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Bill lowering children’s criminal liability draws wide opposition

Government agencies, children’s rights advocates and international organizations are up in arms over efforts at the House of Representative to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility (MACR) of children from 15 to nine years old.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Council (JJWC) object to the measure, saying the proposed adjustment violate international laws such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) promoting and protecting children’s rights that the Philippine government promised to uphold.

“It will increase the chances of more children at a younger age to be subjected to judicial proceedings contravening the spirit and intent of the Convention,” the DSWD and JJWC in a statement said.

Both offices recalled that the UNCRC Committee has in fact praised the Philippine government when it passed the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006 (or RA 9344), which raised the MACR from 9 to 15 years old.

‘Bill by dumbest lawyer’

But President Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly complained that the law is too lenient on children in conflict with the law and blamed its principal sponsor Senator Francis Pangilinan.

“This law passed by this son of a b***? He passed the juvenile law…Fifteen years old and you can’t put them in jail!” Duterte in a speech in Puerto Princesa City said.

“You are really nothing. You are the dumbest lawyer I know…I will destroy him,” Duterte said of Pangilinan last November.

In response to Duterte’s wishes, the House Committee on Justice, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, said it will hold a hearing today to repeal RA  9344 as a “priority matter of legislation.”

“[The House of Representatives] will move for the passage of the bill in support of a request from President Duterte,” a statement from Speaker Gloria M. Arroyo’s office last Friday added.

‘Anti poor’

But both the DSWD and the JJWC said that poverty should be blamed on children running afoul with the law.

“Prior to the enactment of RA 9344, studies found that most children involved in crimes were poor.  Most came from dysfunctioning families who lack access to basic needs, parental love and support, with very little education and were usually neglected or abused,” the agencies said.

“Most committed theft and crimes against property.  Clearly, these were crimes committed for survival, safety and security, they added.

A children’s rights group echoed the agencies’ concern, adding dire poverty in the Philippines makes them more prone to criminality and anti-social activities.

“The government should address poverty and make services available to children in conflict with the law. Lowering the minimum age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 9 years old is not the solution. Children should be protected and be given the chance for rehabilitation,” the Association for the Rights of Children in Southeast Asia said in another statement.

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights and its member organizations including the Children’s Rehabilitation Center also voiced its opposition to the measure, saying the MACR bill neglects that fact that poverty and lack of socio-economic opportunities are the main drivers of child offenses.

“At least 45 percent of the offenses attributed to children are petty theft, robbery and other offenses against property, while 65 percent of children offenders come from poor families,” Karapatan said.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Save the Children Philippines also voiced their opposition to the measure.

“Lowering the age of criminal responsibility is an act of violence against children,” the UNICEF said Friday.

“This will only push them to further discrimination, abuse and eventually, into more anti-social behavior,” SCP for its part said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Veteran disaster responder Carlos Padolina dies in road accident

Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) official and veteran disaster responder Carlos Padolina died in a road accident Friday night in Balingasag, Misamis Oriental.

Padolina, DSWD Climate Adaptation and Mitigation deputy program director, died after a motorcycle hit the tricycle he was riding at about midnight, a colleague told Kodao.

In a Facebook post, Padolina’s colleague Caroline Quevedo Catalan said it was a “sudden death.”

“After our orientation, he requested that we bring him to the bus terminal (bound) for Cagayan de Oro…By 11 pm, he took the tricycle from Balingasag area to (the) terminal and then they were hit by a drag-racing motorcycle that was without a headlight,” Catalan wrote.

Padolina was reportedly thrown off the sidecar and suffered massive internal haemorrhage that led to his death.

Padolina was in Mindanao to hold a program orientation with Caraga local government units and people’s organizations in Butuan City.

From Butuan, Padolina dropped by Balingasag to meet with other disaster response colleagues.

Padolina joined the DSWD in September 2016 after decades of disaster preparedness and response work with the Citizens’ Disaster Response Center and children’s rights advocacy with the Children’s Rehabilitation Center and Salinlahi.

(Photo from Padolina’s FB page)

The first major disaster response he participated with DSWD was supertyphoon Lawin that hit Northern Luzon in 2016 while among his last was Mount Mayon’s eruption earlier this year.

Before joining DSWD, Padolina spearheaded numerous relief and rehabilitation programs across the Philippines for nearly three decades.

