President Aquino burst into the presidential scene with a resounding victory in the 2010 elections. With a huge margin ver his closest rival, he had a clear mandate from the Filipino electorate.
Nearly three years on, the President remains hugely popular although his public approval rating has started to slip, somewhat.
Immediately upon taking office, Mr. Aquino declared war on corruption in keeping with his campaign slogan that there would be no poverty if there is no corruption. Predictably, the principal targets were officials of the previous administration where scores of charges were filed against some former senior officials. As everyone knows, the biggest fish was former President Gloria Arroyo herself who is currently under hospital detention. Mrs. Arroyo is facing plunder charges even if the evidence appear to be weak.
The second is, of course, Chief Justice Renato Corona who was found guilty by the Senate after being impeached by the House.
Now, President Aquino, in every opportunity whether here or abroad, is trumpeting to one and all that there is no longer any corruption in the Philippines and that foreign investors are falling in line with their money to invest in the country.
I believe President Aquino is right to wage war on corruption. He understands that if we want this country to be taken seriously by the international community, we have to clean our image so that we can find our rightful place in the community of nations. But there is a problem in his program.
His strategic objective of wanting to eradicate corruption is right but how he is going about doing it is another matter. After three years, the perception of the country when it comes to corruption has not changed significantly. Although there is a slight improvement in our ranking, the country is still perceived to be corrupt.
The main reason for this is the fact that there is still corruption in government and President Aquino is not implementing his program uniformly and consistently.
Let us look into some cases: His administration was ushered in by a news item about a huge house in Blue Ridge subdivision in Quezon City occupying a whole block reportedly owned by his Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa. In spite of a paper trail leading to Ochoa’s wife, nothing came out of it. A denial was simply issued from Malacañang and that was that. No formal inquiry was ever conducted.
Then we had that fiasco at the Luneta grandstand where several Hong Kong residents were killed in a bungled rescue attempt. An investigation was conducted which unbelievably blamed, of all people, the Deputy Ombudsman —a decision which was later rightfully overturned by the Supreme Court. No other individual to my knowledge was ever charged, in spite of reports that there was sabotage involved. The country, up to this time, remains blacklisted as a tourist destination by the Hong Kong government. This is still an open case as far as Hong Kong is concerned.
The third is the case of the Land Transportation Office chief, Assistant Secretary Virginia Torres. In spite of a recommendation by no less than the Department of Justice that she be charged for graft, she is still in office.
The other cases are those of Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca and Laguna Lake Development Authority general manager Nereus Acosta. Both have pending graft cases against them in Court. Both are out on bail. Both are also still in office.
Recall that President Aquino even paid for Padaca’s bail and pronounced her not guilty. He also pronounced President Arroyo guilty. President Aquino has now also become a judge.
Why does he do it? It is hard to say. Could he be charged under the Doctrine of Command Responsibility? Yes but not now, because this administration as in any other writes and defines the rules of the game. Later, perhaps, especially if the next administration will not be so friendly.
President Aquino should know that it is not enough that he is clean. He must take actions against subordinates who are in violation of the law. The last and perhaps very glaring show of partiality was when he again cleared Pacquito Ochoa of any culpability in the Atimonan shooting even before the NBI could come out with its investigation report. What can the public expect of the NBI report since the outcome has already been prejudged? Reports are now surfacing that the motive has not been fully established except that it is a jueteng turf war. Jueteng is always a very complicated and controversial subject. If the NBI did not dig deep enough to find out how the take or payola is distributed, then the investigation is superficial at best intended to pin down a few and exclude others.
President Aquino, at some point in the future, will have to confront jueteng once and for all. If not, no matter how much he deodorizes his administration as squeaky clean, the perception of corruption will linger much, much longer. I hate to think that he is so naïve to believe that there is no corruption going on in his administration.
Right now I have information about one Cabinet Secretary who has been demanding and getting a lot of money from a big businessman. Then again, what else is new?
Taps have been sounded for two of our batch mates of 1970. Police General Alfredo Daluyaya, PMA class of 1970, died late December of 2012 due to a massive heart attack. Major General Rolando Floria, USMA class of 1970, passed away last week due to lingering illness. Fred Daluyaya before his retirement was in charge of the PNP Logistics Command and Andy Floria was J4 or Director for Logistics of the AFP. He also served as Executive Vice President of the AFP Savings and Loans Association.
Both officers were first-class gentlemen and will be sorely missed. The time is still long but it’s beginning to thin. I hope it will be long and far in between.