Thanks, but no thanks

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

People don’t have to be in P-Noy’s cabinet for them to be able to help this second Aquino administration and the nation in general.

We are aware of course that many people are scrambling to get appointed to Cabinet positions for reasons that have nothing to do with helping government or the Filipino people in general; but that’s a topic for another column. The mood this week is upbeat and hopeful except for the general disdain for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which the incoming administration obviously and naturally wants to continue to fuel because it makes it look noble in comparison. For as long as they can demonize someone else, they can continue to deodorize themselves.

It’s three days to go before P-Noy’s formal inauguration and the official list of people who will be in that first Cabinet meeting immediately after the swearing-in at the Quirino Grandstand is still one of the most tightly-kept secret. So far this is what most everyone knows: Campaign manager Butch Abad, Budget Secretary; Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo, Local Government; Dinky Soliman, Social Welfare; Leila de Lima, Justice (a splendid choice!); Edwin Lacierda, Presidential Spokesperson; Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr, Executive Secretary; Teresita “Ding” Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Reportedly being considered for Presidential Management Staff head is Julia Abad P-Noy’s former chief of staff at the Senate, incumbent Secretary of Health Esperanza Cabral for the same post, Cesar Purisima for Finance, former Presidential Security Group chief Voltaire Gazmin for National Defense, Jim Paredes for Tourism, and Jose de Jesus for Public Works, Guillermo Parayno for Customs.

We now know that Armin Luistro of the De La Salle brothers has been offered the post of Education Secretary, a post that Luistro seems bent on accepting. I really wish Luistro would graciously turn down the offer. Like I said, there are many other ways in which people can become more helpful to this country and to P-Noy’s administration aside from becoming Cabinet secretary.

I really wish Luistro followed Gawad Kalinga Antonio Meloto’s example— which was to turn down the Cabinet post to be vacated by Vice President Noli de Castro as head of urban housing, precisely because he would be able to do more as an individual not beholden to political interests. Certain important tasks in this country just need to be left in the hands of the private sector and freed from government or political interference.

Don’t get me wrong—I think Luistro is qualified for the post. However, becoming Luistro just has too much baggage to become really effective in the post given the current challenges facing the education sector.

For example, the two raging issues of the day that face the education sector just happen to be issues that the De La Salle community is invested in - in many ways: sex education and the proposed addition of two years into basic education.

On the matter of sex education, I hope people have not forgotten that the De La Salle community is a Catholic institution that strictly subscribes to the tenets of religio, mores et cultura. Luistro is the current President of the De La Salle University system and was formerly the Provincial of the De La Salle Brothers Congregation. He is obligated to adhere to the community’s strict moral teachings. Media ambushed Luistro recently and as can be expected, all the questions had to do with the sex education modules that the education department is piloting this school year. Luistro tried to appear objective and cautious. Essentially, he said that he still needed to review the sex education modules being used and that he still needed to receive his official mandate from P-Noy.

But we all know how all of these will end: In a loss-loss situation for Luistro, the De La Salle community, and the Filipino people. If Luistro pushes the sex education modules, those who are strongly against these would accuse the brothers of selling out. If he does not, he would be accused of hypocrisy—the De La Salle system after all plays host to various advocacy programs championing the rights of women and other minorities.

On the issue of the proposed addition of two years into the basic educational curriculum, Luistro would be accused of having a very biased perspective because the De La Salle schools in this country happen to be primarily for the rich—people who can afford two years of additional schooling for their children. If he doesn’t, then the whole thrust of the De La Salle system to provide remedial courses to students who are deemed unprepared for College education will be put in question as well as the fact that many La Salle schools require 12 years of basic education—they have kindergarten as well as a Grade 7.

Another La Salle brother, the late Andrew Gonzalez also served as Education Secretary in the past, specifically during the brief presidency of Joseph Estrada. But the challenges that were present then are completely different from those operating in the present. Quite frankly, Luistro just does not have Gonzalez’ stature in the academic community to command unquestionable authority.

In a related development, Vice President-elect Jejomar Binay issued definitive statements over the weekend categorically making himself unavailable for any Cabinet post.

An interesting and hilarious side bar to the whole canard was Joseph Estrada’s pontification about how Binay should have accepted being head of the body that will supposedly run after Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for corruption. Those who commit graft and corruption while in office should be prosecuted and punished, Estrada said. How Estrada is able to preach morality and good governance given his own grievous mistakes while he was President is incredibly stupefying. He is without doubt a great actor.

Binay’s non-acceptance of the post of chief mad dog that will pursue Arroyo after June 30 was actually a wise move. Whoever thought of putting Binay in that post must really hate the Vice President-elect with a passion. Binay is not exactly known as Mr. Clean. Solita Monsod recently came up with a column detailing some of the accusations of corruption lobbed at Binay’s doorsteps. Getting someone like Binay to prosecute someone like Arroyo for corruption would be a moro-moro of gigantic proportions.


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