He was reportedly planning to go back to CDRC after nearly two years with the DSWD.

The victim’s family has already been notified of his death, the source said.

The DSWD is planning to hold a tribute to Padolina during its flag-raising ceremony on Monday. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Judy Taguiwalo’s speech after CA rejection

Former DSWD Judy Taguiwalo’s speech before supporters who stayed all day Wednesday outside the Senate to express support and call for her confirmation.

The Commission on Appointment, however, rejected Taguiwalo.

(FB live video by Charlotte Robles Job Despuez / Featured image by Kilab Multimedia)

‘Judy’s ideology is to serve the people’–Recto

Senator Ralph Recto delivered this speech in anticipation of the confirmation of Prof. Judy Taguiwalo as Department of Social Welfare and Development secretary at the Commission on Appointments hearing Wednesday.

Recto said he was for Taguiwalo’s confirmation, but was defeated in a secret balloting by majority of his fellow CA members.

Read Recto’s full speech he read after the CA has announced it has endorsed the rejection on the Senate floor.

——

Mr Chairman, my dear colleagues:

I have been told that the nominee is a fan of my grandfather, and of my wife. That she can recite passages from Don Claro’s writings. And hugot lines from the movies of Vi.

So on that score alone, she gets my vote.

But if my grandfather were alive today, he, Vi and the nominee, would make a mutual admiration club.

Don Claro would only have the deepest esteem for someone who did not only agree with his causes, but spent a lifetime fighting for it.

And Vi would find in her, as she does, a real life character who looms larger than Sister Stella L, and who has more guts and grit than all the strong women she had played on the silver screen.

Mr Chairman:

The first pages of the nominee’s CV describe an intellectual at home in the academia.

Retired professor of UP. Head of its Center for Women Studies. Director of Research and Extension for Development Office. Faculty Regent.

In a school where merit is rewarded, she would not have been able to assume these posts without the academic degrees that validate a first-rate mind:

She has a PhD from UP, a Masters from a Canadian university, and a Social Work degree from the same state university where she graduated cum laude in 1970.

She could have been magna cum laude, Mr Chairman, if she did not let her real-life education outside of UP interfere with her studies.

Indeed, her CV catalogues, in fine print, the research papers, articles, books she had written.

But what is not there are her other engagements in her storied life which I believe makes her qualifications more sterling – and prove without doubt her fitness to perform the duties of the office she holds.

She is also an alumnae of 3 Martial Law prisons, went underground, and joined the resistance – only because legal pathways for change were blocked, and peaceful avenues to protest were closed.

To those who would see this as impediment to a Cabinet post, here’s my rebuttal: Political imprisonment is no bar to public office and neither is the taking up of arms when conditions warrant.

On the contrary – these are experiences we should look for in scouting for talent because they are the toughest “stress tests” one can endure.

I don’t have to remind you that in our pantheon of heroes, those who were jailed for their beliefs occupy an honored place. Warriors, especially women, are revered, from Gabriela Silang to Tandang Sora.

I think, Mr President, that it is her work during the “unsalaried phase” of her checkered career which is her biggest qualification in holding the DSWD portfolio.

It immersed her into the grinding poverty that continues to slave our people. It allowed her to closely see how the denial of basic social services drives people, first, to despair, and then, defiance.

If the ideal DSWD secretary is one who possesses competence, compassion and commitment, then it can be said that UP gave her the first, her activism gave her the second, and her underground years gave her the third.

We can never ask for a package as complete as her. She had been serving DWSD’s clientele long before Digong thought of running for mayor.

So if we would like to know her views about poverty, we can leaf through the forest of newsprint that contains her writings.

But if we would like to know if she really cares about the poor, then her stints in factories, in farms and in forests are enough to dispel any doubt.

Mr Chairman:

The nominee should not be dismissed as one of the token Leftists in the Cabinet. She was not put there as a memento to prove Digong’s Big Tent approach in forming a government.

Rather, I believe that she holds the post by virtue of her ability, and not by her affiliation.

She is not there to represent one color in Digong’s rainbow Cabinet. She is there to serve all the colors in the tapestry of our democracy.

She represents all of us, all our dreams, all our aspirations for our nation, our people, and our children. She personifies that elusive political ideal that persons of different persuasions can come together for the common good.

