MANILA, DECEMBER 29, 2011 (STAR) OPINION - COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva - With just three days left before we throw away the 2011 calendar, reports of looming changes in the Cabinet filter out in media.

These reports are among the most predictable stories at this time of the year that usually emanate from Malacañang Palace. It started late last week when President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III himself hinted anew about his plans to make certain changes in his official family.

In particular, the Chief Executive mentioned the possible overhaul of his legal team. During an interview at the Palace with ABS-CBN News, the President ambivalently disclosed possible changes in “major positions but not necessarily in the Cabinet… or there might be movements within the Cabinet.”

As usual, P-Noy left to media speculations whose head goes to the chopping block should such changes ever come to pass.

After 18 months in office, this is really the time for P-Noy to review the performance of his appointees who obviously could no longer blame the previous administration for the lack of accomplishments in their respective departments.

In a press briefing at the Palace, Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte tried to rationalize the impending changes in the Aquino administration as not an indication that P-Noy is dissatisfied with the performance of his appointees. As to who gets the boot, Valte told Palace reporters to just wait for P-Noy to make the formal announcements.

The hiss from the so-called Palace “snake pit” points to two Cabinet members who reportedly sounded out P-Noy of their desires to go back to the higher paying jobs they left at the private sector. P-Noy personally recruited the two to serve in his government.

Out of friendship and loyalty, the two Cabinet officials agreed to serve at most two years to help in the transition of the Aquino administration. They reminded P-Noy about this timetable but are reportedly willing to stay a bit longer until their respective replacements are installed into office.

A third Cabinet official reportedly wants to go back to his “apostolic” mission. Taken away from his quiet life after retirement from government service, the senior Cabinet official told P-Noy to find “younger blood” to take his place.

Vacancies in the Cabinet will definitely arise early next year over reported plans by some of them to run for the May 2013 Senate elections. The first to declare her intent was Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

There is no dearth of potential takers of Cabinet vacancies. In fact, a number of administration allies in the 15th Congress are among those being mentioned to fill the projected Cabinet vacancies, including a second term Senator.

As the highest elected official of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), P-Noy revealed the administration’s possible senatorial lineup will include losing LP candidate now Customs chief Rozzano “Ruffy” Biazon.

During the same ABS-CBN interview, P-Noy bared Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad earlier expressed interest to run for the Senate. Because Abad was his campaign manager in the May 10 presidential elections, P-Noy said he ribbed his DBM Secretary that he would be willing to become his campaign manager when he runs for the Senate. But lately, P-Noy noted Abad has apparently changed his mind.

Speaking of Abad, the DBM chief was quoted defending a provision in the 2011 General Appropriations Act (GAA) that limited the use of calamity funds for disaster preparedness. This restriction was being blamed for the lack of resources, especially in the government agencies involved in the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC).

As part of disaster preparedness, these NDRRMC agencies are supposed to undertake such activities and projects in anticipation of natural and man-made calamities. While these calamities may or may not happen, they must be prepared for it. These include such activities as pre-positioning logistics for relief and rescue operations. Such lack of preparations was again manifested in the aftermath of “Sendong” in Northern Mindanao.

Contrary to recent reports, Abad explained, “the GAA for 2011 merely cautions against using the Calamity Fund for pre-disaster activities, such as the preparation of relocation sites or facilities and the training of personnel directly involved in disaster management, as indicated in the Conditional Implementation of Special Provision No. 1 in this year’s Calamity Fund.”

My good friend, Jerry Velasquez, senior regional coordinator for Asia-Pacific, in the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) who is based abroad, posted on Facebook his comment on Abad’s justification as it came out in Philippine media. Velasquez, the highest-ranking Filipino official in this specialized UN agency that assists countries in its disaster risk reduction (DRR) programs, was obviously dismayed at Abad’s policy pronouncement.

“How bad can this lack of understanding of the importance of DRR get?” Velasquez wrote. “So now, everybody is supposed to be doing DRR, except NDRRMC? It has no purview of so called ‘DRR’ work in government, and now we cut the DRR budget from it. Maybe we should just rename it to what it used to be called — NDCC,” Velasquez rued. He referred to the forerunner of the NDRRMC, the defunct National Disaster Coordinating Council, or the NDCC.

I could only share the frustration of the UNISDR official every time I hear NDRRMC executive director retired Gen. Benito Ramos report about the latest casualty count from Sendong. Ramos obviously also lacks understanding of his job. The primary job of the NDRRMC executive director is to oversee if DRR apparatus is in place even when there is no calamity actually happening.

As we close 2011 as the year of so many disasters taking place in the Philippines, we could only hope to see changes for the better in 2012.

P-Noy: We have moved forward By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) Updated December 29, 2011 12:00 AM Comments (0)

MANILA, Philippines - The country has moved forward and risen from “massive corruption and poverty one and a half years since the new administration decided to tread the right path,” President Aquino said yesterday.

In his New Year’s message to Filipinos, the President said the government is “slowly winning” the fight against poverty and corruption since his assumption to office.

He said people could make the comparison themselves from the times that passed.

“No matter how much they try to sow confusion in our minds, no one will doubt that the Philippines has indeed changed,” Aquino said.

“Now, we are bringing back the blindfold in justice. Progress is being experienced not just by the rich and the powerful, but by many of our fellowmen,” he said.

The President said people could see the fruits of reforms and there is fervent enthusiasm and hope, high level of confidence, and wider opportunities in the country.

Aquino also said in an interview with ANC’s “Strictly Politics” that he is grateful for the high ratings he has been getting despite the criticisms.

He said one lady made an impression on him because she told him not to listen to the media all the time but to ordinary people like her.

“So why did I really like the comment? Why did it make an impression? They (critics) think… they can sway this or that. Here, they can see through propaganda and my bosses (the people) have clear minds, the direction they want to think is clear and most especially where we want to go,” Aquino said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved