Thursday, May 05, 2005

President confronted Roy Señeres(NLRC) on 'plot'

By Fe Zamora Inquirer News Service

ON TWO occasions, once to his face and the other before labor leaders, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo branded the chief of her National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) as a destabilizer for allegedly seeking US help to oust her.

Former Ambassador and NLRC chair Roy Señeres yesterday confirmed to the Inquirer the confrontation with Ms Arroyo but said he denied being involved in destabilization plots.

Señeres said intrigues sown by officials close to the President had fueled her suspicions that even her own officials were involved in destabilization plots.

In a telephone interview, Señeres denied he had sought US support to oust Ms Arroyo as the President had alleged during a meeting with labor leaders in Malacañang on April 26.

Señeres admitted he had been meeting with US Ambassador Francis Ricciardone and other ranking officials of the embassy but said he met them "because they are my friends."

"We have coffee and we talk about the 5 million unemployed Filipinos here, and the millions of Filipinos who [have found] work abroad. We talk facts. Is that destabilization?" Señeres said.

In one or two of the coffee talks, he said he was joined by a retired Air Force colonel who had been linked to groups allegedly plotting Ms Arroyo's ouster.

"But he is just military bum," Señeres said.

According to Señeres, a Cabinet official who thought he was interested in the official's post, twisted the incidents and whispered the "intrigue" to the President.

President should have checked

"And the problem with the President was that she believed it without even checking with ISAFP [Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines] and the NICA [National Intelligence Coordinating Agency]," Señeres said.

He said he had been helping First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo reach out to overseas workers, which the President's husband considers among his pet projects.

"I helped him especially at that time when Senator [Panfilo] Lacson named him as the owner of the multimillion-peso Jose Pidal accounts. I could not be a destabilizer," Señeres stressed.

An Inquirer source said that Ms Arroyo, in a meeting with labor leaders last week, told them that Señeres was involved in efforts to undermine her leadership.

Ricciardone's help

The source said that the President "fumed" at Señeres for allegedly asking Ricciardone to support plans to oust her.

The source also quoted Ms Arroyo as saying, "Akala ni Roy hindi ko alam (Roy thinks that I don't know)."

But Señeres said Ms Arroyo had already confronted him about the report during a meeting on April 5, her birthday.

"Nagtaray siya [She put on a haughty air]. It was very un-presidential. But I explained that I was just having coffee with the embassy officials, and I have been doing these for years," he said.

Señeres said he had cultivated the friendship of US senators, congressmen and state department officials while he was assigned as labor attaché in Washington, D.C. from 1990 to 1994, and later on as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, where he would be known for saving teenage OFW Sarah Balabagan and death convict John Aquino from execution.

Suspicions raked up again

In 2000, President Joseph Estrada appointed Señeres to the NLRC, a position he continues to hold under the Arroyo administration.

Ms Arroyo was apparently not satisfied with Señeres' explanation on April 5 because she raked up the same suspicions during the April 26 meeting.

Señeres, who was not in the meeting, said "50 percent of the labor leaders" at the meeting called him up.

He said many teased him about the plot, and others even joked that they would like to join.

Arroyo misinformed?

On a separate issue, Señeres said Ms Arroyo was misinformed when she ordered the transfer of the supervision of the NLRC from her office to the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to speed up the disposition of labor cases.

Señeres said that in order to truly address the concerns of both labor and management, "we need more support from government, not more supervision."

Señeres said that, in the first place, the Supreme Court had not yet ruled on the constitutionality of the President's Executive Order No. 105 mandating DoLE to exercise administrative supervision of the commission.

"The President was fed with the wrong information about the NLRC. We have not been consulted about that speech. In fact we were not invited to the Malacañang function," Señeres added, referring to the Labor Day rites when the Chief Executive made the announcement.

SC ruling

The NLRC chief said the case filed by the Automotive Industry Workers Alliance and several other labor groups questioning the validity of the executive order was dismissed by the high tribunal on a mere technicality.

The Supreme Court in an en banc decision in January said the issue "will have to await the proper party in a proper case to assail its validity."

Prior to the ruling, however, Malacañang issued another directive, EO 204, in an attempt to cure the legal defects of EO 105.

Señeres said the two EOs were not the solution to the problem of undue delays in the NLRC's resolution of labor cases.

"The real problem is the lack of government support in improving our capacity to handle the tsunami of labor cases being filed daily," he said. With a report from Jerome Aning


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