Viewpoint

‘Making a difference’

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“In politics, if you want anything said, ask a man,” former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wrote. “But if you want anything done, ask a woman.”

That explains the cheering after President Aquino appointed Maria Gracia Cielo Padaca to the Commission on Elections. Padaca, who walks on crutches due to childhood polio, can oversee a vital program to register persons with disabilities for the 2013 elections, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. said in welcome.

As governor of Isabela, the 49-year-old Padaca uprooted corrosive political dynasties. She won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service in 2008.

Padaca “paid off two-thirds of the province’s huge debts,” the citation of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) reads. She scrapped a “bankrupt medical scheme for a sounder government-backed plan [and] helped rice and corn farmers…” She “empowered voters … to reclaim their democratic right to elect leaders of their own choosing…”

P-Noy footed the bail for the harassment suits that trashed politicians lodged against Padaca. “As usual, there is an idiot behind every great woman,” John Lennon once said. Will Padaca join Filipino women of “burnished steel”? They include Gabriela Silang, executed in 1763 for rebelling against colonizers, and “housewife” Corazon Aquino, who sent a dictator packing.

“Women are good for the bedroom,” Ferdinand Marcos sneered when told that Cory had reluctantly agreed to a draft. “Walang alam ’yan.” Cory snapped back: “True. I don’t know how to steal, cheat, lie or murder.”

People Power installed Cory as the Philippines’ 11th and first woman President. She reestablished a constitutional government, served with integrity, oversaw a peaceful transition of power, and returned to her modest Times Street home.

Among the honors Cory won was the 1998 Ramon Magsaysay Award. In contrast, Marcos’ war medals were bogus, revealed a New York Times series based on US National Archives records. Cory is a revered icon. Marcos’ corpse molders in a mausoleum as his heirs badger the government for denied Libingan ng mga Bayani honors.

Tiene cojones, people said of Cecilia Muñoz Palma. “She has balls.” The first woman Supreme Court justice flayed the farcical “citizens’ assemblies.” She dissented when male colleagues allowed Marcos to propose amendments to the Constitution by himself.

“I was a foot away” when President Joseph Estrada signed papers for a P500-million loan as “Jose Velarde,” the poised bank vice president Clarissa Ocampo testified at his impeachment trial. “I refused to certify it.” That helped trigger People Power II.

Ocampo received threats but never buckled. “Remember Ginger Rogers,” a fan suggests. “She did everything Fred Astaire did, only backwards—and in high heels.”

The late Haydee Yorac won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2004. As peace negotiator then elections commissioner, she showed that “the sole and only nobility is integrity.” Under her watch, the Presidential Commission on Good Government retrieved from Marcos Swiss bank accounts $683 million. She was instrumental in crafting key court decisions favorable to small farmers over the coconut levy.

“From her sickbed, Yorac knows she will not complete the task herself,” the RMAF noted before her death.

“Others will rise to it. No one is indispensable,” Yorac reminded us all. “Making a difference is enough.”

Today, strong women who challenge perverted leaders and institutions still make a difference

As Supreme Court justice, Conchita Carpio Morales penned the 8-7 decision that junked the memo of agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on ancestral domain. The process was “furtive,” she said. “The draft exceeded legal authority … [and is] whimsical, capricious, oppressive.”

The Arroyo Court allowed Eduardo Cojuangco to dip into levies extorted from indigent coconut farmers and to pocket 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares. “The biggest joke [of] the century,” Morales snorted. The conviction of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona hinged on Ombudsman Carpio Morales’ analysis of his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.

It’s been 18 months since Heidi Mendoza was appointed commissioner of the Commission on Audit. Why is this 22-year veteran auditor with a spotless record still unconfirmed? asked Solita Monsod in her Inquirer column.

Mendoza quit a cushy Asian Development Bank job to testify on her ignored report of plunder in the military comptroller’s office. Today, retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia is in prison. President Aquino expressed public appreciation by appointing Mendoza to the COA.

It’s an open secret that the one responsible is Vice President Jejomar Binay’s camp, Monsod said. It has never forgiven Mendoza who ferreted out scams in Makati City. She led the team that audited 2000 and 2001 contracts for Makati office partitions and furniture. Example: The award for the purchase of furniture was made on Sept 15. But the supposed bidding was for two days later, Sept. 17. If the Binay camp thinks Mendoza will fold, guess again. Tiene  cojones.

Mendoza is not alone in the Commission on Appointments (CA) freezer. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo (2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee) went to his grave with his confirmation snarled by Camarines Sur politicians.

CA clones what Ali Baba called “a den of 40 thieves.” Mendoza and Padaca will find that integrity and competence mean nothing, as did Robredo before them. Concession is the only language spoken there.

What strikes fear into “valiant women”? Margaret Thatcher says: “being in an elevator with three political foes—and having only one handbag to whack them with.”

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E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com

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