By Ellen Tordesillas, GMANEWS.TV
Former Defense Secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz was not one of the speakers in last Friday’s forum of the “The Powers of the Presidency: Preventing Misuse and Abuse” but he was asked to say something when the issue of the Ampatuans’ private armies came up in the question and answer portion.
Cruz gave a two-word advice for the coming May elections: “Choose well.” He said it will go a long way in instituting reforms in governance if we have a president that will lead by example.
He, of course, didn’t ask the audience to vote for the presidential candidate he is affiliated with: the Liberal Party’s Benigno Aquino III.
Karina Constantino-David, former chair of the Civil Service Commission, also stressed the importance of choosing a president with integrity because she said, “in the final analysis it is the character of the President, his/her honest dedication to public service and not just to power that will spell the difference between decency and judiciousness on the one hand and mis-use and abuse on the other.”
David said the President’s power to appoint is awesome.
The President appoints approximately 10,000 officials including justices of the Supreme Court; judges; officials of the Constiutional Commission; cabinet members; ambassadors; heads and members of the board of Government Corporations and Financial Institutions; military officers – colonels to generals; officers of the Philippine National Police from the rank of senior superintendents and up, and about 3,500 career officials from director to undersecretary.
David said Gloria Arroyo did not use the power to appoint to strengthen the bureaucracy.
Instead, she used it to protect herself and in so doing she weakened the government.
Describing it as “warped perspectives,” David said Arroyo wields the power of appointment to solidify her control and not for public service.
“Appointments are made based on personal loyalty and not on qualifications. Positions are given as rewards and part of the political spoils and not based on competence. “
David bewailed the proliferation of “calling card secretaries” whom they also call “monobloc secretaries” (because they are so many some offices don’t have desk for them they are just given monobloc chairs).
She said the job specifications are vague and some even duplicate existing positions. Some have comical titles.
She said Arroyo has appointed six special ambassadors to China and the embassy in Beijing are at a loss on how to deal with them.
David said there are positions in the government where members of the board are empowered to decide to choose the head like the presidency of the University of the Philippines.
She said during the time of President Aquino, the housewife-turned chief executive would just “bulong” (whisper). During the time of President Fidel Ramos, there was the “marginal note.”
The “desire letter” started during the abbreviated term of President Joseph Estrada but it was not used as indiscriminately as Arroyo is doing.
Nothing escapes her, not even offices like the “Palawan Council for Sustainable Development,” David said.
David also said Arroyo’s penchant for ad-interim appointments is a control mechanism.
“They have perfected the art of “acting capacity,” she said.
Not surprising at all because Arroyo herself when she grabbed the presidency from the elected president, Joseph Estrada, in January 2001, she said “She will act as president.”
The bureaucracy is “too politicized.”
She said for officials to go up the ladder of bureaucracy, one “has to learn to kowtow, learn to be timid and learn to stop thinking.”
David asked the public and media to watch out Arroyo making “midnight” appointments for tenured positions.
Some of those are in the office of the Ombudsman and in the Commission on Audit, offices that would be involved in anti-graft cases.
The forum was organized by the International Center for Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov) in partnership with the Asian Institute of Management and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy.