The visit of President BS Aquino to Naga City on Araw ng Kalayaan reminds me of the city’s former mayor, the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo.
The appointment to the Cabinet of this Ramon Magsaysay awardee was well received. However, there was talk that the President wasn’t really impressed by Robredo, that’s why the latter was named acting secretary only. Such talk further gained credence when the President gave his shooting buddy, then DILG USec Rico Puno supervision over the Philippine National Police, which should legally have gone to Robredo as chairman of the National Police Commission.
At a Senate hearing on the resurgence of jueteng, Puno charged that Robredo wanted him out. Such a pronouncement against a superior was definitely a no-no, but BS Aquino didn’t read Puno the Riot Act. Puno was also reporting directly to the President, not to Robredo who was supposed to be the President’s alter ego at the DILG. Despite predictions that he would eventually resign because of signs of the President’s lack of faith in him, Robredo soldiered on.
Then the President later extended an ad-interim appointment to Robredo and gave him a tighter rein over the DILG. The Commission on Appointments (CA), however, bypassed his appointment a number of times. In fact, he died without being confirmed. The CA had offered to confirm him posthumously but his widow, now Rep. Leni Robredo, rejected it. As regards the President, he personally went to the wake and burial of Robredo in Naga, an act of support that he had failed to show when Robredo was still alive. Dead, Robredo could no longer hear and appreciate the paeans that BS Aquino heaped on him.
Speaking of the CA, I note the comments of Jose Oliveros and old friend Rolly Narciso on my last column. Oliveros wrote that the CA was not totally useless as its members can use their position to extract favors from unconfirmed appointees. Rolly remarked that the CA seems to be used to settle the score on personal matters.
Appointees usually pay courtesy calls on the House and Senate contingents to the CA. It’s during these “courtesy calls” that the CA members extract concessions from the appointees. Such “courtesy calls” are totally unethical as they could keep the CA from faithfully passing on the qualifications and moral fitness of appointees. If their demands are met, how could the CA members still vote against the appointees?
If the appointee couldn’t immediately deliver on his promises, then his confirmation could be blocked. Rep. Clavel Martinez of Cebu had threatened to do this against Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz. At first, she asked him about his role in the government contract with the Philippine International Airport Terminals Co. (Piatco) and the President Diosdado Macapagal Avenue. His answers were not as important as his assurance that the 78th infantry battalion would be pulled out from her district as she had previously demanded. With this assurance, her threat to block his confirmation vanished.
How about payback time during a confirmation hearing as Rolly had commented? Veteran journalist Amando Doronila could be Exhibit A on this. He didn’t breeze through the confirmation process when he was appointed ambassador to the European Union. The CA members whom he had criticized in his columns used the confirmation hearing to virtually browbeat him and humble him. His appointment was never confirmed.
A CA member can be nasty to an appointee but an appointee can never answer back. This is especially true of military officers. Remember that while Cabinet members can discharge their duties even without being confirmed, military officers cannot get their promotion unless they are confirmed.
On June 8, 2005, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago gave a tongue-lashing to Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan whose promotion was being considered by CA. Adan’s sin? He said that her charges of corruption in the AFP were “way off-line,” adding that she should not forget that her brother, Gen. Benjamin Defensor, was once AFP chief of staff.
“How dare a general arrogate to himself the authority to pass judgment on a senator? Anong karapatan mo na maging general? How dare you impugn my integrity? Anong klaseng dialogue ito na pine-personal mo pa ako at sinali mo pa ang kapatid ko na walang pakialam dito?” she shouted, her voice quivering with rage, her eyes reduced to a slit and her hands shaking.
She asked the defense committee headed by Rep. JJ Romualdo of Camiguin to defer its consideration of Adan’s promotion. During a recess, Adan apologized to her and she withdrew her motion “as a Christian and so as not to destroy his military career.”
A bemedalled officer, Lt. Gen. Emmanuel Teodosio, was an even greater victim of the CA. More on him next column.