Why we need a non-politician for DILG secretary?

IF I were to be asked, one of President Duterte’s best decisions so far was when he appointed former Armed Forces chief of staff, General Eduardo ‘Ed’ Año of Philippine Military Academy Class 1983 as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

I’m saying this because I believe we need a non-politician at the DILG which is supervising the local government as well as the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Fire Protection.

As DILG chief,  Sec. Año is proving to all and sundry that he doesn’t care as long as he gets the job done.  Specifically, he doesn’t’ care if he will step on the toes of politicians, both the traditional and the new ones.

Right now, the soldier-turned-DILG chief seemed to be hell-bent on releasing the so-called’ narco-list’ in time for the May 13 national and local elections despite protests from many quarters including lawmakers known for their solid reputation including Senators Dick Gordon and Ping Lacson.

Both Senators Gordon and Lacson, a former PNP chief have aired their strong opposition on the planned release of the ‘narco-list’ saying it would be ‘unjust and unfair’ for the politicians who would be denied the right to due process, much more to those who may eventually be cleared of any involvement in illegal drug trafficking and abuse in the future.

But Sec. Año is not budging and once he gets the green light of President Duterte, expect him to have a press conference regarding the ‘narco-list.’ Come to think of it, a politician in the DILG would not think of making such a bold move lest he earns many enemies in Philippine politics.

Specifically, a politician in the top DILG post would not dare to make enemies and lose friends by releasing such a controversial list if he has future political ambitions but not Sec. . Año. However, I can’t say the same on other past DILG chiefs including former Liberal Party 2016 presidential candidate Mar Roxas who is now running for a Senate post anew.

As they always say, the top DILG chief is one of the most coveted posts in the government especially for those who have wide political ambition. This was largely proven in the case of Sec. Mar Roxas who used his DILG position in a failed bid to catapult him to the presidency.

Roxas was appointed as DILG secretary on August 31, 2012 by former President Noy Aquino following the demise of then SILG Jessie Robredo.  Roxas was DILG secretary from August 31, 2012 to August 3, 2015 or for nearly three years, only resigning his post in order to focus on his presidential campaign. 

Under Roxas, there is no question that the PNP was highly-politicized since Peemayers and non-Peemayers were divided that time specially those who are known for supporting other would-be presidentiables like then Vice-President Jojo Binay, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Chiz Escudero, Sen. Gringo Honasan and of course, the man who would beat them all, the tough Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Having been a chronicler of events in the PNP for three decades now, I would say that the DILG was at its best when it was not ruled by a non-politician. However, it has not been  the case since 1992 when many astute politicians headed the DILG.

They include the late Sen. Bobby Barbers, Sec. Ronnie Puno, a former Antipolo City congressman who became a DILG chief during the Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo administrations,  the late Sec. Robredo who used to be a Naga City mayor, Sec  Mar who used to be a senator and also a congressman, Sen. Mel Sarmiento who used to be a Western Samar lawmaker  and Sec. Ismael Sueno, a veteran South Cotabato politician who was fired by President Duterte in a Cabinet meeting over allegations of corruption. There are also two DILG secretaries in the person of Raffy Alunan and Alfredo ‘Fred’ Lim who would later become politicians. Lim is running anew for the mayoralty post of Manila while Alunan is again trying his hand at Senate.

At present, the PNP is working efficiently under the supervision of the DILG headed by  the non-politician Sec. Año.  I haven’t heard rumors or any reports that the former military chief  is throwing his weight when it comes to the placement and promotion of his men in the PNP, the BJMP and the BFP unlike in the past when the so-called ‘bata-bata’ system was a norm in the DILG.  Likewise, I haven’t heard any rumors that he will be gunning for any elective post in the 2022 elections and I hope it will stay for the good of the PNP and the rest of the DILG and its other agencies.

As of yesterday, there are still the ‘doves and the hawks’ in the administration who are giving varied opinions on the disclosure or no-disclosure of the ‘narco-list.’

However, I fully support the stand of two police generals, PNP chief, Gen. Oscar Albayalde and PDEA chair, Director General Aaron Aquino who both have  cited the importance of fully validating the so-called ‘narco-list’ before they are made public before the May 13 mid-term polls.

Gen. Albayalde last Monday said ‘what is important here is validation’ and he is 100 percent right. He also emphasized that in some cases, they have been receiving  pieces of information which are very hard to validate due to lack of physical evidence and direct testimonies from witnesses.

The PNP chief however said that if the list has been completely validated by all concerned intelligence agencies, he will be pushing for its  full public disclosure. “It’s high time that Filipinos should know kung sino-sino sa mga pulitiko ang sumusuporta sa NPA, kung sino ang involved sa drugs. Voters need to know kung sino ang dapat iboto o hindi, ito ang importante dito. The voters should know the truth,” he said in referring to two government lists: one which contains the names of politicians supporting the NPA by giving the rebels money and firearms; and the 2nd, the one containing the list of politicians in drugs..

Aquino, a retired Central Luzon police director said he is also not in favor of disclosing the list of politicians allegedly involved in the illegal  drug trade ahead of the May 13 elections since there is a big need to build much stronger cases against them first.

“Since the very first time, I for one don’t want the disclosure of the narcolist… just to work silently and file necessary charges to those involve,” Aquino said. Those stand are coming from police investigators who know that in any case investigation, there should be a hard proof to covinct a suspect beyond reasonable doubt. That’s what police call as due process.