If she is an ideologue, then the ideology she subscribes to is the same one we believe in, and that ideology is to serve the people.

Mr Chairman:

I am seconding her confirmation because she brings a fresh perspective in the DSWD – and that is to treat not poverty’s symptoms but its roots, for the poor need more than relief, but a release from the social shackles that prevent them from bettering their lives.

It is, therefore, my pleasure to endorse the confirmation of the appointment of Doctor, Professor Judy M. Taguiwalo, or Ka Judy, as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development.

——–

(Featured image by Kilab Multimedia)

 

Activists and Reds blame Duterte for Taguiwalo’s rejection

The Commission on Appointments (CA) vote rejecting the appointment of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo immediately earned condemnation from progressive groups, which blamed President Rodrigo Duterte for allowing so-called vested interests to win yet again.

Minutes after the CA rejection was read at the Senate, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said vested interest won over good governance, pro-people polices and genuine service.

“This one is on Duterte as it is on the CA…The President could have asked his allies in Congress to confirm Judy yet he again chose to ‘bend the knee’ to pork barrel lawmakers, neoliberal economic managers and the militarists in his cabinet,” Reyes said.

“The rejection exposes the utter bankruptcy of the current ruling system and the reactionary character of the Duterte regime. He chose business-as-usual, reactionary politics over genuine change,” Reyes said in his Facebook post.

In a secret vote, at least 13 CA members comprising majority of the commission voted against Taguiwalo’s confirmation.

Pork barrel in the DSWD

Taguiwalo’s troubles with both houses of Congress began when she issued her Memorandum Circular 9 on August 6, 2016 clarifying that DSWD assistance to the poor shall no longer require “guarantee letters” from representatives and senators.

Lawmakers grilled Taguiwalo during the two 2017 DSWD budget hearings of the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives last year, accusing her of trying to prevent them from helping the poor in their respective districts and sectors through DSWD services.

Ako Bicol Rep. Alfredo Garbin claimed that congressmen were the first people that their constituents seek help from and that MC9 implied their guarantee letters were in violation of the Supreme Court ruling against pork barrel.

Negros Oriental Representative Arnulfo Teves challenged Taguiwalo whether it was the DSWD or the lawmakers who know the poor’s plight better, while House Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Farinas threatened to drastically reduce DSWD’s proposed budget.

“We are not asking money from you. You are asking money from Congress. No budget can be spent on your programs without the (Congress) granting it,” Fariñas told Taguiwalo.

During her confirmation hearings, Taguiwalo was also repeatedly questioned about her past as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines and joining the New People’s Army to fight the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

Taguiwalo said she will always be proud of her decision to go underground during Marcos’ martial rule.

Duterte’s militarist swing

But National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison said CA’s rejection of Taguiwalo is actually part of Duterte’s increasing attack against the Left.

Expressing dismay over the negative vote, Sison said patriotic and progressive forces can expect more ultra-reactionary actions from the Duterte government.

Taguiwalo, along with Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano and National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Liza Masa are NDFP nominees to the Duterte Cabinet.

“The rejection of the appointment of Judy Taguiwalo is one more sign that the Duterte regime is becoming more and more reactionary and servile to anti-national and anti-democratic interests,” Sison told Kodao in an online interview.

Sison said the development is in line with the increasingly militaristic track being implemented by Duterte, something both legal progressives and the underground revolutionary groups must prepare to fight.

“The revolutionary forces and people must deal with the fact that Duterte has junked the peace negotiations and is carrying out a single-minded policy of war, death and destruction. They must fight resolutely and fiercely against a brutal and fascist Marcos-type regime that scandalously operates like a Mafia syndicate of corrupt bureaucrats, drug lords and gangsters,” Sison warned.

Duterte’s former professor said attacks against progressives are in line with the all-out war policy which the President has carried out since the beginning of his administration under the counter-insurgency policies Oplan Bayanihan and Oplan Kapayapaan.

“All patriotic and progressive forces have to develop a broad united front against the puppet and reactionary US-Duterte regime,” Sison urged. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

CA rejects Taguiwalo, bucks popular support for ‘hard-working secretary’

The Commission on Appointments (CA) recommended not to confirm Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo in a hearing Wednesday.

Bucking popular nationwide support for Taguiwalo, at least 13 CA members constituting the commission’s majority voted against the secretary’s confirmation.

