President Aquino’s polestar

Significant is the recent reorganization of the Cabinet into five clusters. It signaled the ardent desire of President Benigno Aquino III for his official family not only to be individually talented, but also to be team players. Like in basketball and other endeavors, teamwork is as important as talent in shooting the basket. And in winning the war on corruption and poverty.

From slogan to blueprint. When asked how he felt about the impending appointment of his election rival Manuel “Mar” Roxas as presidential chief of staff, Vice President Jejomar Binay showed his bright side: “I am sure I can work with him. I am a team player.” Binay uttered this even if he was not named chair of any of the five clusters. I thought that, being the second highest official of the land and being responsible for housing and urban development, he deserved the headship of one cluster.

The most important cluster, Good Governance and Anti-Corruption, is chaired by the President; the second, Human Development and Poverty Reduction, by Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman; the third, Economic Development, by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima; the fourth, Security, Justice and Peace, by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa; and the fifth, Climate Change Adaption and Mitigation, by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. Upon these five teams depend the success of Aquino’s presidency.

I think EO 43 is really the polestar of President Aquino. It reorganized the Cabinet with five primuses; it defined his “vision… country with a re-awakened sense of right and wrong, through the living examples of our highest leaders”; it pointed to his “Social Contract with the Filipino People… and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016… that will translate the Social Contract into efficient, effective, and responsible actions.” From EO 43 can be sourced the values and standards that guide his governance: transparency, accountability, integrity and, most important, leadership by example.

A year ago, he proclaimed “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Since then, I have been waiting for a road map, a more detailed explanation of how he would transform his slogan into a blueprint. I found it in EO 43. I consider it the executive summary of his vision, mission, goals, values, principles and methods. Upon it, our people will judge him and his officials.

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First Pacific at 30. Vision and mission. Goals and values. Principles and methods. Talent and teamwork. These are the same norms and parameters that propelled the First Pacific Company Limited to rise as a major player in Asia. Organized in Hong Kong in 1981 by Manuel V. Pangilinan and Anthoni Salim, an Indonesian entrepreneur, First Pacific started with a capital of HK$7 million (less than US$1 million) in a 50-square-meter office with six employees.

Now, three decades later, First Pacific and its various investee companies have an aggregate market capital of US$44.57 billion (repeat, billion) with 104,000 employees in the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong and other countries. It has interests in food, agriculture, telecommunications, power distribution, business process outsourcing, water distribution, hospitals, infrastructure, mining and other industries.

A week ago, it invited its 300 board directors and senior officers to its head office in Hong Kong to thank them for helping it achieve its goals. It sponsored a sparkling dinner-musicale, with no government regulators and politicians. Not even from Hong Kong. But all the entertainers were the best from the Philippines: Lea Salonga, Sarah Geronimo, Lani Misalucha, Martin Nievera, Christian Bautista and Jed Madela.

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Who represents offended party? My May 15 column explained that only the President or his duly authorized representative could give the consent of the Republic—as the offended party—in the Garcia plea bargain agreement (PBA). Since no such consent was given, ergo, the PBA is void. In his letter to the Inquirer (printed on May 23), de campanilla lawyer Bonifacio A. Alentajan wrote that the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB), like the fiscals and prosecutors, is authorized to bind the Republic as the offended party in the PBA because the OMB is the public prosecutor in graft cases.

My reply: True, the OMB—not the fiscals— prosecutes graft cases. True also, the Supreme Court has ruled that fiscals could give the consent of the Republic as the offended party in a PBA. However, the OMB is not in the same situation as fiscals. Fiscals are subalterns of the secretary of justice who in turn is an alter ego of the President, and thus could act for him. On the other hand, being an independent office that is not under the control and supervision of the President, the OMB is not a subaltern of the President and cannot represent the latter. In short, while the secretary of justice and the subaltern-fiscals can represent the President, the OMB—being an independent entity—cannot.

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Alejandro R. Roces is a well known literati, short story writer, athlete, columnist, culture icon, educator and National Artist for Literature. To me he was all that, plus more. He was my indefatigable adviser during my student leadership days, who helped me organize the National Union of Students of the Philippines. As secretary of education in 1961-65, he retained me as legal counsel and executive consultant right after I hurdled the bar exams. At 86, he passed to the Great Beyond last May 23 in the grace of our Lord.

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