Robredo deserves post—youth leader
|Philippine Daily Inquirer|
I AM appealing to President Aquino to give his full trust and confidence to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo by appointing him in a permanent capacity to his post and submitting his name to the Commission on Appointments (CA) for confirmation.In the past six months that Secretary Robredo has been in office, he has been able to live up to the campaign promise of President Aquino: “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap.” Proof of this is his effort to promote greater transparency and public accountability among local government units all over our country by directing them to publish their budgets and expenditures for their constituents to see. As an advocate of genuine people empowerment, he has also helped open up our government to partnerships with various civil society organizations, private sector groups and foundations that are currently helping deliver better basic services to marginalized sectors in our society.
As ex-officio chairman of the National Police Commission, he has also been proactive in cleaning up the ranks of the Philippine National Police by suspending more than 100 rogue cops from service. Regarding the recent spate of car thefts, he has worked well with PNP Chief Gen. Raul Bacalzo in apprehending the suspects behind the murder of car dealer Venson Evangelista. He was able produce concrete results in less than a week, which goes to show how effective he is as a leader.
Clearly, he is one of the better-performing Cabinet secretaries of the present administration and we definitely deserve more leaders like him. Thus, I sincerely believe that he deserves nothing less than the full trust and confidence of President Aquino.
—HARVEY S. KEH,
director for youth leadership and social entrepreneurship,
Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government,
Jueteng lord for President?
By: Harvey S. Keh, The Manila Times
In his first few weeks in office, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd categorically stated that eradicating jueteng will be one of the least priorities of his administration. This statement raised many eyebrows particularly from the leaders of the Church and some of the political allies of Aquino in the Liberal Party such as former Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio and former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca who lost in the last elections due to the billions of jueteng money which was used by their political opponents.
For a while Aquino probably thought that this issue would simply go away but just a few weeks ago, the growing problem of jueteng became a major test in his young administration after Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago both named DILG Usec. Rico Puno and former PNP Chief Jesus Versoza as protectors of jueteng lords. According to Cruz and Santiago, these two very close allies of Aquino who were receiving millions in protection money every week. Both have already denied any involvement in this illegal numbers game that continues to pervade our society most especially those belonging to the lower income strata. Yet, in a television interview, DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo mentioned that as early as the first week of August, he had already sent formal communications to Versoza and Puno telling them that there were already rumors linking both of them to jueteng and asking them to immediately resolve this issue before it gets out of hand. Did we see any action from Versoza and Puno? None. Why didn’t they do anything? Your guess is as good as mine.
Now, Aquino is left with a dilemma, while Puno is a very good friend and trusted ally, many are now calling on him to sack Puno not only due to these allegations of his involvement in jueteng but also because of his poor performance during the August 23 hostage crisis. The IIRC led by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima clearly pointed out that Puno and Versoza were among those who were found to have been lacking in their response to the hostage crisis. Some quarters are complaining that while Aquino sacked former Pagasa Director Prisco Nilo just after one strike, Puno it seems will not be relieved even if he already has two strikes, major ones at that. If I were Puno, I would save my good friend from this burden by at least taking an indefinite leave of absence until the jueteng investigations and operations are already resolved.
An unsolicited advice to Aquino would be to move Puno to another less sensitive department if he wants to continue to hold on to his friend. I am not one to second guess the President on why he continues to trust Puno but unless he shows people that he can hold his friends accountable for their actions, many Filipinos will eventually end up disappointed with this present administration.
For those who continue to ask why jueteng should be considered a national security issue, one can only look at the experience of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada who was ousted from Malacañang due to allegations that he was on the take from jueteng lords. In the last elections, good and upright leaders like Panlilio and Padaca were both defeated due to the massive electoral fraud that happened in their provinces. These cheating machineries used by their opponents were funded by jueteng money thus, it was no longer surprising when Cruz revealed that current Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda and current Isabela Rep. Pol Dy were among those who are being tagged as jueteng lords in their areas. I am sure that Panlilio and Padaca’s experience wasn’t isolated, as I believe there were many other good and deserving leaders who also lost to their jueteng lord-supported opponents. These experiences clearly show us how jueteng can influence our politics and put leaders who are corrupt into power. Now it’s jueteng, soon it will be illegal drugs and prostitution. We have seen the experience of Mexico and Columbia wherein drug cartels are now so influential that they are able to elect government leaders even in the national level. If we don’t resolve this growing problem of jueteng soon, we might wake up one day having a jueteng lord as our next senator, vice president or even president. Is this the kind of society that we want our children to grow up in? I hope not.
by: Harvey S. Keh, T
It’s been a month now since the August 23 hostage fiasco at the Quirino Grandstand. Much time, effort and energy from our government leaders and their respective agencies have been exhausted these past weeks to ensure that a thorough investigation on the matter is conducted. Last Friday, the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC), tasked by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to spearhead the investigation into this sad incident, has already finished its report and has officially recommended that administrative and/or criminal charges be filed against 13 police officers, government officials and media personalities. Hopefully, Aquino will be able to quickly act on these recommendations so that our country can finally move on from this tragic incident. The sooner we move on, the better for all of us since there are so many problems that the present administration currently faces. These problems include the continuing growth in poverty, the lack of good job opportunities here in the Philippines and the declining state of public health.
Aside from filing the necessary charges and punishing those who failed to fulfill their duties, a thorough investigation should also be done in terms of the rampant graft and corruption in the Philippine National Police (PNP). Necessary charges have to be filed against police officials who are found to have used their power and position to enrich themselves. As Vince Lazatin of the Transparency and Accountability Network so aptly explained, corruption isn’t just stealing funds from government, but it is using one’s public office for private gain. I cringe at the thought of Aquino giving former PNP Chief Jesus Verzosa another position in the government, since all of us have seen how inept he was in handling the hostage crisis. For those who don’t know yet, Verzosa left Manila at 3 p.m., in the middle of the hostage crisis, to go to Cagayan de Oro. I dare ask Verzosa what could be more important in Cagayan de Oro that he would need to leave the scene of a hostage crisis with huge international implications to our country? It is no wonder that the PNP continues to be ill-prepared for situations such as these because it is run by leaders who cop out when the going gets tough.
I believe that there are still many ordinary police officers who continue to render good and ethical public service to the Filipino people, but as DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo correctly pointed out in the IIRC hearings, these police officers are often sent out to crime situations without the necessary training and equipment. This was clearly seen in the last hostage crisis, where we saw members of the Manila Police District SWAT team assaulting the tourist bus without the necessary bullet-proof vests and explosive devices that would’ve helped in defusing the situation. I heard a report that if you check the budget and expenses of the PNP, you would see that they would rather put millions of pesos into renovating and improving their swimming pool rather than buying the necessary equipment needed by the police force. The admirable courage and bravery shown by many of our policemen can only get them so far if they are not given proper training and equipment.
We should also ask these police officials, especially Verzosa, how come jueteng has continued to thrive during his time as PNP chief. It took another big revelation for Archbishop Oscar Cruz to force the PNP to get its act together and try its darnest best to curb jueteng all over the country. As early as the first week of August, Robredo, a noted anti-jueteng advocate, already wrote a formal letter to Verzosa and DILG Undersecretary for Public Safety Rico E. Puno, asking them to immediately address this problem; but after more than a month, nothing has happened. Why is that? Does this mean that Verzosa and Puno are also on the take in this illegal numbers game? Your guess is as good as mine.