We would have wanted to write about NIA head Benny Antiporda’s sudden and perplexing suspension by the Ombudsman when it happened but we were still out of the country at the time, and wanted to know its antecedents in that troubled agency.
That Antiporda has a rather brusque way with words is a given.
The guy is as frank and as candid as could be, based on my encounters with this former journalist, whether at the National Press Club or even when he was visiting Taiwan as a director of Subic Bay ecozone during the early years of the past administration.
You don’t bullshit around with street-smart Antiporda, and that must have rubbed his sub-alterns at the graft-ridden NIA not only the wrong way, but became anathema to the “old boys” of middle management and their “usual” conduct.
How they got the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend Antiporda without hearing the guy’s side, and for mere accusations of managerial high-handedness and the stereotyped “conduct unbecoming” is, as the fictitiously romanticized King of Siam in the musical is quoted, “a puzzlement.”
President Marcos must hear Benny’s side and get the puno’t dulo of this brouhaha, especially since the irrigation agency is a principal cog in the agriculture machinery he presides upon.
The rank and file at NIA have expressed support for their beleaguered head, seeing perhaps that Antiporda was a no-nonsense guy out to improve the agency’s image, and if you go around the country, you will indeed see how professional and well-meaning many of the NIA’s hands-on field operators are.
If memory still serves me right, as soon as President Cory Aquino appointed a comprovinciano from Tarlac to head the NIA, mind-boggling scandals came to light, such as the excessively over-priced repainting of the perimeter fence around Pantabangan Dam which the president’s father built.
Sure, Pres. Cory yielded to the public howl and fired her provincemate, but a series of officials, civilian and military, that succeeding presidents appointed to head the NIA were unable to, and likely became complicit in the continuing bastardization of the agency’s mandate of ensuring water supply to our parched farms, all in the altar of corruption and inefficiency.
Pres. Marcos should ask his NEDA director-general, a distinguished agricultural economist who in PNoy’s time, unearthed massive under-performance bordering on willful corruption at the NIA.
This, and other “puzzlements” such as unaccounted for lease payments on prime NIA properties, are what Benny Antiporda sought to excise, and quickly, in his usual brash management style.
But electric shocks are what an anti-corruption specialist, if there is one in this government, would actually prescribe for the agency.
One particular practice that riled then Pres. Aquino III was the discovery of thousands of kilometers of “built” irrigation canals as proof of the NIA’s accomplishments, only for an audit team to find out that the canals had no identified source of water. He he he!
These and many more “puzzlements” Antiporda may have seen when he was appointed as a deputy administrator during the latter years of Pres. Duterte, and now sought to excise and correct.
But apparently, middle management and their cabal of contractors saw Benny Antiporda an existential threat.
So many issues have come and gone when I was away but perhaps the most recent headline news is the visit of US Vice-President Kamala Harris, first to Malacanang, thence to Puerto Princesa where a new jointly-used military base under the terms of EDCA was built.
It’s nice to hear words of support from the lady who is a breath away from their super-senior POTUS, support that we needed most when the mandarins of China decided to claim all of the West Philippine Sea as part of their sovereign territory.
Words such as, quoting Harris, “the United States stands with the Philippines in the face of intimidation and coercion in the South China Sea (and) we support the 2016 ruling of the UN arbitral tribunal which delivered a unanimous and final decision formally rejecting China’s expansive South China Sea maritime claims.”
She further stated, without batting an eyelash, that “the Hague tribunal’s decision is legally binding and must be respected.”
Two things stand out in this continuing saga of supposed US support for the country that was once their colony, which the Filipino people should consider first before being hoodwinked into believing her avowals.
One, where were they when we needed them most? As Pres. Duterte once famously asked, why didn’t our “big brother” do anything when China built those artificial islands?
Two, the US of A has not signed accession to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the legal basis for the Hague tribunal’s existence.
Sure China and the Philippines recognize UNCLOS, but the former spurned our complaint and did not participate in the hearings. We were left blabbing our arguments before the Hague, all by our lonely self.
But now, big brother America vows respect and avers legal binding on the decision of a body they were never part of?
This looks like another case of using the Philippines as additional pawn in the “war” against a rising China. Look at Nancy Pelosi, two breaths away from Biden, and now Harris, one breath away.
Clearly, the US of A in its waning years is just pushing the envelope further against the imperious Xi Jinping who now wields absolute power in the middle kingdom.
The Philippines is just another stamp in the envelope, postmarked Taiwan.