Sunday, 11 September 2011 00:00
The U. S. Embassy diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in which former U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney described then-Senator Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III as “diffident and unassertive” has ignited a maelstrom of controversy. Was Kenney correct in her assessment of P-Noy when she said, “Previous contacts with Senator Aquino, often accompanying his mother… left the impression of a diffident, unassertive man continuing a political tradition handed on by his parents but not carving his own legacy”?
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte was quick to defend P-Noy, “You can ask anybody, the assessment is clearly wrong. You can see it in the performance of the President.” Yes, I can, Ms. Valte. Consider the following:
1) His indecisiveness on what to do with his shooting buddy, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, who failed to take charge of the August 23, 2010 hostage-taking incident, which led to the massacre of eight Chinese tourists by the hostage-taker.
Ignoring a clamor for Puno’s removal from his post, P-Noy disregarded the Department of Justice’s Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) report, which recommended criminal action against Puno, then-Philippine National Police chief Gen. Jesus Verzosa, and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim. But P-Noy’s reaction caught a lot people by surprise. Upon reading the report, he blurted: “Napatapang ‘ata masyado ah. Bakit kasama pa sila Puno, Lim, at Verzosa?” [It’s too strongly worded. Why are we implicating Puno, Lim and Verzosa?] Did P-Noy try to protect Puno or he simply did not have the courage to fire him?
Puno, in an act of defiance, told the press that P-Noy would think twice before letting him go. Instead of firing Puno, P-Noy slapped him on the wrist. Puno then vanished from the public eye for about nine months and then reappeared after the furor died down.
2) In February 2011, the Marcos family requested P-Noy permission to bury the remains of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery). P-Noy could have decided right away like what his predecessors did before. But he asked Vice President Jojo Binay to look into the issue. Last June, Binay gave P-Noy his recommendation that Marcos be buried in Ilocos Norte with full military honor.
After several weeks of indecisiveness in making a decision, P-Noy swept the issue under the mat saying the Marcos burial issue was not his priority. To this day, the Marcoses are still waiting for his decision. Why can’t P-Noy just say “No” and that would be the end of it? Indeed, diffident and unassertive.
3) The recent “zarzuela” – comedic play — on the sacking of Bureau of Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez was, in my opinion, the ultimate manifestation of P-Noy’s diffidence and unassertiveness. Calls for Alvarez’s resignation or termination were made when he fell short in meeting P-Noy’s marching orders. Alvarez consistently missed his revenue goals and failed to stop smuggling. Incidents of smuggling increased under his watch. When he couldn’t account for 1,910 container vans that were missing, P-Noy announced on the eve of his departure to China that he was replacing Alvarez on September 16, 2011. But on P-Noy’s return, the “climate” at Customs changed. On the advice of his mentor, padrino, and business partner Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Alvarez dug in. Determined to stay, he refused to submit his resignation. But he should know that he serves at the pleasure of the President and when the pleasure is gone, he’s out – with or without resignation.
But in a callous display of arrogance, Alvarez said it was “business as usual” as long as Malacañang did not announce his replacement. Look, Mister Alvarez! Who says that your replacement has to be named before you’d get your butt out of Customs? Your replacement is not your problem. Leave that to P-Noy. But please, don’t make it too hard for P-Noy to gather enough strength to tell you, “Beat it!”
But P-Noy seems to be the same “diffident and unassertive” person whom Ambassador Kenney met when he was still a senator. However, P-Noy should have changed by now. Fourteen months in office should have tempered him like steel and sharpened like a samurai’s katana. He should have learned the art of decision-making… or better, the “Art of War.”
The presidency is not about “papogi” to look good. It’s about making hard decisions that affect the lives of his “bosses” – the 94 million Filipinos. P-Noy owes his job to the people and therefore it behooves him to show them that he is up to the task. Simply put, being diffident or unassertive is not going to cut it.
By Perry Diaz
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