Will Mar at DILG be a boon or bane to P-Noy?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-09-02
In 1987, when I was serving as Assistant Secretary of Local Government under then Secretary Jaime N. Ferrer, the proposal to merge the Integrated National Police (INP) with the Philippine Constabulary (PC) under our department was being planned. While most secretaries would have welcomed an expansion of their agency’s scope and powers, Ka Jaime, as we fondly called him, had his apprehensions.

Ka Jaime had projected that the PNP would be a major stumbling block to any Interior and Local Government secretary. Ka Jaime felt that the ideal situation was to keep the department solely focused on local government capability building. Ka Jaime saw the PNP as a lighting rod for controversies that will tend to sap a DILG Secretary’s energy and monopolize his man-hours. History has proved that Ka Jaime was right.

The importance of the DILG cannot be overemphasized. It is the frontline in an anti-insurgency fight, as what the late Ka Jaime demonstrated in 1967. Effective local governance is the best weapon against insurgency. Insurgency thrives in areas where there is a poor delivery of government services and programs. “Wala tayong maaasahan sa gobyernong yan (We cannot expect anything from this government)” – the insurgents will repeatedly hammer into the people’s mind. Once this is believed, then it becomes easier for the insurgents to expand their support base with new recruits and resource contributors.

No goodwill and trust can be established by the Local Government component of the department, while it is diligently gaining points with improved governance, if the PNP will simply undermine and negate these gains with abusive policemen in the communities. Bad news always creates a bigger impact while good news hardly gets to the front page. In 1987, the Left even organized a killer squad called the Alex Boncayao Brigade, also known as The Sparrows, that hunted and killed abusive public officials, many of them policemen. For people who felt frustrated that abusive cops could not be booked and charged – they cheered the Sparrows. This made the government look bad for failure to uphold the rule of law while the killers are then perceived as the dispensers of justice.

When President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) wanted to keep Secretary Jesse Robredo focused on local government, many interpreted this as a sign of lack of confidence and overlooked the other more logical possibility, which is to prioritize local government unit (LGU) capability building. The speculators failed to consider that if lack of confidence existed, then P-Noy would simply not have appointed Robredo at all. P-Noy’s appointment track record is consistent in enlisting only those whom he felt were trustworthy assets. They may have had some policy differences but not to the point of lacking confidence that Robredo could deliver on his share of objectives.

The LGU is the frontline of development. Given to a development oriented LGU executive who is being supported by a DILG Secretary like Jesse Robredo, the Naga City transformation can be duplicated. Without effective local governance, we cannot hope to entice investors to setup shop in our remote areas, the ones that are most in need of economic activities. Quezon City, under then Mayor Sonny Belmonte, went from bankrupt (on the year before Sonny assumed office) to one of the most successful cities in attaining an income surplus.

We’re all excited by our tourism prospects under Secretary Mon Jimenez but the tourism objectives cannot be met if these goals are not complemented by effective local governance. At best, Sec. Jimenez can only bring in the country visitor. Once the visitor is here, his or her better or bitter memories will largely be molded by the DILG that will ensure that all tourist spots are properly managed by the LGU and that it is totally safe.

The announced appointment of Mar Roxas as Robredo’s successor at DILG will certainly meet controversy as well as questions. There will be questions on Mar’s local government capability and whether his appointment isn’t a blank check to expand the Liberal Party. Robredo’s local government track record and his ‘tsinelas (slippers)’ brand of leadership generated cooperation from local government executives. Can Mar adjust his management style, from the executive suite to an on-the-ground and man-on-the-spot environment?

The DILG is very pivotal in the political scheme of things. If you think about it, P-Noy might have been better off appointing somebody who isn’t clearly identified with the LP so as to maintain the coalition with the Pwersa ng Masa of Joseph “Erap” Estrada and the PDP-Laban of Vice President Jojo Binay. Non-LP coalition partners will welcome a non-partisan DILG secretary who will be development oriented. In this regard, it would be wise to have ruled out appointing Mar Roxas and Jojo Binay as DILG secretary and this should apply to their factors as well.
Political intramurals can derail P-Noy’s many positive achievements as well as hamper his other bigger goals. P-Noy’s bigger mission is the country that he will leave to a new president in 2016 – and not the Liberal Party that has always convinced folks that they specialize in committing amateurish blunders. P-Noy’s mission from his bosses is solely focused on what he can do between now and 2016 and not who the people will elect after him.

The DILG could become the rope by which Mar could climb up to the presidency or be completely demolished politically. Mar takes mega risks in succeeding Jesse Robredo. Can he fill Jesse’s big shoes? Can he relate to LGU executives? Can he manage the PNP? Will he create more political adversaries for P-Noy in pursuing his 2016 agenda?

The new DILG secretary must expand and strengthen P-Noy’s political base with more LGU development, and not erode and undermine it by getting involved in political intramurals. P-Noy cannot afford discord between him and his vice president, something the LP amateurs are managing to promote, wittingly or unwittingly.

The coup attempts during Cory’s presidency were encouraged by the discord then between the president and the vice president. A discord between the president and the vice president now could escalate into a national security mega problem, especially at this time when China is encroaching on Philippine sovereignty.

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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