Saturday, 12 June 2010

Arroyo, Aquino camps laying down the groundwork for transition

Smooth transfer of power seen
Manila Bulletin

The camp of President-elect Benigno Simeon Aquino III expects a “very smooth” transition of power, noting that the Arroyo administration has been “very cooperative and cordial.”

Speaking to newsmen for the first time, lawyer Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr., Aquino's personal choice to be his Executive Secretary, said they have been working with Arroyo's own transition team for the transfer of power at the end of the month.

"The way we are being treated by Malacañang, they are very cooperative and cordial. I think even PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) called the President-elect already. I don’t see any problem in the transition. It’s going to be very smooth,” Ochoa said at a press briefing Thursday afternoon at the Aquino residence on Times St., Quezon City.

Ochoa said he himself would soon meet Presidential Management Staff chief Ma. Elena Bautista Horn to talk about the matter.

He has been in touch with Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Ochoa said.

“I’ve been talking to Secretary Mendoza… (I think) twice. We have a line of communication. I sent some representatives to talk about inauguration for lack of time. Before, it’s difficult to move around, since he (Aquino) was not proclaimed yet. Propriety dictates we remain backdoor muna. At least now he has some degree of authority and somehow official ang ginagawa namin representing the President-elect,” Ochoa said.

It was Aquino himself who forced the media-shy Ochoa to be interviewed by newsmen.

Ochoa, Aquino's long-time friend and legal counsel, effectively protected the votes of the President-elect. He is touted to be “the moving spirit of PiNoy lawyers,” the legal arm of the Liberal Party in the country’s first automated elections.

Ochoa said he would like to maintain a low-profile status even when he is already the Executive Secretary, a position otherwise known as the “Little President.”

“Nobody knew about me for nine years when I was city administrator of Quezon City and I think I can do best to protect my boss (that way). In the case of QC it was Mayor Feliciano Belmonte. I believe people around the boss should maintain a low-profile so the real boss gets to be in the limelight and not the guys behind him. For all we know, it’s very difficult to be going public and suddenly contradicting your own boss,” explained Ochoa who has been on leave as QC administrator since January this year.

Ochoa said he would let the presidential spokesperson, lawyer Edwin Lacierda, to do all the talking.

“I’d rather be careful on those things and if there will be future major announcements maybe that will be the time I have to go out if that’s really necessary. We have a spokesperson. My theory is, the spokesperson should be the one doing the talking, not the Executive Secretary,” he said.

“I just reviewed functions of the Office of the Executive Secretary and I almost ran away. It’s (a) huge (responsibility). There are many times he asked me and (I thought) it was a joke. But no, we’ve been friends for so long, we’ve been too familiar with each other. Sometimes it’s very difficult to take each other too seriously at times,” Ochoa said.

Being Executive Secretary, Ochoa said, is “basically assisting the President and making decisions.”

“There’s a portion that says make decisions that would not be included in those matters where personal decision of the President is not required. Who determines that? I wonder who. Maybe we have to sit down together later and inquire his personal decisions and mine. I hope he takes most of it,” he said.

He clarified reports that he is also being eyed by Aquino as his Justice secretary.

“Actually, I think what he meant there is he really is serious about putting closure to many legal issues that have been besetting our country, especially in regard to his campaign promise of ‘kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.’ It’s all about corruption because he’s really serious tending to these things. I was and I still am his lawyer-friend, so he probably thought I can maybe recommend somebody or can perhaps supervise it at some future time,” he explained.

For now, Ochoa is busy preparing for his boss' proclamation as well as the search for the people who would compose Aquino's Cabinet.

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