The CA resolution read by Rep. Joel Almario did not give a reason for their negative vote.

Sen. Ralph Recto, however, praised Taguiwalo’s year-long leadership of the DSWD saying she should not be dismissed as a “token Leftist” in the Rodrigo Duterte Cabinet.

As a nominee of the underground National Democratic Front of the Philippines, Taguiwalo (NDFP) was hounded at the CA hearings by questions on her past as a guerrilla fighting the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.

Sen. Loren Legarda also expressed gratitude to Taguiwalo, saying she had been a “hard-working secretary.”

Duterte gave Taguiwalo six ad interim appointments before the CA rejection.

Fellow NDFP nominee to the Duterte Cabinet, Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano is also expected to face rough waters in his next confirmation hearing.

National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Lisa Maza, another NDFP nominee, does not require a CA confirmation to stay in office.

Earlier, hundreds of Taguiwalo supporters held a rally in front of the Senate gates.

Social media also lit up with calls for Taguiwalo’s confirmation. # (R. Villanueva)

CA postpones Taguiwalo’s confirmation hearing anew

Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) secretary Judy Taguiwalo’s confirmation hearing with the Commission on Appointments (CA) at the Senate this afternoon has been postponed according to her Facebook social media account.

Speaking to dozens of disappointed supporters who trooped to Pasay City, Taguiwalo said she was informed by the CA that the hearing is postponed because Health secretary Paulyn Ubials hearing is not yet finished.

“This is the third time we came here. The first time was postponed. Then we finally had a hearing last week. Today should have been our third. But as of 12 noon, we were informed of the cancellation,” Taguiwalo explained.

Taguiwalo told her supporters that while she would continue to render service even as a private citizen, she said her confirmation is important as the DSWD has resources meant for the poor.

“We really want the government’s resources to go to those who need them most,” she said.

She admitted that her CA confirmation is an uphill battle but she perseveres because of the widespread support she is getting from various marginalized sectors.

Taguiwalo’s 10 months in office have been marked with positive feedbacks on DSWD’s prompt response to calamities such as strong typhoons and earthquakes that hit various parts of the country.

She also received public support for the reforms she instituted at the DSWD such as Memorandum Order 9 that reminded DSWD employees that so-called guarantee letters from congressmen is not a requisite in the identification of beneficiaries.

MC9 also ordered the entire agency to act on requests from intended beneficiaries even without a letter from lawmakers.

Taguiwalo said the long wait she is being made to suffer is a form of torture.

“Pass or fail, I can deal with that.  But I don’t think it is acceptable that the hearings keep getting postponed,” she said.

She nonetheless assured her supporters she will continue doing her work.

Meanwhile, Taguiwalo’s former colleagues at the University of the Philippines again urged the CA to immediately confirm Taguiwalo, saying she embodies the change President Rodrigo Duterte promised the people.

“If there is a government agency that shows genuine change from the corrupt governments of the past, it is the DSWD with Judy Taguiwalo as secretary,” Congress of Teachers and Educations for Nationalism and Democracy’s Sarah Raymund said.

Taguiwalo said she will wait for notification for the date of her next confirmation hearing. # (Report and photo by Raymund B. Villanueva)

Mariano and Taguiwalo good for CASER implementation–Sison

JOSE Maria Sison expressed alarm the Rodrigo Duterte government may find it hard to implement socio- economic reforms if the remaining “good appointees” in the cabinet fail to get the nod from the Commission on Appointments (CA).

Reacting anew to the rejection of former environment and natural resources secretary Gina Lopez last week, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Chief Political Consultant Jose Maria Sison said they have begun to doubt whether Duterte will be able to push legislation that will enable the implementation of the prospective Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) they are currently negotiating with the Duterte-led Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

“If (Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael) Ka Paeng Mariano and (Social Work and Development secretary) Judy Taguiwalo are rejected by the CA, their rejection will be further proof that Congress will also reject the social and economic reforms agreed upon through CASER and will perpetuate the conditions for the civil war in the Philippines,” Sison warned.

The Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Social Work and Development, Department of Environment and Natural Resources are the GRP agencies expected to implement the prospective agrarian reform, environmental protection and social services agreements currently being discussed by the NDFP and the GRP in their ongoing formal peace negotiations.

On the other hand, Sison said if the CA confirms Mariano and Taguiwalo, it will have a positive and favorable effect on the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations.

