MANILA, APRIL 14, 2011 (BULLETIN) By BEN R. ROSARIO - Despite declarations that she quit and was not fired, former Tarlac Gov. Margarita 'Tingting" Cojuangco's resignation as president of the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC) has been persistently linked to her outspoken objection to President Aquino's bid to postpone the scheduled August, 2011, elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Interviewed over radio DZBB, Cojuangco's husband and Philippine Olympics Committee (POC) Chairman Jose "Peping" Cojuangco blamed Aquino's advisers for the resignation of his wife from PPSC and for advising the Chief Executive to cancel the ARMM polls.

President Aquino is Mr. Cojuangcos' nephew.

Asked to comment, opposition Rep. Mitos Magsaysay (Lakas-Kampi, Zambales) said there is a clear link between Mrs. Cojuangco's resignation and her democratic advocacy in ARMM.

"It's the ARMM elections. He (President Aquino) should have fired or asked her to leave since he took over government not after almost one year in office," Magsaysay said.

"It is because of Tingting's strong statements that are contrary to the stand of P-Noy. She just does not want to admit in public," Magsaysay said.

Mr. Cojuangco said he sees neither legal nor moral impediment for his wife to continue serving PPSC. He explained that his wife has been with the PPSC even before their nephew became the President last year.

His wife was appointed to the post in 2003 by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a known political adversary of Aquino

According to Mr. Cojuangco, they are fully convinced that postponement of the ARMM elections is a step toward the wrong direction if the welfare of the Muslim regions is to be pursued by the government.

He said his wife has been in constant consultations with Muslim leaders who have strongly opposed the President's decision to seek the cancellation of the August elections.

Cojuangco explained that his wife has been pursuing the welfare of Muslims ever since she was assigned to oversee ARMM affairs in the late 1980's by his sister and Aquino's mother, then President Corazon C. Aquino.

In a public forum, Mrs. Cojuangco chided Aquino for failing to deliver on his vow to pursue the "daang matuwid" or right path toward governance.

"It is high time for P-Noy to stand by his promise of daang matuwid for the Filipinos. In postponing the ARMM elections, are we taking the right path?" she asked shortly after learning that her nephew was bent at cancelling the ARMM polls.

Mrs. Cojuangco has confirmed to media that she had indeed given up the top PPSC post "out of delicadeza." However, she backed her husband's position that she can legally hold on to the position because it was not Aquino, but Arroyo who appointed her.

"If it is true that she resigned because of difference of opinion with the President, then it just shows that this administration cannot accept constructive criticisms or opinions," Magsaysay said, short of accusing the Aquino administration of rejecting opposition even within government.

She added: "We will never grow as a nation if this is the kind of governance that P-Noy wants."

Tingting first publicly aired serious misgivings about plans to postpone the ARMM elections during a February 11 round-table discussion facilitated by Fr. Eliseo Mercado, executive director of the Institute for Autonomy for Governance.

In the forum, she also expressed her husband's dismay over news that President Aquino favored postponement of ARMM elections and the appointment of an OIC, saying these are just "inner workings of the President's Cabinet and not Malacañang itself."

According to her, the holding of regular elections in ARMM is a showcase of genuine democracy – a legacy bequeathed by P-Noy's parents.

Strongly backed by its leadership, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 4146 on third and final reading, the bill embodying the proposal to postpone the ARMM polls, despite strong objections from congressmen representing the region.

The Senate version of the measure, which will also empower Aquino to appoint temporary ARMM officials, is expected to be taken up when session resumes on May 9.

Nene's broadside

Meanwhile, former Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. said the expected release of the Commission on Audit (CoA) report on the ARMM is not enough reason to defer the scheduled August elections.

Pimentel said contrary to Malacañang's assessment, the government will have more than ample time in June and July to file charges in relation to the utilization of ARMM funds.

Thus, it is not a valid excuse that the ARMM elections need to be postponed in order to successfully "purge" the ARMM's voters' list and initiate much-needed reforms in the region.

"The very excuse cited by DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo in calling for postponement – the release of the CoA report on ARMM in May – is the very proof that there is no valid reason not to push through with the ARMM election this year," Pimentel said.

During the Senate Committee on Local Government's initial hearing into the two measures calling for the postponement of the ARMM polls, Robredo bared that irregularities found by state auditors in their partial report on ARMM has reinforced the Aquino government's commitment to initiate reforms both on the politi¬cal and economic landscape of its five provinces.

More than a billion peso is estimated unaccounted from the ARMM regional governor's office alone. The office was then headed by former ARMM Governor Zaldy Ampatuan, one of the key suspects in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre.

Robredo said that charges of plunder against outgoing ARMM officials or those who were suspended in relation to the Maguindanao massacre may be filed upon the conclusion of the CoA audit.

But Pimentel said the government would have "all the time in the world" to go after those who had misused ARMM funds well before the August elections.

"In fact, the government can file the charges even after the ARMM election," he pointed out. (With a report from Hannah L. Torregoza)


Palace welcomes Tingting Cojuangco's resignation from PPSC

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 00:00

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Monday welcomed the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III's aunt, Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco, from the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC), as an affirmation of support for his campaign promise not to appoint a relative to any government post.

"The President is very strict in enforcing his policy na walang kamag-anak sa kanyang stable ng mga opisyales sa paligid niya. And, I think, Madame Tingting Cojuangco realized that," Ochoa said in a radio interview.

Contrary to earlier reports, Ochoa said Cojuangco resigned on her own initiative and was not fired from her job.

In fact, Ochoa added, Cojuangco herself recommended former Upi, Maguindanao Mayor Ruben Platon as her replacement at PPSC.

Before he ran for mayor, Platon, a lawyer, served as administrative officer and legal officer of PPSC.

Cojuangco was appointed PPSC head in 2004 by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (PNA) DCT/FFC/PCOO/ssc


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