If there were “fake reformists” President Aquino harangued and warned against, they’re probably at the phony “Koalisyon ng Mamamayan Para sa Reporma” (Kompre).
Kompre was “launched” on the day of the August 25 anti-pork barrel demonstration, which became an anti-Aquino rally attended by the entire spectrum of political activism, from Church leaders to Leftist organizations. Kompre was obviously meant to steal the thunder from that event, and portray that Aquino still has support from that middle-class, articulate sector we call “civil society” here.
How can it be a civil society assembly when its convenor and spokesperson, Karina Constantino-David, is one of Aquino’s highest paid officials?
Right after President Aquino assumed power, David was appointed to the board of trustees of the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS). From 2011 to 2013, David’s average compensation was P2.4 million annually, even without having any managerial duties in the pension fund for government employees. That’s even higher than the P1.7 to P1.8 million given to full-time Cabinet secretaries, such as the forlorn-looking spokesman Edwin Lacierda. Government employees — whose leaders were at the anti-Aquino rally — are in effect paying for David to deodorize Aquino and to call his critics “enemies of reform.”
Anyone getting that kind of pay would be swooning over Aquino’s “reforms.” I guess as Kompre’s enthusiastic convenor, she’s just earning her keep. But as her crowd’s favorite admonition goes, let’s be transparent. And she has the gall to label those criticizing her boss as “enemies of reform?”
David concealed her lucrative government post as not one of her TV interviews or news reports about her has pointed out she was a highly paid GSIS trustee, only as a “former Civil Service Commissioner.” She was CSC chairman under President Arroyo from 2001 to 2005, for which she is still getting, according to the commission’s rules, a lifetime pension of P100, 000 monthly. (She was also social welfare undersecretary under Cory, as well as Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council chair and chief housing adviser under President Estrada.)
Before championing reform for the country, David should start where she holds office — at the GSIS. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to run GSIS, a huge pension fund with a veteran bureaucracy and a-dime-a-dozen fund managers. You need, however, to be Aquino’s Ateneo college buddy as its president Robert Vergara is. Vergara is the highest paid government official in Aquino’s administration, having received P36 million over the past three years, of which bonuses comprised a large part.
And who heads its board committee in charge of compensation? David.
Does she truly believe, in her former civil society heart, that it is tuwid-na-daan practice for a moneyed tycoon to be a board member of a pension fund for underpaid government employees?
I’m talking about Gregorio Yu, who got P8 million in compensation from the state employees’ pension and insurance fund from 2011 to 2013. And who is Yu? He owns luxury-car distributor CATS Motors and is Aquino’s fellow sports-car aficionado, who the rumor mill alleged “sold” Aquino his P15-million Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera. Is this the tuwid na daan David says she is asking Filipinos to support? (For more details on GSIS, read my January 20 column, “Some are smarter than others.”)
David actually had been careful to have a low-media profile, as her being a highly paid official in the Aquino administration would naturally affect the credibility of her husband, Randy David, an opinion columnist at a major broadsheet who has written not a single sentence against her boss. Was she threatened to be booted out of GSIS if she didn’t help out at these crucial times for Aquino?
David’s deployment as convenor of Kompre is a desperate move by Aquino. It indicates the all but total withdrawal of support by civil society groups from the Aquino regime. This is due in large part to the pork barrel and DAP controversies and Aquino’s attacks on the Supreme Court. His declared openness to term extension was the last straw for many members of civil society. Kompre’s slogan itself points to this defection: “Walang iwanan sa Tuwid na Daan.”
While David claimed Kompre is a “coalition” of 200 civil-society organizations, not a single one of them has been listed on the group’s website or Facebook page as a member.
TV news footage of its launching showed a group of bored students, joined later by employees of Cabinet members David begged to come to the event after it had become embarrassing for its dearth of participants and activities.
No other civil society leaders known to be sympathetic to Aquino dared to show their faces at the Kompre gathering, not even those from the president’s formerly reliable rent-a-demonstrator group Akbayan, except for Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas who went to the event with a group of Cabinet members. But not even Llamas’ Akbayan comrades in government, Aquino’s Anti-Poverty Commission officials Joel Rocamora and Ed de la Torre bothered to show up (and if they did, they probably just lurked in the background, covering their faces).
Aquino’s camp has been stumped to get any civil society leader to express support for the President. Missing at Kompre’s launching were civil society types who had supported Aquino earlier such as Yoly Ong, Jim Paredes, not even Rapa Lopa, Aquino’s de facto liaison to civil society groups. The Former Senior Government Officials, which the Hyatt 10 had organized, and the yellow-card waving Makati Business Club weren’t there. Check out the Black and White movement’s Facebook account, and it’s just a depository of Navarro’s “selfies.”
Aquino, in fact, has had to rely on the 1970s singer Navarro to prop up his weakened civil society support. Her rich-matron arrogance, however, has turned off even Aquino’s supporters. Worse, Navarro’s vocal capacity isn’t matched by her mental capacity, and I doubt if she can even name what the acronyms PDAF and DAP stand for. Navarro is a board member of the official movie censor agency, the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board, which is directly under the Office of the President.
Aquino really had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in getting as another Kompre convenor former Tourism Secretary Albert Lim. Remember him? He was ridiculed out of office just over a year in his job when the logo for his tourism slogan “Kay ganda ng Pilipinas” – which some even warned could be twisted to sound like “Uganda” in the global market – turned out to be plagiarized from that of Poland’s tourism trademark.
In contrast, respected civil-society personalities have realized that Aquino isn’t really a reformer, and have become vocal in their opposition to him and his programs, such as comedian-activist Mae Paner (aka Juana Change), Peachy Bretana, (one of the organizers of the phenomenal, Internet-based “Million-people anti-pork barrel demonstration” last year), and Monet Silvestre, spokesman for the “Stand up, Sign Up Against All Pork” rally the other day.
It is another writing on the wall for Aquino. Other than the Liberal Party and his sisters, civil society groups had been one of Aquino’s first supporters, in their naive, even superstitious belief that Cory Aquino’s death means his son should be the country’s messiah.
But many now see Aquino for who he really is: a bratty, unstable underachiever, who is hell-bent on destroying the country’s democratic institutions. His support from the civil society groups has fizzled out as the Kompre “launch” showed, and no amount of name-calling directed at his critics can change the fact that it is he who most aptly fits the label “fake reformist.”
FB: Rigoberto D. Tiglao