“It will raise hopes that Congress will make the laws to carry out the obligations of the GRP in CASER,” he said.

Like Lopez, NDFP nominees to the Duterte cabinet Mariano and Taguiwalo have performed “excellently,” Sison said.

“They deserve the public acclaim that they have received. They have proven themselves to be highly qualified, hard working, effective and honest public servants,” he added.

Meanwhile, Sison scored Senator Panfilo Lacson’s statement over radio station dzBB last Sunday that CA members were afraid the New People’s Army (NPA) might kill them if they reject Mariano and Taguiwalo.

“There were some members who expressed the possibility that they might be ambushed if they returned to their provinces because they openly rejected Secretary Taguiwalo,” an Inquirer.net report quoted Lacson to have said.

Lacson said this was the reason the 24 CA members decided on secret balloting.

But the Inquirer report pointed out that the secret balloting rule was first adopted two months ago when the CA was deliberation on former foreign affairs secretary Perfecto Yasay, Jr.

“The statement of Lacson is uncalled for. The NPA has never made any physical threat to the CA,” Sison said.

“What the CA should be concerned about is the public opprobrium for rejecting the good appointees of Duterte,” he added. # (Report and photo by Raymund B. Villanueva)

STREETWISE: High stakes confirmation hearing

Streetwise
by Carol Pagaduan-Araullo
On Wednesday 3 progressive cabinet members — Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Gina Lopez, Social Welfare Secrtary Judy Taguiwalo and Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano — are up for confirmation by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA).
They have been twice bypassed by the CA and subsequently twice reappointed in the interim by President Rodrigo Duterte. But because the current CA has approved a rule that a cabinet member may only be bypassed three times after which the CA will have to reject or confirm the concerned official, it appears that Wednesday will be the final showdown.
The backstory to this is very interesting if only because it is so unusual.  Newly elected President Duterte surprised everyone when, even before he was sworn to office, he offered the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) four Cabinet positions.
Pres. Duterte said the four departments he offered to the CPP – Labor, Agrarian Reform, Social Welfare, and Environment and Natural Resources – dealt with the “most oppressed” and that the Left was known to be “the most vigilant” when it comes to pressing national issues. He also related his offer to restarting peace talks with the revolutionary movement under the umbrella of the National Democratic Front of the Philipiines (NDFP).
In response, NDFP Chief Political Consultant and CPP Founding Chairperson Jose Ma. Sison welcomed the offer but said the CPP could not accept any position not until the peace negotiations had reached the point of a comprehensive peace settlement. In the meantime, Sison said the NDFP could nominate people who are patriotic, progressive, competent, honest, and diligent but not necessarily communists.
Upon the NDFP’s recommendation, Pres. Duterte appointed University of the Philippines Professor and former political prisoner Judy Taguiwalo as secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Long-time peasant leader and former Anakpawis Party List representative Rafael Mariano became secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR). The labor portfolio eventually went to former Justice Secretary Sylvestre Bello III, concurrent head of the government peace panel negotiating with the NDFP, while that of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) went to Gina Lopez, a known environmentalist and scion of a wealthy business clan.
The appointment of Leftists and social activists, including former Gabriela Party List prepresentative Liza Maza to the National Anti-poverty Commission, lent credence to President Duterte’s avowal that he too was a “leftist” and a “socialist” even as this became fodder for accusations of his political enemies that the Duterte administration had betrayed the country to the communists.
Policy differences surfaced when the burial of the so-called remains of the Dictator Marcos was allowed by President Duterte at the Libingan ng mga Bayani setting off a torrent of mass protests wherein victims of martial rule and anti-dictatorship activists from the Left figured prominently.  Taguiwalo, Mariano and Maza stood their ground in opposition to the Marcos burial but asserted that this was not sufficient basis for them to resign their posts.
While snide remarks surfaced in social media intimating that the three had sold their souls to the devil, these accusations of cooptation did not gain much traction.  The three have proven to be one of the most hardworking, competent, and upright in the Duterte Cabinet.  They have navigated the perilous course of holding top government positions and being subjected  to myriad pressures and enticements while remaining true to their Leftist principles and continuing to serve their “most oppressed” constituents.
