Monday, February 11, 2008

Puppet cabinet members abound in the Philippines

In an interview for employment, an interviewee has been made aware that to say something bad against his former employers is discouraged because it is bad reflection against the interviewee's character and personality.

The same line of thinking is being practiced in almost all line departments of government headed by cabinet members, whose allegiance to the appointing authorities is beyond question. Such that whenever a cabinet member is called to testify during public hearings in Congress, the concerned cabinet members are almost mum on issues that they think would harm the credibility of the administration. Just recently, the present administration has issued an executive order that barred cabinet members from appearing or testifying in any public hearing called by Congress, unless there's a clearance from the appointing powers.

However, there's a new development Monday, after some police heads and cabinet members implicated in the alleged kidnapping of Mr. Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada, president of the Philippine Forest Corporation and key witness to the aborted multi-million dollar NBN-ZTE broadband project inked by the Philippine government and China, appeared before the three committees in the Senate to answer questions from senators on the alleged abduction of Mr. Lozada.

It's no surprise that cabinet members this time were allowed without any hussle to attend public hearings called by the Senate to shed more light on the issue surrounding the alledged kidnapping of Mr. Lozada after he arrived from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City, after a week-long trip to Hong Kong. This only goes to show that the president has softened his earlier stance by discouraging cabinet members to attend public hearings without executive clearance.

During the hearing, which lasted for almost ten hours thereby infuriating some of the senators who stayed the whole morning and into late afternoon, waiting for the committees to begin the joint session. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has expressed dismay over the delay so that he sneaked out after saying the session has wasted so much of his time. Likewise, Sen. Joker Arroyo lambasted Lozada's relatives for filing the petitions of the writ of habeas corpus and the writ of amparo with the proper court, at the time he was missing. Senator Arroyo said that there will surely be confusions as to which is which considering that the Senate is conducting a public hearing on the anomalous ZTE project and the aborted kidnapping of Lozada at the Manila International Airport. In the same manner, the Court of Appeals is set to hear the same cases filed by Lozada's relatives on the said writ of habeas corpus and the writ of amparo, aware that the missing key witness has already surfaced and now under the protective custody of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Senator Arroyo has warned Lozada not to mess around with said writs because this tends to cheapen these sacred laws of the land.

What is infuriating about the allegations made by some cabinet members, particularly the deputy head of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport who showed the senators a copy of the procedures and guidelines being observered at the international airport. When asked by Senator Francis Escudero as to why he wasn't aware that Lozada was whisked away from the arrival area by plainclothes police personnel without coordinating the matter to him and without passing though the usual airport customs and immigration procedures. Mr. Atutubo said that it was a judgmental call wherein some important personalities are escorted out of the airport upon arrival for safety reasons.

What happened was that there was a one way traffic at the time of the incident. And it seemed everything was well coordinated through channels. Unlike in other countries, like the United States, this mess would not have happend considering that each line government agency has its own function and is answerable for whatever problems that may occur in their area of responsibility. It is beyond man's understanding as to why these things are happening right within the noses of government officials responsible for airport-related matters.

Perhaps, it takes a long time before some government officials will have to learn their good lessons. Imagine a head of a major international airport of the country who allowed himself to be used by unscrupulous personalities, not knowing that this would boomerang to his authority and personality. As far as the public is concerned, the NAIA airport head must be aware for everything that is taking place in his area of responsibility. But it seems there was collussion between the abductors and airport personnel when Mr. Lozada was forcibly taken out of the airport. It's a blessing in disguise that Lozada came out alive. Otherwise, he could be one of those missing individuals now included in the country's statistics.

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