It’s a common tactic of President Benigno Aquino 3rd and administration spokespersons to address headline issues by ordering investigations and reports, or announcing big plans to solve problems and concerns that come to light. Unfortunately, once the events and concerns fade from the front page and prime-time news, little or nothing is also seen or heard of the probe, program or project supposed to solve the problem.
So let’s go down memory lane and list some of the investigations and initiatives prominently launched or floated at the height of public and media agitation only to be forgotten until, well, the same problem crops up again.
With the typhoon season upon us again, two high-profile inquiries jog our memory, both instructed by President Aquino to look into Mindanao megafloods: the December 2011 Sendong storm that inundated Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City and surrounding areas, and last year’s Typhoon Pablo devastation in across Mindanao and parts of the Visayas. The investigations were supposed to uncover both private loggers and public officials responsible for flooding as well as inadequate disaster response.
Still on the topic of storms, whatever happened to the P351-billion Metro Manila flood control program announced by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) amid last year’s monsoon floods? Was part of its outlay included in the 2013 budget? What about the thundering call by DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson, coupled with threats of forced eviction, to relocate tens of thousands of families living in flood-prone river banks and lake shores?
Perhaps Singson’s speech last September was the grain of salt with which the public was supposed to take his flood control pronouncements. He told the Management Association of the Philippines: “Now, if you ask me, will Metro Manila be flood-free? My answer is no because there are many catchment, natural catchments in Metro Manila. What we can only do is minimize the impact or mitigate the damage.”
Singson explains further: “There can be more than 70% reduction in flooding in Metro Manila. There are isolated areas that are really flood-prone.” May we then respectfully suggest that Palace and DPWH spokespersons give the public a hint of what exactly we can expect by way of flood impact mitigation, and even more important, which areas will always go under water year after year, so people can move out or build floating houses.
Turning to the President’s Tuwid na Daan crusade against corruption, this has been stymied by the apparent favor shown to so-called “KKK” coterie of Kaklase, Kakampi at Kabarilan (schoolmates, political allies, and shooting buddies), whom Malacañang is always quick to defend, even as it is equally fast on the draw in accusing political rivals with nil evidence. And when Aquino is somehow forced by public outcry to have a KKK crony investigated, it’s not hard to guess what happens to the probe.
Take the investigation into the billion-peso bidding to supply assault rifles to the Philippine National Police. President Aquino himself expressed suspicions over the PNP procurement, noting that the quoted rifle cost was significantly higher than the prices he spotted online.
The late Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo also had his concerns, and was reportedly investigating the rifle bidding before his tragic death in a plane crash last August. There were reports of improprieties, including a trip to Israel funded by the prospective supplier, for the family of then Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno. He was supervising the PNP for his shooting buddy, the President.
The PNP rifle investigation is now forgotten, along with other inquiries on Robredo’s desk before his demise. Perhaps President Aquino felt that his loyal friend Puno’s resignation as undersecretary overseeing the police was action enough on the anomaly,
After all, the Chief Executive was most reluctant to even reprimand his friend when Puno was among several officials recommended for sanction over the August 2010 Rizal Park hostage deaths. Nor did he care to investigate Puno over direct accusations by Archbishop Oscar Cruz back in July 2010 that the presidential buddy was receiving jueteng payoffs. Instead, Aquino ordered Robredo to crack down on illegal gambling, then promptly forgot about that order and never mentioned it again.
On the other hand, Puno’s eventual exit last year was certainly far more than what resulted from allegations against or investigations into other KKKs, such as: the Macau junket by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation Chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr., the firearms and video piracy improprieties of Political Adviser Ronald Llamas, the corporate meddling by Land Transportation Office head Virginia Torres, and the P40-million White Plains mansion allegedly owned by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
Also still hanging around at their respective posts despite clouds of corruption charges are Election Commissioner Grace Padaca and Environment Adviser Neric Acosta. Both face graft cases in the Sandiganbayan, for which bail was paid by no less than President Aquino himself.
And of course, there are irregularities never even investigated and simply dismissed or ignored, with pro-administration media dutifully downplaying or burying the controversies. Just to name a couple, both raised by the Commission on Audit, do you remember the P100 billion in public spending cited in COA’s annual report last year, as well as its questioning of some P10 billion in expenditures authorized by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office board?
So next time Malacañang orders an investigation into new scandals or hypes some grand solution to an appalling problem, as it will without fail in the coming typhoon months, get set for amnesia to set in soon after other headlines sweep aside the bad news. Like PNoy’s latest love interest or sister Kris’s current travails. It never fails.