THE coincidences can only be exciting.
On the day that the nominees of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) are made public, the Official Canvass of votes for President and Vice President end in the joint session of the Senate and Congress.
On this day, May 27, we are also faced with two women vying for the same post as Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary.
A side note: This VP win
Leni Robredo’s win at the Official Canvass of votes would only be a surprise to those who thought we were going to look at a different set of data from those that were released to the public via the transparency servers. Experience with COMELEC-Smartmatic teaches us that at the point of the Official Canvass, all we’re going to be allowed are manifestations of protest or controversy or irregularity remain as per COMELEC’s revision of the Omnibus Election Code via Republic Act No. 9369 in 2007, which in turn is what Resolution No. 10083 is based on.
A note on the above resolution: six days before the elections, the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) raised a red flag through its spokesperson Mon Ilagan, who asserted that there was a need to “amend Resolution 10083 to require the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) and the BOCs to check the hash codes for inconsistencies.” He also pointed out that Resolution 10083 “only allows two instances of any pre-proclamation controversy: illegal composition and illegal proceedings.” (GMA News Online, May 4)
“Hindi po binibigyan ng puwang sa Comelec Resolution 10083 ang anumang mga reklamo tungkol sa mga teknikal o legal na isyu. Kung sakali mang may makitang anomalya o mayroong matibay na pruweba na pinakialaman ang software, hindi po ito bibigyan ng karapatang pagkilala ng BOC dahil hindi nakalahad ang mga ganitong scenario sa Resolution 10083.” (GMA News Online, May 4)
And this is exactly what happened, yes? One waits for Bongbong Marcos’s next move.
Leni as VP
In the meantime, we’ve got ourselves a new Vice President, and just as I stand on the side of giving Duterte a chance—and, in fact, have had a great time watching people fail at wrapping their heads around the fact of this man as President—so must we give Leni Robredo the same latitude.
One wishes, though, that the first steps she takes will reveal her to be independent from the party that she ran under, maybe by responding to the questions of how the well-oiled machinery of the Liberal Party was seen to have spent public money and used public projects for its campaign. This Robredo cannot but be complicit in, and it’s a great opportunity for her to clear the air and speak on this matter, in the glory of her triumph, toward our slow forgetting of her party loyalty.
On radio today, Robredo said she was eyeing the DSWD, as it is in sync with the kind of work she’s done as lawyer all her life. But, of course, she knows that President-elect Duterte had already conceded the DSWD, as well as the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Agrarian Reform, and Agriculture to the NDFP. This, after all, was declared by the President-elect on May 16, a mere six days after the elections.
There is also this: tainted with the colors of Daang Matuwid, Robredo ran on the promise of continuing the DSWD’s 4Ps. Speaking with 4Ps beneficiaries, she promised the continuation of the dole-out program: “We will work to institutionalize this program and make it into law. Ito ang mga programang ramdam ng nasa baba na ang kanilang gobyerno ay nagmamahal sa kanila. Ito po ang mga programa ng Daang Matuwid na ramdam ninyong lahat na hindi kayo nakakalimutan ng gobyerno.” (LRobredo website, March 7)
But shouldn’t a dole-out program like the 4Ps be temporary? Shouldn’t the goal be to do the poverty alleviation programs of government so well, that at some point no one will need dole-outs at all? That at some point the service will be transformed into social services, or livelihood programs, toward financial independence? Isn’t the total eradication of poverty the real proof that the government loves the people?
Judy Taguiwalo as DSWD Secretary
You probably don’t know Judy Taguiwalo from Eve, but that is precisely the point.
The DSWD post, across all the Cabinet positions, should not be a career move: it should not be about the political ambition of a party to get back, or stay, in the radar of the impoverished it promises to help, the impoverished who deliver votes, precisely because regardless of who is President they continue to be poor and can only hope for dole-outs.
Robredo, despite all the change she stands for, cannot go into this post without the cloud of the Liberal Party over her head, without the fact of the yellow(ed) promises she made during the campaign.
Taguiwalo will go into this with decades of experience as a militant activist, which to me means a constant commitment to changing people’s lives not through band-aid solutions but through real concrete fundamental changes, if not in the ways people live, then in the ways they might think about their lot in life and the conditions of their existence. Taguiwalo’s CV is not the kind we equate with this country’s cabinet secretaries—who are almost always politicos, oligarchs, landowners, and members of the elite—but it is a lifetime spent working for the protection and empowerment of women, workers, and teachers, with a specific focus on poverty and inequality as the primary problems of nation.
What I know of Taguiwalo on a personal level makes her perfect for this post. Knowing her in my years in the University as a graduate student taught me the importance of never fearing my own voice, and the magnitude of my freedom(s). In a graduate class at the College of Social Work and Community Development (CSWCD), she wouldn’t only tie together such diverse interests and areas of study, she would also be able to bring each and every discussion to the point of a question on practice: what then must be done, and in what ways are interventions possible toward empowerment of the marginalized?
Most importantly, faced with a crisis, Taguiwalo’s objectivity and wisdom never mean the sacrifice of compassion and kindness and humanity.
Coming as we do from Daang Matuwid and Dinky Soliman, just this last bit (at least for me) is enough reason to put Judy in the DSWD.