They say you can peek into somebody’s mind from the things he chooses to do now and those he chooses to put off for another day.
If this is true, then we get a close look into what things President Aquino holds important from his patterns of action and inaction. Faced with numerous urgent issues competing for his finite attention—and comprehension—the issues that Mr. Aquino does choose to address paint an unmistakable picture of what he values. And what he does not.
For example, almost as soon as Customs Commissioner John Philip Sevilla resigned his post last week, Mr. Aquino’s alter ego, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, announced the appointment of businessman Alberto Lina to take over the bureau.
Purisima of course first showered praises on Sevilla for his performance during his short stint at the bureau. The Ivy League-educated former investment banker, he said, introduced genuine reform by improving the processes at BoC and clamping down on corrupt Customs officials.
There was, however, a time to rest. And Sevilla was about to go that route.
In separate interviews, Sevilla said he had been pressured to appoint people to key positions based on connections rather than on their merit. And he could not just bear that.
Lina is not new to Customs. He has held this position before, albeit abbreviatedly, because he soon joined the Hyatt 10 in demanding the resignation of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He is also conflicted – he owns (used to own, they insist) a cargo forwarding company, and several others. One of these companies had even been investigated by the bureau years ago.
Of course, these issues hardly matter to an administration that is hell bent on installing a more malleable official at the notorious agency.
In sharp contrast, we keep in mind the President’s glacial pace in appointing heads of other, equally important government institutions. Why, for instance, is there no decision yet on who should lead the Philippine National Police? Commission on Elections? Civil Service Commission?
Take the PNP, for example. Complications arose when Mr. Aquino himself chose his dear friend, suspended police chief Alan Purisima, for a sensitive operation which we now know as Mamasapano. The officer in charge of the Police at that time was deliberately kept out of the loop. Given the already precarious peace and order situation in the country, the deaths of the 44 Special Action Force commandos, and the subsequent drop in institutional morale, it perplexes us why Mr. Aquino would take his sweet time in deciding who should next lead this embattled organization.
The Comelec similarly needs decisive action. One of the last official acts of its just-retired chairman was to approve a P300-million deal, without the benefit of a public bidding, for the refurbishment of the thousands of precinct count optical scan machines to be used for the national and local elections in May next year. But the Supreme Court recently struck down this deal and now the poll agency is working hard to make do with what it can to conduct credible elections nonetheless.
The President has no excuse for not acting with urgency. If he does not realize that he must act as soon as possible, that screams incompetence. If he knows how important these decisions are, but still refuses to make them for one reason on another, that is even more sinister. After all, he has demonstrated that he is perfectly capable of acting fast when he wants to.