‘Tis the season for presidential appointments. Leonida, Tagle, Sotto, Neri, Ducut–these are names in the front pages these days. After the first round in May, the new round–only beginning–promises to be more wide-ranging, affecting more senior jobs, and more indicative of the GMA (or more precisely the GMA administration) political agenda in the next six to eighteen months.
The first two appointments caused a stir not because the appointees are well-known and highly credible for the Comelec commissioner’s job they were appointed to. Rather, it was because they were virtual unknowns, not in any list submitted by either of the citizen search committee or the presidential selection committee.
When later, Executive Secretary Ermita said that these two were in the twenty names submitted to Malacañang, it was a dead giveaway because there were only ten names submitted through the presidential selection process. As such, the initial reaction of electoral reform advocates was to put these two in grave doubt. They have a lot to do in order to assure their credibility before the people. It also adds further to the burden of the Commission on Elections to regain its own institutional credibility.
Former senator and defeated TU senatorial candidate Tito Sotto was appointed chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board. It must be conceded that he had the background on the issue since his days in Quezon City as Vice-Mayor. Of course, the eradication of the drug problem is another matter. Incidentally, the position was raised to Cabinet level.
Commission on Higher Education chairman Romulo Neri of the ZTE-NBN fame (or notoriety?) was transferred to the chairmanship of the Social Security System, coinciding with the formation of the National Social Welfare Program headed by the SSS chairman. He also obtained Cabinet rank.
Former Pampanga representative Zenaida Ducut hails from Lubao and has the distinction of being a friend and classmate of GMA. She was appointed acting chairman of the crucial Energy Regulatory Board.
These four appointments created a buzz. Speculations abound that the Comelec appointment is tied to the desperate charter change initiative. The weakest point of this initiative is the huge unpopularity of GMA and widespread opposition to any hint of her extending herself in power beyond June 30, 2010 and to charter change under her tutelage.
In the charter change scenario, the decisive battleground will be the ratification plebiscite (if the initiative gets this far). The Comelec will then be crucial. The appointment of the seventh commissioner will either confirm or disprove this speculation.
The Sotto appointment is obviously a political payback. Similar appointment of defeated Team Unity senatorial candidates are expected in the coming days. This trend constitutes a part of the political consolidation by the GMA loyalists–possibly within the scenario of extension of her stay in power.
The Neri appointment can be interpreted as part of the consolidation process and basically was done to ensure and maintain loyalty in times of political transition and uncertainty. As in his appointment to CHEd chairmanship, the appointment to SSS will certainly provoke more controversy.
Aside from its implication of her personal closeness to GMA, the Ducut appointment will certainly raise a few eyebrows because of the sensitivity of the post (and of course the huge implications of the subject matter on government fund sourcing, inflationary impact, and Meralco tussle).
The criteria of competence and integrity, as well as the principles of transparency and accountability are the victims in the current appointment. The imperatives of political survival prevailed. Political appointment, where is thy logic?