DESPITE mounting calls for his resignation over allegations of corruption and incompetence, the general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, Jose Angel Hornado, will likely stay on the job, protected by his powerful patron in Malacañang Palace.
Honrado, who has held the post since 2010, has presided over the steady deterioration of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the main gateway to the Philippines that, ironically, was named after the President’s late father. The extent to which Honrado has let the airport go to pot can be seen by the Naia’s dubious distinction of being voted the worst airport in the world several years running. More recently, he has been unable or unwilling to stop corrupt airport inspectors from planting bullets in luggage to extort money from hapless travelers. In fact, he even denies that such a syndicate exists.
Responding to questions at a Senate hearing, Honrado disavowed any responsibility for the widening scandal at the airport, saying that he had no authority over the baggage inspectors or security personnel there, or for many other agencies that operate at the Naia. This prompted one senator to ask what his job was—implying that taxpayers were paying his salary and getting very little in return.
Then last week, Honrado was accused of graft before the Office of the Ombudsman over his approval of a P486-million contract to buy 700 CCTV cameras for the airport without public bidding. The complainants accused Honrado of using the bullet-planting scandal to justify the “emergency purchase” of the CCTV cameras without public bidding.
Earlier, airport officials said a negotiated contract is allowed under procurement laws after two failed public biddings. But the question that Honrado needs to answer is this: Why has it taken him so many years to install a credible CCTV system at the country’s airports? CCTV technology is mature and fairly straightforward and not all that complex. How is it that the MIAA under Honrado has been unable to conduct a successful bidding in all these years?
But none of this matters to President Benigno Aquino III, who has shown us time and again that he values personal friendship and loyalty above the interests of the state or the welfare of the people. Part of this commitment is to defend his friends, even if they prove inept and corrupt. We have seen this in his choice of people to head the Philippine National Police, the departments of Agriculture and Transportation and Communication, and various other government agencies such as the Land Transportation Office, whose sole purpose seems to be making life more difficult for ordinary Filipinos.
“Honrado is a retired air force general whose best claim to fame is his having headed the Presidential Security Group during the term of the late President Cory Aquino,” an online petition that seeks his ouster says. “He has no experience managing a civilian office, much less an organization as complex as the MIAA, and it shows. Since taking over MIAA, he has committed blunder after blunder, and persists to commit acts that run counter to the public’s interest.”
“We call on President Benigno S. Aquino IIII to immediately relieve Honrado as MIAA chief for all the following reasons: his incompetence, mismanagement, refusal to abide by lawful orders and willful disregard of the country’s laws,” the petition on Change.org says. “Enough is enough. Honrado must go. Now.”
But in a press forum in Kuala Lumpur recently, the President insisted that the bullet-planting scandal was overblown, and that certain people were sensationalizing the problem, presumably to make him look bad.
Even before the official investigation into the bullet-planting scandal has been completed, the President has clearly drawn his own conclusions and is circling the wagons once again—to defend the corrupt and the inept.