Oct 26, 2018

The joke on social media goes that President Duterte certainly knows how to recycle his trash because he appoints them to other government positions.

The punchline may elicit a chuckle or two, but its implications are frightening.

Consider the latest recycled commodity—even Isidro Lapeña, replaced earlier this week as Customs Commissioner, was surprised at Malacañang’s announcement he would replace Guiling Mamondiong as director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

This after Lapeña denied there was shabu worth P4.3 billion found in a warehouse in Cavite, just after a previous batch displaying the same quality was seized at the Manila International Container Terminal.

The erstwhile customs chief was forced to admit otherwise after the Department of Public Works and Highways said the lifters used to hide the drugs were configured for no other function aside from concealing the drugs.

While we shake our heads in incredulity, let us not forget the recycling of Lapeña comes at the heels of several other reinventions in less than two and a half years since President Duterte was sworn as chief executive in 2016.

Let us refresh your memory:

Ernesto Abella, once replaced by Harry Roque as presidential spokesperson, has become foreign undersecretary.

Antonio Kho, Jr., the President’s fraternity brother in San Beda University, transformed from justice undersecretary to election commissioner.

Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña, fired from the Social Security System for alleged questionable activities, is now tourism undersecretary.

Martin Diño, ex-chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), is now undersecretary of the interior and local government. Meanwhile, SBMA board member Benny Antiporda is now an undersecretary at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Manuel Serra, Jr. made “too many foreign trips” while in the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor (PCUP) and was fired.  He woke up later as a member of the Philippine Coconut Authority board.

Melissa Avanceña Aradanas failed to deliver as PCUP commissioner but became deputy secretary general of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.

Ronaldo “Bato” dela Rosa, chief defender of Malacañang’s controversial “discipline” of drug pushers and addicts, now heads the Bureau of Corrections.

To make things worse, Dela Rosa together with former presidential appointees Roque and Christopher “Bong” Go are now scouting for fonts to use on calling cards bearing their names as senators.

We marvel at the audacity of Malacanang’s recycling program, considering many of the appointees were removed from their previous posts for failing to perform at par.

We should also not forget at there are appointees that although not given new positions, have remained free of accountability despite questionable acts allegedly committed while in office.

Wanda Teo was forced to resign as tourism secretary due to conflict of interest.  This after the Commission on Audit called attention to a P60-million deal forged between her department and the government-owned Philippine Television Network, Inc. that supposedly aired tourism commercials on a program produced by her brother Ben.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre also resigned after charges against high-profile drug suspects being investigated by his prosecutors were dismissed.

Peter La Viña, one of Mr. Duterte’s trusted campaign men, was rumored to have solicited money from contractors of the National Irrigation Authority.

There are others we won’t mention anymore since we have made our point about Duterte appointees.

Officials given new incarnations after allegedly committing irregularities are therefore spared from punitive action.  What does this say about accountability in government service?

If an official can escape possible prosecution because he or she needs to focus on a new appointment, and with the President’s blessings at that, does this not set a trend that allows just about anyone who commits criminal blunders in public office to elude responsibility?

In Lapeña’s case, a potential cover-up in the importation of huge amounts of illegal drugs is obviously a heinous offense. That customs officials are among those denying that the drugs managed to enter Philippine territory is by itself a disturbing detail.

Remember that before Lapeña’s appointment as customs chief, his predecessor Nicanor Faeldon was also investigated for the similarly controversial importation of P6.4 billion worth of shabu.  And Faeldon is now deputy commissioner at the Office of Civil Defense.

Naughty minds tell us Mr. Duterte might be having second thoughts about disciplining erring officials with military backgrounds, like Faeldon and Lapeña, for fear of antagonizing the armed forces.

And the fact that he keeps recycling erring officials also implies his talent pool is probably so shallow to begin with. Worse, the power circle has now become so small we wonder who the President still trusts at all.


Featured photo courtesy of Inquirer.net

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