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There’s the Rub

For whom the bell tolls

I can’t entirely say I’m glad to be back. The mind-boggling panorama of iniquity that has unfolded over the last three weeks is almost enough to make you not want to. The gladness only comes from reclaiming a voice with which to damn the damnable.

Chief of which is the easing out, or booting out, of Margie Juico as Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) head. Oh, yes, that was what it was, however it took the form of Juico resigning. The decent and honorable will always resign when instead of being given a pat on the back for a job well done, they are made to account for existing. Only the inept and servile will cling to their posts with the tenacity of the kapit-tuko.

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Aquino accepted Juico’s resignation while in Burma (Myanmar), saying: “There is a point, I guess, when everybody has a saturation point. A lot of the people who work with me—either in the Office of the President or the Cabinet—are advocates. They are driven by their belief in the causes they’re espousing. (That makes them) a magnet for criticism.”

True enough, Juico did reach a saturation point. But she did not reach a saturation point because of the enormous toil her job entailed, compelling her to work to the bone to the neglect of family. She did not reach a saturation point because of the enormous toll her job entailed, making her and her family the butt of rumor and intrigue and gossip about wrongdoing from outside. She reached a saturation point because of the enormous toil of soldiering on without much appreciation of it. She reached a saturation point because of the enormous toll on herself and her family being the butt of rumor and intrigue and gossip from inside. From the envious and covetous who happened to have the presidential ear.

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A government that is driven by principle, in this case the ‘daang  matuwid,’ has only two reasons to fire an official, or unhesitatingly accept the resignation of one. One is that he or she is corrupt. Two is that he or she is inept. Juico is neither.

Of course there has been no lack of accusation about one or the other that has come her way. That is par for the course, that is part of the territory. The President is right about that: You espouse a cause, you are going to get brickbats. Not least because of the toes you will be stepping on. The more you flail at the merchants in the temple, the noisier the merchants will murmur behind your back. And strike back. And a lot of rumors have circulated around Juico, but it is a testament to the flimsiness of those rumors that their circulators have not bothered to produce a shred of evidence to prop them up, or indeed taken action to pursue them.

In fact the opposite is true. The PCSO of Juico’s time and Arroyo’s time was day and night. During her term, Juico toiled to break the back of jueteng (illegal numbers game) by introducing all sorts of games that were legal, fair and stood to earn for government a fortune in taxes. That the back of jueteng  has not been broken is not her fault; it has deep roots and tentacles, not least the protection of the police who profit from it, which is a task not for the PCSO but for the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which supervises the police and which is headed by Mar Roxas, to solve.

The PCSO was never more efficient than when Juico took over. During her term, she managed to expand its services and beneficiaries considerably. Not quite incidentally, the PCSO was the only government office that filed corruption charges against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

You remove someone like that while retaining and defending someone like Al Vitangcol who has been openly accused by no less than the Czech ambassador of trying to extort $30 million from a Czech firm? You remove someone like that while indulging the whims of someone who, during his time as Department of Transportation and Communications head (which continues to this day) did nothing to make the one airport named after the President’s father cease to be known as the worst in the world? You remove someone like that only to clear the way for an Ayong Maliksi, the one person the editorials and cartoons of newspapers have rightly depicted as guaranteed to limit the beneficiaries of the PCSO only to those indigent in morals and impoverished in conscience?

That is the unkindest cut of all.

One reason that has been cited for it, which appeared in one of our stories, is that Juico did not promptly hand over to Roxas documents he demanded from her—it was in fact his menials at the DILG who demanded so—which so displeased him he promptly complained to the President about it. Who in turn chastised Juico in this wise: “It is both disappointing and embarrassing to know that an agency directly attached to the Office of the President has refused to respond to formal and reasonable requests coming from the secretary of the Interior and Local Government who is considered an alter-ego of the President himself.”

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The memo bears the signature of the President even if the language bears the imprint of Roxas. But if it is really Aquino’s in spirit as well as in letter, then it puts him and not Juico in a bad light. Why should the head of the DILG be “an alter ego of the President himself” (a phrasing that sounds like Roxas) and not so the head of an agency directly attached to the Office of the President? Aren’t they coequals? Or does it have to do with the person rather than the office?

Which in fact seems to be the case: Roxas is not just the DILG head, he is the head of the DOTC, he is the head of the Cabinet, he is the head of rehabilitation, he is the head of pretty much everything. He is Aquino’s alter ego, in infinitely more ways than one.

You indulge a spoiled brat, the fault no longer lies with the brat, it lies with you.

Juico is gone from the PCSO. But the bell doesn’t toll for her, it tolls for those she once served faithfully and well.

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TAGS: Mar Roxas, Margie juico, office politics, PCSO
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