PGMA's Lost Opportunity: Failure to Order the AFP and PNP

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The turnover last 10 March of the AFP Chief of Staff office from retiring Gen. Victor Ibrado to LtGen. Delfin Bangit – with PGMA presiding – was an important event. Bangit’s long-expected appointment to head the AFP took place in a formal parade and review with all the military trimmings, but was just a so-so, non-exciting ceremony because PGMA missed a great opportunity to straighten things out, recapture the AFP’s full loyalty, and recover for herself a good measure of people’s confidence and trust.If, at Camp Aguinaldo, she had ordered directly both the AFP and PNP – in full view of the public – to do their Constitutional duty faithfully round-the-clock, she could have ended once and for all the speculations and intrigues of political manipulators, and removed the uncertainty and discomfort of millions of Filipinos and foreign observers.PGMA failed to grab that great opportunity. Instead, the soldiers and audience were subjected to the same litany of Arroyo achievements being repeated on broadcast and print media.Ticking time bombs during PGMA’s administrationLast July 27, 2008, I reminded our leaders, particularly PGMA, in my column: “SONA: Wish List, Hit List, or Legacy:” “The unattended or poorly managed problems of national society, particularly of ordinary Filipinos, constitute ticking time-bombs that could explode and damage/divert/capsize/sink our Philippine Ship. On board are all Filipinos (here/overseas), foreign residents, and unborn generations.“Like military explosives, our socio-economic-political ‘time-bombs’ can still be defused, neutralized, or somehow mitigated by landmark reforms. Our elected leaders should put their acts together, and focus/ converge on short-term remedial actions which, optimally, must be undertaken within – and only within – a strategic, long-term framework that builds state capacity and people’s competitiveness.“This is what the UN MDG and sustainable development are all about. Considering our depressed condition and lowered people’s morale, uncoordinated, quickie and populist projects will not work and be just a waste of time, resources, and goodwill.“Unless the multi-dimensional global issues are squarely addressed – and corrective measures undertaken without delay – PGMA’s legacy, on balance, will be one of decline not progress.”Continuing explosive threatsOf the original eight time-bombs, only one could be deemed partially solved – which remains still a major problem and “work-in-progress.” That Sunday column twenty months ago outlined these threats:(1) Mass poverty due to overpopulation, rising prices, and deepening rich-poor gap.(2) Environmental degradation, less potable water, reduced natural resources, and land-use conflicts.(3) Reputation for official corruption and bureaucratic redtape leading to higher costs.(4) Disputatious/flip-flopping culture in decision-making.(5) A divided society with vestiges of feudal paternalism predominating.(6) Lack of durable peace in Mindanao and other places.(7) Unlevel playing field favoring monopolists, dynastists and oligarchs.(8) Non-credible electoral processes and abuse by tradpols/turncoats.”The long-standing electoral problem we consider as being partially resolved with Comelec computerization/automation processes already “hardwared” for the May, 2010, elections. Like it or not, however, its manual component will still be taking place because of projected electric power shortages in various places until big rains come in July.“Manual Aspects” not by Comelec aloneApart from power failures, we know, only too well, that the manual dimensions are likely to happen more from two not-too-readily-seen but inevitable factors: (1) lack of familiarity with electronic ballots and the Comelec’s hi-tech processes, and (2) electoral fraud/manipulation/ collusion by “dirty minds” at every step of the electoral flow all the way to the corridors of power. …