THERE is nothing wrong with having 11 Abads in government and that does not necessarily translate to nepotism, Malacañang said on Monday in response to charges that the family of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has been given “unrestrained power and control” over the government
“Their surnames should not be a basis for saying they have too much power. I think their performance in government should be a gauge as to whether they are an asset to the country and to the government,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
United Nationalist Alliance secretary general and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco said there are 11 Abads in government -- including Abad’s wife, Henedina (representative of Batanes and vice chairman of the powerful House approriations committee); daughter Julia (Presidential Management Staff head), son Luis (chief of staff of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima); four nephews; one niece; and two first cousins.
But in his 2013 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, Abad only declared nine relatives in government service. His son, Luis, was no longer listed.
“The issue here is are they contributing to the good of the country? Have they been accused of any wrongdoing?” Lacierda said.
“I think it’s not to say that just because you are an Abad (it means it is nepotism), considering that they are in various levels of the bureaucracy. Not all of them are Cabinet secretaries—only two of them are Cabinet secretaries,” he added.
Aside from Abad, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje also has nine declared relatives in government—two sisters; two brothers-in-law; a sister-in-law; two nieces; and two nephews.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has seven declared relatives, while Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. declared five relatives.
Lacierda also denied accusations that Abad could not be fired by the President because he is the “brain master” of the administration.
“Secretary Butch Abad is a good friend and a long time friend of the President. They share common ideals. They share common vision. But it is President Aquino who ensures that everyday in government should be a day that we try to uplift the burdens of our people and to try to improve the bureaucracy, to try to improve every sector of the country,” he said.
“All these reforms would not have been possible without the politicaland intellectual muscle of the President,” Lacierda added.
Nepotism is covered by Section 9, Rule XIII of the 1998 Memorandum Circular No. 40 the Civil Service Commission, which provides the “Revised Omnibus Rules on Appointments and Other Personnel Actions.”
The rule states that “No appointment in the national, provincial, city or municipal governments or any branch or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned and/or -controlled corporations with original charters shall be made in favor of relative or the appointing or recommending authority, or of the chief of the bureau or office or of the person exercising immediate supervision over the appointee.”
The memorandum also provides that “unless otherwise provided by law, the word relative and the members of the family referred to are those related within the third degree either of consanguinity or of affinity.”
Tiangco on Monday laughed off Palace’s statement that having several of the Abads in government is not nepotism.
“Having 11 Abads appointed in some very sensitive positions in government by one person? I don’t see how is that not nepotism,” Tiangco told the Manila Standard. “Why, do they have a monopoly on intelligence?” he added.
Tiangco said that President Aquino and his administration should be able to prove its straight path advocacy on the premise of “moral, ethical standards and delicadeza.”
“The straight path to me means you try to go over and above the standard of what is legal and ethical. If one family controls the government by holding many sensitive positions, is that ethical? Does that show delicadeza?” Tiangco said.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said Lacierda may be correct under the legal definition of nepotism.
“But it still constitutes political patronage, as surely competence and professional service are not the monopoly of selected families,” Ridon said.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate said that Lacierda’s statement only proved that President Aquino’s straight path policy has exceptions.
“It appears that the campaign for a straight path applies to all but the Abads, Alcalas and other sacred allies of the Aquino administration,” Zarate said.
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