Edu vs Bong and how the Senate President lost points
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-12-16
From one who has been supporting the Senate against vicious administration attacks, this time, I will now deliver a broadside against the legislative body. This is in relation to a recent development that has effectively demeaned the Senate's image.

The Senate and the Supreme Court are the only two institutions that still manage to function as bastions of Philippine democracy. Whatever semblance of check and balance still exists is all due to the vigilance of the Senate and the Supreme Court.

Had it not been for the Senate's tenacity in investigating and exposing the venalities of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime, we would probably be under a virtual police state. The Senate has become Philippine democracy's last redoubt, the last line of political resistance.

The demolition operators of the Arroyo regime have systematically tested the limits in their efforts to discredit the Senate and erode its power. Amid the Arroyo regime's relentless tirades against the Senate, I have tried to provide balance by writing about the upper chamber's positive contributions. Media hacks of the regime had called the Senate names, from obstructionist, manic investigators, abusive inquisitors — among others.

Survey results though would indicate that the ground swell of public opinion are driven by very same views of the writers, including myself, who have been trying to put issues in their proper perspective. Senate President Manny Villar comes out as the most highly esteemed top official of the land and the Senate leads the Executive and Congress in public satisfaction rating.

I recently wrote a piece scoring Optical Media Board (OMB) Chairman Edu Manzano for stretching the interpretation of a law with respect to the accountability of a commercial establishment when its tenant has been implicated for selling illegal goods. I am referring to the time when Manzano threatened to close malls where pirated videos and child porn are being sold under the counter.

In the past two weeks, and because both of the combatants are famous showbiz personalities, the nation was focused on the row between OMB Chairman Edu Manzano and Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., who happens to have been a Videogram Chief (before the agency became the OMB) and is now the Chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee that attends to the needs of the OMB.

Simply put, the row can be likened to a corporate policy maker (the equivalent of a government lawmaker) who now also wants to directly control a line manager. OMB's Manzano feels that Sen. Bong Revilla is overplaying his oversight function and is already directly interfering with OMB line functions.

To my surprise, my friend Senate President Manny Villar stepped into the Manzano-Revilla row and announced that he will propose to reduce to zero the OMB budget — supposedly for the agency's failure to stop video piracy.

I felt that I had to react to that cheap and undignified move of the Senate leadership. I felt that this is the actuation of a bully and not that of a 2010 presidential frontrunner. And so I thought that I'd try to sort of balance the odds by now supporting the OMB chairman who I once slammed in a previous column.

I do so because I believe that Manzano was well within his right to resist an intrusion by a legislator over what is clearly an executive function. My STAR colleague Domini Torrevillas felt it was in search for photo ops on Bong Revilla’s part when she wrote about this row in her column.

If allowed, these intrusions will violate the clear domain of line management, no different from corporate board members directly controlling its line managers. Since this overstepping of authority will result in organizational chaos in the corporate world, we should not also allow this to happen in our government bureaucracy for the same reason.

I’ve sat as CEO of corporations and if a board member, even the Chairman of the Board, ever attempted to exercise direct control over me, he or she will have to face the prospects of a wrecked chair. I’ll simply not stand for it. As CEO, I report to the board but that does not give a board member the right of direct operational control over my office.

Contrary to what Sen. Revilla claims, I think that Manzano is doing a fine job at the OMB. Even foreign agencies who deal with the OMB recognized Manzano for doing much better on the job than his predecessors, Revilla having been one of them.

Reducing the OMB’s budget to zero just because the agency Chairman held his ground against a Senator is a clear display of Mafia mentality on the part of the Senate leadership. Last Friday, Manny Villar announced that they restored the OMB budget, possibly even increasing it. But the damage to the image of the Senate President has been done.

I am doubly disappointed with Manny Villar on this issue because — being a corporate man — he should know better. I don’t think he will tolerate this situation in any of his companies. Manny Villar knows that it can only create organizational dysfunction and internal strife.

Manny Villar should have used the occasion to display his management savvy. He should avoid setting a precedent of condoning the act of one who had inappropriately overextended his clout to interfere in a distinctly defined government function.

I’m not shocked at all that Sen. Revilla found a sympathizer in Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile. An architect of martial law will most certainly find the usurpation of function such a normal way of life.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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