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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ellen Tordesillas' story about Hyatt 10 forcing P-Noy to retain Abad draws terse denial from Ging Deles, but public doubtless believes story, as Hyatt 10 has track record of asking Presidents to resign. Move viewed as blackmail of P-Noy as his survey ratings plunge to lowest. Assertion and denial of presidential term extension and VP Binay's anointment as LP candidate for 2016 push arguments for National Transformation Council, as Chit Pedrosa asserts.



Hyatt 10 officials in a photo from Rigoberto Tiglao's Manila Times column


A few days ago, longtime Malaya columnist and Vera Files writer Ellen Tordesillas wrote that the political group referred to since 2005 as the “Hyatt 10” had pressured President Aquino to retain DBM Secretary Florencio Abad. This meant that they asked P-Noy to ignore the wish of his sisters to let Abad go in view of the enormous controversy he has kicked up over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP)---especially following the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision last July 1 to declare parts of it unconstitutional.  

Ellen wrote that Aquino sisters Ballsy Cruz, Pinky Abellada and Kris Aquino saw their brother Noy (a fourth sister, Viel Dy, did not come along) about dismissing Abad as the only way to save their brother's presidency. Ellen wrote that he “appeared convinced by his sisters.” I might add that soon after, news was rife that Abad was on his way out---and this was interpreted by analysts as a move this time to draw intense public outrage over DAP away from President Noynoy himself; in fact, to save him. Letting Abad go would have been a popular move.

XXX

But then came the Hyatt 10 counter-attack. Ellen wrote that four of them, namely DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Peace Process Adviser Ging Deles and Commission on Oversees Filipinos Secretary Mely Nicolas, trooped to the Palace to talk P-Noy out of his sisters’ idea of junking their colleague Butch Abad. Not only that, Ellen claimed that the Hyatt 10, in fact, THREATENED TO RESIGN EN MASSE if P-Noy let Abad go. 

It was nothing short of a blackmail of P-Noy but it worked. Soon news reports said the President informed his officials at the Cabinet meeting that he had turned down Abad's “non-irrevocable” offer to resign. Most prominent among those applauding were the Hyatt 10 officials, but VP Binay did not clap. 

XXX

What was interestingly was that it took a number of days before anyone from Hyatt 10 responded to media’s many queries about Ellen's story. It came in the form of a terse text message received by RG Cruz of Abs-CBN from Secretary Ging Deles which said: I firmly deny that there was such an effort by Hyatt 10.”

Deles' denial sounded quite lame, especially when considered that Ellen is a veteran journalist with an enviable track record of ferreting out inside info about various personalities, and has high credibility. Her column on Hyatt 10’s pressure on P-Noy gained traction right away among readers and the story went around.  Reaction in various quarters, including those anti-P-Noy, was almost uniform:  the presumptuousness and ill-concealed arrogance and self-righteousness of this group.

XXX

Actually, even before Deles' denial, I had no doubt that the story was true---for pressuring Presidents to resign seems to be fast becoming a habit with this group which one analyst termed as “just a lobby group for their selfish interest.”

Recall that in on the morning of 8 July, 2005 ten Cabinet officials of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo held a press conference at the Hyatt Hotel to ask her to resign (hence the monicker),  following controversy over her having called a Comelec official to allegedly cheat for her (GMA's version: simply to ensure that her one million lead over FPJ was protected amid talk of cheating attempts by her opponent's people). 

But just a week earlier these very same Cabinet officials were the ones who had coaxed GMA to make her now-famous "confession" and "I'm sorry" spiel,  against the advice of prominent House solons such as Camarines Sur's Luis Villafuerte and other Cabinet members. After GMA's "confession," the Hyatt 10 people went through the motions of gathering at the Palace and serenading her with that now infamous song, “So long as we’re together,” arms and hands linked together---ONLY TO QUIT ON HER LATER. 

Purisima and Abad even secretly flew to Hongkong to persuade then Vice President Noli de Castro to resign with them, but Noli refused.

XXX

Recall, too, that the Hyatt 10’s resign call on GMA was carefully planned to dovetail with the move of former President Cory Aquino to suddenly appear in  Malacanang Palace in the evening of July 7, in the company of, among others, then Bishops Socrates Villegas of Balanga and Luis Antonio Tagle of Imus, to demand her resignation. 

