Former senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, the newly appointed Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (whew, why is it that this administration has a penchant for long titles?), has been quoted as saying he would clean up the four agencies of the Department of Agriculture he is assigned to supervise
His appointment has effectively clipped the wings of the Agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala who had been flying high under the Aquino administration despite allegations of graft and corruption in the department under his watch.
Interestingly, Secretary Kiko has denied insinuations that his appointment would put him on a collision course with Alcala, a fellow leader of the Liberal Party (LP). Kiko said he could work along well with Alcala.
Perhaps they could. Note that there are no details yet on where Kiko had disbursed his reported additional P100 million from the Disbursement Acceleration Program when he was still a senator. (The DAP supplemented the P200-million annual pork barrel of senators.)Was it with the DA? There will be speculations as long as Budget’s Sec. Butch Abad refuses to divulge details of DAP-funded projects given to senators during and immediately after the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
I repeat: it’s highly possible that Kiko could remain buddy-buddy with Alcala while working in the same department.
However, there is another working relation that I’m still not convinced would go swimmingly well—that between Kiko and DILG Sec Mar Roxas, the LP president. This could become more pronounced with reports that Kiko is being groomed by the administration for a higher elective position. This could definitely unsettle Mar who, since after the 2010 polls, has been described as the ruling party’s uncontested bet for president in 2016. It shouldn’t surprise anybody if the cold ties between Mar and Kiko before 2010 would resurface.
Several years back, Mar and Kiko were almost inseparable, going to various political and social functions together. Mar was then the presumptive presidential candidate of the LP for 2010 while Kiko, the party executive vice president, was angling to be Mar’s running mate. Mar, who had been eyeing Malacañang after topping the 2004 senatorial elections, wanted to expand his base and increase his chances in 2010. Thus, he drove the LP into a coalition for the 2007 elections with other parties that included the Partido ng Masang Pilipino of former President Joseph Estrada.
Kiko made known his opposition to Mar’s move by running as an independent in 2007 and by refusing to join the campaign of the two major political blocs. It’s noteworthy that while he wasn’t either opposition or administration, he got more votes than in 2001 when he ran under the coalition ticket supported by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Mar had evidently thought of shoring up his faltering bid for the presidency in 2010 by looking beyond the LP for a running-mate. There can be no other reason why Kiko began to drift farther away from the only party that he had known in his entire political life. There was even a time when he said Mar’s nomination as LP presidential candidate was not a sure thing. He later gave up his post as LP executive vice president although he never formally resigned from the party. He ceased to identify himself as a Liberal and started to describe himself as an “independent.”
Kiko subsequently stopped attending LP meetings and thought of building what he called a Third Force to do political battle with the established political parties, including the LP. He told me that he wanted to build a reform constituency that would no longer confine its choices to candidates fielded by the traditional political parties.
I never heard Mar say anything to woo back the sulking Kiko to the party fold. (This could be an earlier manifestation of Mar’s current popular quote: “Bahala ka sa buhay mo.”) However, I did hear Sen. Franklin Drilon, the LP chairman, say he would try to bring Kiko back to the party and discuss the latter’s plan to run for vice president.
Kiko became more active in LP affairs only after then Sen. BS Aquino had been named the party’s presidential candidate with Mar as running-mate. Kiko immersed himself in the 2010 elections as campaign manager of the senatorial ticket of the LP-led coalition. With Aquino’s victory (and Mar’s defeat?), he resumed identifying himself as member of the administration party. In 2013, he was the campaign manager of Sen. Bam Aquino.
I doubt if Mar welcomed Kiko’s resurrection as LP member, which could make them potential rivals for anointment as administration bet for president. I believe that Mar, like President Aquino, doesn’t forget slights easily. We have a term for that—“mapagtanim.” With such a trait, Mar couldn’t be expected to rekindle his once warm relations with Kiko.