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Lacierda’s 2 masters

/ 12:13 AM September 23, 2015

Sen. Francis Escudero has an excellent question for Secretary Edwin Lacierda. “I will ask Secretary Lacierda: What does he really want?” Escudero said in a radio interview. “Does he want to be the spokesperson of Secretary [Mar] Roxas and the Liberal Party or the spokesperson of President Noynoy Aquino?” Say what you will about the senator from Sorsogon, but he was right to call attention to Lacierda’s undisguised campaigning on behalf of Roxas.

Undisguised, and unapologetic. Lacierda’s tart response was unbecoming of the chief spokesperson for a political program that calls itself the Straight Path: “There is already Supreme Court jurisprudence on Cabinet secretaries as alter egos, and Senator Escudero is well aware of it. I would humbly encourage Senator Escudero to focus on the bigger issues that confront a campaign instead of focusing on an individual.” The case that anchors that jurisprudence found that Cabinet secretaries were among those officials not covered by the legal prohibitions on electioneering or partisan political activity. In other words, and as Lacierda said in another interview, Cabinet positions are political offices.

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That may be, but why did Roxas resign his post at the Department of Interior and Local Government after he was named the administration’s presidential candidate? Precisely because he had become a candidate. Lacierda is trying to have it both ways—speak for the President on policy, and then, under the transparent guise of speaking for the President on election issues, campaign for Roxas.

The exchange with Escudero, who is running as Sen. Grace Poe’s vice presidential candidate, stems from Lacierda’s comments about Poe’s campaign jingle. He said the Poe campaign was sending mixed messages (“So medyo confusing ang message nila”) because while she has often said that she wanted to continue the President’s “Daang Matuwid,” the campaign song is all about a new dawn. “Do you want change or continuity?” he said.

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But in truth, Escudero is not the first politician to take Lacierda to task; neither was this the first time Lacierda used his office to push Roxas’ candidacy. Given his unrepentant, even cavalier, attitude as displayed in an unusual series of tweets in response to Escudero’s criticism, chances are it won’t be the last.

“Let us not be more SCish than the SC,” he said in one tweet. In another, he said: “Check SC jurisprudence on alter egos. There are bigger issues to confront, don’t focus on me.”

We expected more from Daang Matuwid. The reason Roxas resigned was possible conflict of interest: government resources being used as part of a nationwide campaign, public officials’ attention distracted because of campaign-related events. Roxas could have stayed on in office until he had filed his certificate of candidacy; that would have been perfectly legal. But it would have been immoral, and a disservice to both the DILG and his own campaign.

We do not know whether Lacierda has joined Roxas in the latter’s quest for the presidency; we assume that if he has, even informally, he would resign posthaste. The Straight Path does not countenance ethical short cuts. (Or does it?) But even if he hasn’t, he must be aware that he is the alter ego, not of Roxas the candidate, but of Aquino the president.

Unfortunately, he seems content to conflate the interests of the President with those of Roxas. The clearest example of this conflict of interest is the warning he aired last weekend against those members of the Liberal Party and its coalition thinking of supporting Poe’s presidential candidacy. “If you want to jump away from the party, it’s your call. Do you want to remain in the party? Well and good. But we make no judgment.”

Then he proceeded to make his case. He warned them that they were taking a risk against a popular president. ”You’re looking at a president with eight months left in his administration. You’re also looking at a president whose approval numbers are stratospheric.”

In other words: Support Roxas, because Mr. Aquino is popular. The Straight Path needs a new spokesperson.

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Chiz Escudero, Edwin Lacierda, Grace Poe, Liberal Party, Mar Roxas, P-Noy
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