Running or not?

The other day, De La Salle University professor Julio Teehankee, a member of the President’s consultative committee (Con-Com) on Charter change, told media that the Con-Com draft Charter would allow Duterte to run again in 2022.

Of course, this threw the usual media hyenas into a feeding frenzy, with the usual suspects from the yellow camp crowing that Duterte’s nefarious intentions to hang onto the Presidency had just been exposed.

Luckily, Fr. Rannie Aquino, another Con-Com member, came out and clarified that Duterte, having been elected under the current Constitution, remains bound by that document’s prohibition against seeking reelection. In other words, what Teehankee meant to say was that Duterte could seek ANOTHER office, if he wished, after stepping down.

To his credit, Yellow leader, lawyer Christian Monsod, came out and admitted that the draft actually did prohibit the current president and vice president from seeking extension of their terms. Hereunder is the relevant language from Section 6 in Article XXI on “Transitory Provisions:”

“The term of the president and vice president, which shall end on June 30, 2022, shall not be extended.”

Unfortunately, this still wasn’t enough for Monsod. He asked why there wasn’t a specific ban against Duterte seeking reelection. Beating his breast in sorrow, he cried out to the high heavens, “Is federalism just a Trojan horse to keep Duterte in power?”

Well. It would be fairly simple anyway for that section in the draft charter to add something like the following language: “…nor shall the president and vice president be allowed to seek re-election to their offices immediately thereafter.”

This kind of prohibition has been requested by Duterte himself. In fact, he’s gone even further and asked to be required, or allowed, to step down as soon as the new charter is approved in plebiscite, which could happen as early as next May.

The man has shown absolutely no appetite at all for overstaying his high office. This is why the old bogeyman of term extension, which was raised by the yellows against every past attempt to amend the Constitution, rings hollow in his case.

I guess you can’t blame them, though. Who would want to face off in an electoral contest against a president whose political honeymoon has lasted so long? If anyone needs a new constitution to do a “Hail Mary” long pass on the electoral football field, it’s the yellows, not Duterte.

What really worries me is that the new charter’s self-executory anti-dynasty provision may put Davao city mayor Inday Sara out of the presidential running in 2022. That would be a real loss for the Gen-Xers and the millennials of this country.

* * *

The President has lowered the boom on mounting evidence of delays in rolling out the ambitious infrastructure projects under his much-vaunted Build Build Build program.

Speaking in Davao City, Duterte announced that he will hold his Cabinet members personally responsible for delayed or faulty projects, after complaining that he has yet to see a single road in this country finished on time and without graft and corruption.

The Cabinet member unlucky enough to be singled out by name was DPWH Secretary Mark Villar, who’s responsible for at least a dozen major road, highway and bridge projects, including the Luzon Spine Expressway that’s supposed to cut down travel time from La Union to Sorsogon to under 12 hours.

In its 2017 audit report, CoA found that DPWH was able to disburse only 34 percent of its total allocated budget of P663 billion for the year. This was mainly the result of delays in completing over 2,300 projects, which in turn were caused by the following reasons:

Delayed LGU approvals; right of way issues; difficulties with contractual workforce, materials acquisition, and equipment scheduling; inadequate project planning and supervision; and bad weather.

That’s a pretty long list of how NOT to do projects. Even if we discount the findings by 50 percent for auditors’ nitpickery (which of course they’re being paid to do), it’s not an encouraging picture.

Our impression of Mark Villar is a reserved, American-educated young gentleman who was born with the proverbial silver spoon, or two, in his mouth. Perhaps the problem is that he’s too much of a gentleman for the wily field engineers, contractors, and local politicians responsible for getting things done out in the field.

What may be needed instead—which we hope he can still become—is a fire-breathing, tough-talking, truncheon-wielding disciplinarian—someone more like, well, Duterte himself.

* * *

Having said all of the above, though, we ought to add a couple of caveats.

First, according to DPWH insiders, the amounts disbursed in 2017 totalled virtually all of the cash actually allocated to the agency that year. The utilization rate drops drastically if compared to budget amounts that were OBLIGATED, an exercise that typically happens late in the year when there’s no longer much time left to spend it.

More seriously, we have to note the alacrity with which COA has been rushing out its adverse reports against the Office of the President, PTV-4, and now DPWH under Duterte, even though it never raised a peep over the Dengvaxia and barangay health center anomalies in 2015/16, not to mention the earlier DAP anomalies that were flagged by the Supreme Court no less.

Is it just a coincidence that CoA is currently headed by a PNoy appointee, Michael Aguinaldo, who used to be Aquino’s deputy executive secretary for legal affairs? Will CoA go down the same path as the Ombudsman, Comelec, or Commission on Human Rights, whose past or present heads concealed their yellow agenda under the protective mantle of constitutionally guaranteed independence?

Readers can write me at [email protected]

Topics: Julio Teehankee , Christian Monsod , Rodrigo Duterte , Michael Aguinaldo
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