POSTSCRIPT / October 25, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Career dep’t heads likely to balk or talk

AWKWARD: Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane’s resigning to seek the presidency on his own makes it awkward for other Cabinet members who are planning to run for office to hold on to their positions of power and influence while campaigning.

Ebdane’s example puts pressure on other intending candidates — such as Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, the administration bet for president — to also resign and not take advantage of their office.

The case of Ronaldo Puno is the opposite. He chose to drop his bid for the ruling coalition’s nomination for vice president in favor of staying on as secretary of local government and the interior.

Now if Ebdane and Puno thought it proper at this stage of the campaign to either resign from the Cabinet or drop their election plans, why is Teodoro keeping both options?

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FAILURE IN CRISIS: The reason must be that Teodoro has different values. Since no law requires him to resign before the filing of his candidacy papers, the lawyer in him tells him it is legal to stay regardless of what people say.

But what is legal is not necessarily right. In fact, clinging on does not improve his (already dismal) chances of winning. On the contrary, his desperately hanging on may even hurt his poll standing.

Note that as chair of the National Disaster Coordination Council, Teodoro actually has a built-in opportunity to show his leadership qualities and management skills in a crisis. But despite the stage having been set for him, he has failed to shine.

In this light, being a lackluster NDCC chairman may even be a liability for the defense chief because it exposes his managerial weaknesses. He might as well quit the DND and the NDCC right away.

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CAREER EXECS: Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said that picking the replacements of about 15 Cabinet members who are expected to resign to run for office is solely the prerogative of President Gloria Arroyo.

Technically, he is right about Cabinet appointments being the exclusive turf of the President. But that is not the whole point.

With just seven months before the Arroyo presidency bows out, there is no compelling need to stuff the bureaucracy with more political appointees — except if the President is losing her grip.

Already in the pre-departure area, the President must grab this chance to show respect for the career service. When a political appointee quits, she should snap up the most qualified career executive to take over.

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BARGAIN SALE: By putting in political favorites as department heads, the President opens herself to speculation that she has unfinished business or ulterior political plans that only loyal runners can be trusted to carry out.

At this late date, there are still a number of valuable state assets waiting to be sold at bargain prices to favored buyers. It seems only trusted gofers with Cabinet rank can swing the deals.

Also, as shown in the 2004 national elections, it is not beyond Malacanang to use key Cabinet officials to carry out special operations to ensure the victory of administration candidates.

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HIDDEN LUMPS: A scrutiny of the budget shows that billions have been tucked away in lump sum items in several departments that are potential sources for massive discretionary spending for the 2010 elections.

These amounts have been spread out so they do not bulge and tucked away in the appropriations of various departments. There they lie quietly until tapped for the 2010 election campaign.

Only loyal political appointees can be trusted to mobilize these hidden funds. Using career officials will be risky — they are more likely to balk or talk.

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HAZARDOUS POLLS: Poll surveys at this stage may be hazardous to your health, if you commit the mistake of taking them seriously.

Those numbers neatly arranged in tables with names opposite them on the left column are like flocks of birds in the sky. It is nice gazing at them as they glide by, but staring too long may strain your neck and ruin your eyes.

Remember that poll surveys as we know them are a business, a lucrative business in this election season. They involve the packaging and selling of something (of paying candidates). Pick up the idea from there.

Btw, have you or anybody you know been asked by a polltaker of one of those survey groups that regularly regale us with reports that the media use for fear of being scooped?

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DUBIOUS RANKING: In a recent survey, politicians seeking the presidency were rated by a polling firm based on its alleged interview of some 1,200 people who by some process were made to speak for the 45 million or so voters in the country.

The respondents were reportedly asked to name their three top choices for president. Their preferences were tabulated and the “presidentiables” ranked according to the number of times they were mentioned.

Immediately, the candidate who was mentioned the most was paraded as the leading figure, followed by the rest in descending order.

It has not occurred to many of us that in a real election, the voter picks only one choice for president. Picking three is a different game of rumble.

Whether a candidate is mentioned first, or a passing second, or a reluctant third, the value of each mention is the same for all three candidates as no factor was assigned to being mentioned first, second or third.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 25, 2009)

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