President Aquino is paying the price for choosing to stay in a war zone and away from the seat of power: No Manila newspaper to read. Ergo, no stand on key issues.
With the airport and shops shut down the past 10 days of fighting between government security forces and Moro rebels in Zamboanga City, the President has not been getting newspapers, Malacañang said on Wednesday.
With the dearth in information reaching the President, the Palace said it was difficult to get his stand on key issues like the filing of plunder charges against 38 individuals including three senators and the postponement of the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) elections.
“You know, the problem in Zamboanga is that no planes are flying there. They’re not getting news there. No newspapers are being flown there,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters in Malacañang.
What about the news on TV or online? The Palace did not elaborate.
Aquino flew to Zamboanga City on Friday to oversee the military operation against rebels from Nur Misuari’s faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who barged into the city on Sept. 9 to stage an “independence” march and rally.
He remains in Zamboanga as military troops and policemen battle Misuari’s followers.
Lacierda said he would talk to Aquino about issues when the President returns to the Palace.
“We will know. We will know when he comes back,” he said when asked whether Aquino would certify as urgent the measure postponing the SK elections that were originally scheduled to coincide with the barangay elections on Oct. 28.
Aquino has scarcely been seen in public since he took over command of the military operation on Friday. It is Interior Secretary Mar Roxas who presides over press briefings on the crisis.
While he was away, the National Bureau of Investigation has recommended the filing of plunder charges against Janet Lim-Napoles, three senators, their staff and several former members of the House of Representatives for the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
The Senate also passed on third and final reading the measure postponing the SK elections.
On Wednesday, the Senate held a hearing on the controversial freedom of information bill whose approval in the 15th Congress was held up because of Malacañang’s reservations on some provisions.
Can’t disclose location
Lacierda had no information about what else the President was doing in Zamboanga City.
“Well, he’s doing something else. As to what he is doing, that’s something we are not at liberty to discuss,” Lacierda said.
The most that Lacierda could confirm was that Aquino was indeed in Zamboanga City.
“He is in Zamboanga City. As to his exact location, we are not at liberty to disclose,” he said.
Government troops have recovered about 70 percent of the coast from followers of Misuari and are conducting mopping up operations to clear the villages of Misuari’s followers.
Lacierda said only the local crisis committee could declare whether the crisis was over.
Misuari and his followers who invaded Zamboanga are facing rebellion charges, according to Interior Secretary Roxas.