GMA, “tough as nails,” as Manila Times writer Yen Makabenta described her recently in his own recollection, listened quietly, said a firm No to their demand, and then calmly ushered her callers to the door. The next day, Friday, July 8, Cory Aquino, accompanied by Mila Drilon, motored to Assumption Convent, just as she had done the day before, hoping to be able to broadcast from that school (her and GMA’s alma mater) her demand on GMA to resign. An ABS-CBN OB van had waited for two days outside the school to telecast Cory's historic broadcast, but in both instances the Assumption sisters turned down her request and she was forced to retreat to Cojuangco Bldg. to make that broadcast.

XXX

What followed in the next five or six hours was a fantastic rally for GMA that probably would be difficult to replicate in any clime. At the behest of then Speaker Joe de Venecia, an overwhelming number of House legislators trooped to Malacanang in the early afternoon of that day to pledge their support for the embattled President. Later GMA and former President Fidel Ramos (who was tracked down by phone by De Venecia at the Alabang golf course), rode together in the presidential limo to Sulo Hotel in Quezon City where another rambunctious legislative show of force occurred.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, also rallying to GMA, wondered aloud who those resigning Cabinet members were, as he noted that many of them were unknown and “insignificant.” Are they cooks in the Palace, or the washing lady perhaps? JPE queried with mock disdain.

XXX

By contrast, the Hyatt 10 circa August 2014 found a President particularly vulnerable and bereft of the political poise and iron will displayed by his predecessor, with endless issues bedeviling his administration. Surveys saw P-Noy’s rating plunging to all-time low after the SC ruling vs. DAP, the scandals the DAP list revealed; and the intransigence of his House allies against that SC ruling reflecting on P-Noy.  As problem after problem in his administration erupted, the Hyatt 10 realized how weakened their President has become. They went for the jugular---forcing him to back off from firing Abad as his sisters wanted him to do.  

One reason for Hyatt 10's members' fierce instinct to SURVIVE TOGETHER is doubtless their fear that one or two or three of them could go to jail after P-Noy's term. 

XXX

With the Hyatt 10 blackmail confusion seems to have reigned among the Cabinet and advisers. One item floated an extension of P-Noy’s term, with no less than DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, P-Noy's presumed anointed,  even endorsing it. The SC, however, quickly shot it down as unconstitutional---unless, of course, the Charter is amended. Rah-rah boys in the House chorused approval of cha-cha, even as they sought to assure a distressed public it won't include the lifting of term limits. But of course, tell that to the Marines! 

The float of P-Noy's term extension fails to cope with the reality that he has become quite unpopular even with the masa, due to the rise of prices of basic commodities, the wanton pampering of legislators and select LGUs with DAP, the insensitive attempt by the House to fashion a “DAP clone’ and its head-on clash with the SC. 

Just before the SONA, the President asked for people’s support by wearing yellow ribbons. But the story is told that in one Cabinet meeting he asked what reaction there was to his request and he was told bluntly that there was none---no one wore yellow or those ribbons, except DAP congressmen. The story goes that infuriated with this info, he then said he would resign. The frantic Cabinet moved to placate him. 

XXX

Soon came the new float that the LP was not averse to recruiting Vice President Binay from the opposition and drafting him as LP standard-bearer for 2016. Curiously enough, this float found support from one politico who should have been offended, Secretary Mar Roxas, who was quick to say he wouldn't mind running as Binay's VP. Just as suddenly the Aquino sisters chorused that they don't have anything against Binay’s running as P-Noy’s handpicked, for after all, the VP's ties with their family go a long way. 

It's evident that for the Aquinos, recruiting the VP and campaigning to make him win would be buying insurance against a GMA scenario for P-Noy. The Veep himself affirmed this float and asserted that indeed, “nothing is impossible in politics.” 

The Opposition, of course, is discombobulated by this recent development, as Binay has been their man and they're confident that he's the candidate to beat. Mayor Erap Estrada wants to have a heart-to-heart talk with his erstwhile UNA candidate soonest. 


Given all this confusion and the grotesque turn of events, the National Transformation Council being floated by civic-minded citizens for a morality-based governance, as Star's Chit Pedrosa advocates in her column, does seem like an idea whose time has come. 

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