MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/14 September) – So, where’s the supposed reformer named Benigno S. Aquino III? Gone. Not physically but from the hopes and dreams of those who voted him and those who did not – like me – but had given him nonetheless the benefit of a doubt.
The surveys that showed he still enjoyed high popularity ratings compared to other officials may have made Aquino arrogant, leading him at times to dismiss criticisms thrown his way like misplaced toys strewn on his “matuwid na daan.” He has been acting like it is enough to pave the road with good intentions – no action needed – even if it leads to Hell.
At best, the drive for reforms has been selective. Renato Corona has been ousted as chief justice supposedly to prevent former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from seeking protection from the Supreme Court. Some of Arroyo’s close allies have also been charged in court in relation to major controversies that happened during her administration.
But Aquino’s journey down the straight path has stopped there. His feet wobble for the next step each time an official of his cabinet gets embroiled in alleged anomalies. The indecisiveness shows in the case of recently resigned Interior undersecretary Rico Puno, who was implicated in a questionable gun contract for the Philippine National Police (PNP) amounting to a billion pesos.
A shooting buddy of the President, Puno assumed full supervision of the PNP upon the appointment of the late Jesse Robredo as Interior and Local Governments secretary, putting the latter in an awkward position. Puno’s body language showed he was not ready to call it quits even after the controversy had blown in Malacanang’s face, and only stepped down after Aquino announced his replacement.
The replacement however is far from ideal – PNP chief Nicanor Bartolome, who is also as liable as Puno in approving the gun deal. Aquino’s move can only be interpreted as an effort to cover up the whole thing. Now, who can blame critics of this administration if they say that the Palace itself has a stake in this deal?
It did not help that Aquino attempted to downplay the controversy by saying that P1 billion is a small amount. Why make the amount involved the issue? In ancient times, so the movies say, men had died for lesser offenses. Maybe thieves then had died for stealing a penny – or maybe they got a punishment that had prevented recidivism. But this should not be construed as a proposal to restore capital punishment or to impose brutal measures like cutting off fingers.
All that Aquino needs to do is to stop treating government as an employment agency for close buddies and coddling them whenever their official acts are questioned. Bringing along the “kabarkada” on the straight path is the worst he can do. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at email@example.com)