It has become obvious after the fate of DENR Secretary Gina Lopez that President Duterte has no control over many things, and that neither his preferences nor his stand on issues is considered in the exercise of choosing who will run our government departments.
One hopes he realizes that the anti-Gina decision of the Commission on Appointments (CA) was an affront to him, especially given how he had supported her anti-irresponsible mining stand from the beginning. Ultimately, the CA put into question the President’s judgment, as they were ignoring his own stand against mining. Sure, they were questioning Sec. Gina’s competence; but that was just the smokescreen used by members of the House of Representatives to protect their mining interests – never mind that President Duterte was always very clear about how personal interests should not take precedence over public good.
Of course it might seem like it’s all water under the bridge now. But it isn’t, and it shouldn’t be. Especially given two more appointees who have yet to get the CA nod.
When Sec. Gina was not confirmed by the CA, it was easy to see why. She was up against a multi-billion dollar mining sector that had the money to lobby against her, not just within Congress but also on mainstream and social media, vilifying her, making her look stupid, and highlighting what she lacked while insisting that what she had – her daring – was way too much.
This is not the case for Social Work and Development Secretary Judy Taguiwalo. For almost a year, Manay Judy has worked with nary the kind of media mileage that the more controversial and famous appointees get, and yet what one might gather about how the DSWD has worked under her is that it’s a far far cry from the heavy-on-mileage-but-anti-poor DSWD of the past.
Where the last DSWD leadership had stuck to and trumpeted Daang Matuwid’s 4Ps project – which is primarily a problematic dole-out program for the poor that ensures voter registration for the next elections – under Manay Judy what one gleans is a sense of the impoverished sector as collective. This effectively changed the previous system that sought to “register” the poor as poor, in order to even assist them in any way.
This has also meant the poor being assisted in times of need, whether these are wrought by natural or man-made disasters, wherever they are in the country, whether they are OFWs coming home from elsewhere, or members of the urban poor taking over neglected housing projects in Bulacan.
There is no “choosing” who is poor and helping only those that the government “imagines” to be poor enough. This is about a DSWD that assists the poor, with no judgments made against them, with only a sense of the hungry being fed, the needy being assisted within the bounds of department’s mandate and the vision of the President’s pro-poor policies.
There is absolutely no reason for the confirmation of Manay Judy to be taking this long.
Other than the fact that she has refused to allow Congress Representatives to get their hands on DSWD’s funds, something which they used to be able to do on the pretext of helping out their poor constituents themselves, beyond the DSWD. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how pork barrel works, and this is what Manay Judy has taken a stand against. It is why she has yet to be confirmed.
When the President said that “lobby money talks” with regards the denial of Sec. Gina’s confirmation, the first thought that popped into my head was: there has to be lobby money talking against the confirmation of Ka Paeng as DAR Secretary.
After all, just as there are mining interests, there must be landlord and feudal interests all over Congress. And just like the Congress Reps who were looking out only for themselves when they refused to have an environmentalist as DENR Secretary, there are Congress Reps who will be defensive for their haciendas and farmlands, especially if they have been able to evade agrarian reform all these years.
But like Manay Judy, Ka Paeng is affecting change in DAR by having a sense of the bigger picture and working with what Duterte himself had promised about being pro-people and pro-farmer, especially in the face of violent landlords and oppressive feudal policies. We are seeing major changes yes, but these are being done slowly and surely, within the bounds of the law, and always with a sense of what it is the farmers need as a sector that has been fighting for their right to till their own lands for years, if not decades.
The case of the MARBAI farmers, and their successful reclaiming of their land from the Lorenzos’ Lapanday Farms in Davao del Norte for example, was part of a long-drawn-out battle. It’s a success for our farmers that is dampened – expectedly – by the shamelessness of the Lorenzos. Today, May 19, they announced that they were filing a graft case against Ka Paeng, as his assistance of our farmers apparently means “grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and oppression/grave abuse of authority” (Interaksyon, 19 May).
The Lorenzos might as well be filing a case against President Duterte himself, who had not only declared support for the MARBAI farmers, but had promised land back to our farmers in general, and encouraged occupation of oligarch’s lands.
To some extent it is no surprise that Manay Judy and Ka Paeng have yet to be confirmed. One should not underestimate the fear of the elite, powerful, and wealthy in government to be so faced with officials who have nothing to hide, and do not see public service as a way to personal gain.
But it is also such a surprise because we have a President who has not only promised change, but has also remained steadfast in his support for Manay Judy and Ka Paeng’s kind of service. To deny them their confirmation would be to deny the President the change he has promised.
It would also be a grave misstep. Because then we would all have to wonder: if Manay Judy and Ka Paeng cannot get past the politicking of the CA, and the CA can so easily defy President Duterte, who exactly is in charge in this government? ***
Published in The Manila Times, 21 May 2017.