be fair, some of the questions are repeated with the explanation that they are for the record, for clarification and sometimes with the acknowledgment that goes – “i’m not sure if this question was already asked”.  But many, many more don’t have these caveats – halatang hindi nakikinig.

The biggest disappointment on the Committee is the IBP representative – Atty. Roan Libarios.  I mean, as a lawyer, you give him the benefit of the doubt with what initially would seem to be pointless questions.  You patiently hear him out – question by question.  You look for that moment where you kinda get what he’s leading to.  You listen, you wait and then you wonder – that was it?  What was all that about?  Then you come to the realization – don’t expect too much from him.  Where are the Harry Roques, the Adel Tamanos, the Edwin Lacierdas (well – maybe not him, he’s swamped as it is)?  Even Ruffy Biazon, who I don’t think is a lawyer, would have done better.

As for Secretary de Lima, I guess I can say that she’s been uneven – at best.  I like the mga moments when she seems to be telling a resource person (whether verbally or through her actions) – “you must be kidding me”.  On the other hand, I don’t think it helps the investigation when she goes on those long-winded and leading questions, instead of asking a simple question and having the resource person answer in their own words.  Napapa – “yes ma’am” na lang tuloy yung witness.  Baka napagod din sa ka-aantay na matapos yung tanong.

As for Ms. Ang-See, she is obviously the saving grace of this panel.  The only one who seems to have the guts to cut through the b.s. and many obfuscations.  In behalf of many of us – Maraming maraming salamat po for your service!

The setting up of this panel should have been a slam-dunk for Noy’s administration.  Instead, it has become a lot less than that.  No disrespect to the panel members, but we could have done better.  It pains me that we have not.

I still believe in Noy and I still believe in the sincerity of his desire to effect real change.  Pero umiikli na yung pisi ng taong-bayan.  Hindi man ikaw ngayon nababahiran ng dumi, kung walang mapapalitan sa pamamalakad ng iyong administrasyon…that’s a very, very depressing thought.

Don’t let us down Mr. President…if you do, the unforgiving glare of scrutiny will not spare you.


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