BY AMADO P. MACASAET
‘The target-shooting partners have read him correctly. They do not argue with the President. Theirs is to say yes and expect the best or the worst.’
It is becoming more palpable that the target-shooting partners the President brought with him to Malacañang are of minimal use, and worse, could harm him irreparably.
The President does not seem to be aware of the problem. Or he might have developed a strong bias for them and in fact now believes they could not mean him harm. They are good men.
This is basically a result of the President’s lack of capacity to listen to advice. Worst yet, he may not have the capacity to judge the character of men he hires. He is intractable on many things. The target-shooting partners have read him correctly.
They do not argue with the President.
Theirs is to say yes and expect the best or the worst. The President takes the credit or the blame for either. Few are the men who would argue with the President and win. They cannot win. Pnoy, like the Supreme Court, is right even when he is wrong.
The ability to listen is a sterling quality of a capable leader. The lack of it paves the way to ruin.
Even if President Aquino were willing to listen, he does not have in his stable enough lucid minds to give him sound advice. Since this is the case, there is absolutely no use listening to anyone.
Obviously, it has not occurred to the President that there might be a need to find better men who will help him make critical decisions. It must be clearly understood that the President’s decision is his alone after it is made.
But it should be a result of collective and dispassionate deliberation with men of higher qualities, not men who occupy powerful positions because they were and still are target-shooting buddies.
Brains are not in the trigger finger. They are supposed to be between the ears. I am using very harsh words to describe what I believe is a worsening situation. I might believe there are cases that may tend to prove me right.
Let us look back at the mining policy. For two years, DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, who is not known as a target-shooting buddy, sat on all applications for new mining permits.
In fact, he refused to issue but recalled an environmental clearance certificate to the $5.9 billion copper-gold project of Sagittarius Mines in South Cotabato. He was scared of a resolution adopted by the provincial government banning open pit mining.
Open pit mining is not prohibited under a national law. Paje had to be told so and it was President Aquino who did. Then Paje announced he had drafted a mining policy. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa announced he had his own version.
Finally, the President issued the new mining policy that promotes tourism and practically sacrifices mining. Whose mind made the policy? Probably that of the President, unaided by Paje or Ochoa or abetted by them. Nobody really knows.
The implementing rules and regulations of Executive Order No. 79 are shot full of politics.
What has come out clear is that the President can be bullheaded on matters which are downright wrong.
In fairness, Paje and Ochoa may have known the new policy is practically anti-mining.
But they do not have the balls to say no to the boss.
It would be a disaster just the same because neither Ochoa nor Paje knows about mining.
The views of the private sector were hardly considered.
Now comes the case of Rico E. Puno, undersecretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. It turns out that Jesse Robredo was investigating him on the purchase of firearms for the police.
Left in a cauldron of hot water, Puno resigned. The President accepted the resignation. A more determined leader would have said he fired Puno.
How or why did President Aquino allow Puno to “raid” the office and apartment of Robredo after it was known that the latter’s plane crashed in the sea off Masbate?
To lock down the documents, the President declared. To collect evidence or destroy them? For whose benefit? The fact that Puno was ordered to do the lockdown cannot be interpreted any other way except that the DILG undersecretary may not face an investigation. Suppose his name is in the documents about jueteng or the gun purchase? What will the President do to Puno?
Slap him on the wrist or maybe even pat him on the back for a job well done in locking down the documents Jesse Robredo was taking care of with his life?
News reports say Puno was negotiating or has negotiated the purchase of the guns with a trader or some such company. Really now! Everybody forgot the necessity of public bidding. The subject was never mentioned, anyway. Not by the President, not by Puno.
Then Puno expectedly resigned instead of being expectedly fired.
Virginia Torres, head of the Land Transportation Office, is also a loyal target-shooting partner of President Aquino.
We do not know much about a lawyer who answers to the name Ed de Mesa. He is chief presidential legal counsel.
We know Paquito Ochoa was administrator of Quezon City. He is now executive secretary. He was officer-in-charge of DILG before Mar Roxas was appointed secretary. Not a word was ever said of him about the lockdown.
Ochoa is one of the more constant partners of the President in his target-shooting trips.
We might say none of the target-shooting partners ever gave the President a big hand in the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona. Now they are having a big hand in big deals.
Which is not saying the President should reward those who helped him in the impeachment trial. What we are merely saying is what appears to be his latent bias for target-shooting partners.