Monthly Archives: February 2015

What is really Daang Matuwid

With around year left in its term, one of the best Philippine administration will end its term in office. Despite the all the economic achievements attained in its administration, it will be its political governance that will be its legacy for future administrations to follow. The question being asked now is whether Daang Matuwid was a policy used to promote good governance or simply another political tool to eliminate the opposition.

From BusinessWorld Philippines

February 15, 2015

PNoy Aquino’s biggest failure

WHAT’S PRESIDENT Aquino’s biggest failure?

His handling of the Mamasapano incident? Not really. His biggest failure is his failure to apply Daang Matuwid (Straight Path) to all public officials, whether they are political opponents or friends, party mates, family or allies. The Mamasapano incident would probably have not happened had President Aquino applied Daang Matuwid to his own men, even the closest of friends like former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima, when reports first surfaced that Purisima had ill-gotten wealth. Purisima should have been canned, yet Aquino kept defending him.

This one-sided application of Daang Matuwid is typical of President Aquino. The smoke of corruption has hung heavily on the Department of Agriculture, which has been linked to Janet Napoles and other scams like the garlic cartel, but Secretary Prospero Alcala is the Liberal Party treasurer and a good buddy of President Aquino. Not surprisingly, he’s still in his post, making a mess of our rice policy.

Similarly, Daang Matuwid also doesn’t apply to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), a preserve of the Liberal Party. Philippine Star’s Jarius Bondoc has exposed the various shenanigans in the MRT, including a sweetheart contract for the maintenance of the railway system awarded to a relative of the former general manager.

Aside from the corruption, the DoTC has been notorious for being incompetent, bureaucratic, or cunningly clever. One recent example is the announcement that it was building a fifth terminal to ease the airport congestion, when only another runaway can technically ease the congestion. It’s incredibly stupid or incredibly smart, since they will start awarding contracts before May 2016. Why the DoTC refuses the most practicable solution — building Clark as the second airport in a dual airport strategy to serve Metro Manila — is beyond comprehension.

President Aquino’s term will be ending in 2016, but the MRT operation has gotten worse, not better. The conditions of the trains have deteriorated such that the MRT can’t run all of them to service the public. Those that do run are in danger of breaking down at any time, putting the public at great risk.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla are in jail, but none of Aquino’s party mates, political allies or friends have been investigated or prosecuted, whether over the Napoles pork barrel scams or previous cases of corruption in the Arroyo administration. His Daang Matuwid, therefore, is perceived as less “good governance” but more as a weapon to eliminate the opposition. In other words, it’s still “weather-weather lang,” and Daang Matuwid is the weapon of choice.

I don’t believe that the blowback against President Aquino would have been so hard over the Mamasapano incident if he were not perceived as being very partial and political aside from being arrogant. Compare how he treated former Health Secretary Enrique Ona and his friend Purisima. He publicly humiliated Dr. Ona, a well-off and respected kidney doctor, with insinuations of corruption over the purchase of vaccines. Take note, Ona was accused of buying a cheaper vaccine variant against a more expensive one, for Chrissake. Compare how President Aquino treated Ona with the way he coddled General Purisima who had some explaining to do with his unexplained wealth and the irregular manner the “White House” in the PNP headquarters was funded and built.

However, all that may have been a ploy to ease out Ona and put a politician in the person of Dr. Janet Garin, a former congresswoman and a member of the Petilla family political dynasty in Leyte. The Department of Health (DoH) is going to play an important part in the 2016 elections. Remember the PhilHealth cards that were distributed by former President Gloria Arroyo in the 2004 elections?

But there’s more. The DoH is now awash with money resulting from the passage of the sin tax law. It’s strategic for the 2016 elections, so wonder no more why Ona was humiliated and forced to resign.

Aquino’s asymmetrical application of Daang Matuwid has served to agitate his critics and political opponents. They have jumped on the Mamasapano incident to try to destabilize his government. They have also lumped Aquino with the peace process. If they derail the peace process, they think they can bring down Aquino as well.

It’s not too late, however, for President Aquino to rebound in popularity, regain the high political ground, and save the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, perhaps what could be his single biggest political achievement.

He must be seen as being less partisan and political. Accepting the resignation of his friend Alan Purisima is a good start, but he must also create an independent truth commission, whose findings are not subject to change by Malacañang, as was done with the Department of Justice (DoJ) report on the Luneta tragedy. That DoJ report was changed to absolve Manila Mayor Lim and his bosom friend Rico Puno. Unfortunately, even now, Malacañang is prematurely clearing Purisima of ordering Special Action Force General Getulio Napenas of breaking the chain of command.

In addition, he probably should not make permanent the appointment of Acting Secretary Janet Garin as Health Secretary but instead appoint a competent secretary with no political affiliation.

He should fill in the three vacancies in the Commission of Elections with men or women of probity and integrity, and not another Sixto Brillantes please. He should appoint an equally fearless, competent head of the Commission on Audit to replace the recently retired Grace Pulido-Tan.

He must make his party mates in the Cabinet perform or else ship them out. The DoTC, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Energy are the NPAs or non-performing agencies in his Cabinet.

President Aquino has depleted his political capital over the Mamasapano incident. His political isolation can only get worse if he continues his partisan ways and the one-sided application of Daang Matuwid.

All is not lost. He’s still President until June 2016. He can still save victory from the jaws of defeat. He is his own tagaligtas.

Calixto V. Chikiamco is a board director of the Institute for Development and Econometric Analysis.

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