The lines began to be drawn for Sec. Taguiwalo during the budget hearings last year.  Many congresspersons, not least of which were those in the leadership of the House of Representatives, objected to and resented the attempts of the DSWD to ensure that the department’s beneficiaries are those truly in need and not merely “lucky” recipients of patronage politics. A compromise was eventually hammered out: congresspersons’ recommendations would be taken into account and given weight by the DSWD even as the set of qualifications specified by the agency would prevail.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The “honorable” congresspersons wanted ironclad assurances from Sec. Taguiwalo that certain funds they had earmarked for the DSWD would only be spent in their districts in accord with their wishes.  In other words the old pork barrel system was alive and well albeit disguised as an informal arrangement between the head of agency and the “honorable” congresspersons. When Taguiwalo refused to play along, her confirmation in the CA was placed in jeopardy.
As for DAR Secretary Mariano, one of his orders that raised the hackles of his fellow Cabinet members particularly the economic managers, was the DAR proposal for a two-year moratorium on land use conversion. Mariano wanted to put the breaks on rampant conversion of farmlands for residential, industrial, commercial or mixed-use purposes. Not only has land use conversion been a tried-and-tested way to go around land reform, it has even been used to cover up landgrabbing itself.  But apart from frustrating the ends of social justice as envisioned by a series of failed land reform programs, this proposed moratorium is in line with ensuring the country’s food security what with the rapidly shrinking agricultural land devoted to food production.
Needless to say, the big landowners in the country especially the owners of sprawling haciendas and corporate farms are literally up in arms over Secretary Mariano’s unflinching support for the right of the tillers of the land – tenants and farm workers – to own their own plots of land.  Recent attempts of DAR to install agrarian reform beneficiaries in land awarded but forcibly taken from them have met with armed resistance from private security guards and hired goons. In some instances, the police have averred that they cannot help DAR enforce its orders because they are outnumbered and outfirepowered by private security forces.
DENR Secretary Lopez’ decision last February to close 23 mines and suspend five others for breaching environmental standards together with the cancellation of 75 contracts for mining projects located in watersheds constituted a declaration of war against large-scale corporate mining in the country.  For this the country’s mining firms banded together to not only oppose her confirmation, but to file corruption charges against her before the Ombudsman.
Too bad Lopez’ anti-mining stance is popular among a public reminded of the horrendous toll on the environment and affected communities from mining accidents and the over-all destructive effects of large-scale mining operations. Moreover her boss, President Duterte, has continued to back her.
For its part, the NDFP recently stated that it views “in very positive terms the presence of (the three) in the Duterte cabinet”.  Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP Panel chair said, “Ka Paeng will play an important role in implementing a program of free land distribution for poor peasants. Ka Judy will likewise play an important role in implementing expanded social services for the people. Gina Lopez meanwhile has expressed willingness to work with the revolutionary forces in protecting the environment against destructive mining operations. They will no doubt be helpful in implementing a Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that may be agreed upon by the GRP and NDFP.”
The stakes are truly high in the confirmation hearing of the three officials on Wednesday. Will the people’s clamor for meaningful reforms be dealt another serious blow by reactionary interests through their front men in the Commission on Appointments? #
Published in Business World
1 May 2017

Reinvigorated DSWD wants Judy’s confirmation

SHE arrived at her new office last July 1 riding shotgun in a beat up and borrowed white pick-up truck, alighting in a hurry and forgetting to take her shoulder bag with her.  She ran after the vehicle, laughing at herself, perhaps belatedly realizing it was the day she becomes a cabinet secretary and hundreds of colleagues were watching her.  Her predecessor stood at the lobby, waiting with her trademark clip-on hair highlight, probably wondering what kind of a department chief her successor would make, displaying what could only be described as an unorthodox start to her new job.

Ten months into her new career, social work and development secretary Judy Taguiwalo still cringes at the perks and privileges showered her as she moves about the rarefied corridors of power.  “Hindi ko na pwedeng bitbitin ang malaking bag ko at hindi ko na mapindot ang elevator buttons because people would insist they do it for me.  Naging cabinet secretary lang, parang person with disability na bigla,” she says.

“Look at this space,” gesturing at her expansive office.  “It is wasteful. So I asked one of my assistant secretaries to move in.  Malungkot ang mag-isa rito at nagbabasa ng mga report ng disaster at kahirapan ng maraming mamamayan,” she said.

Behind a door near her desk is her office’s private pantry.  On its floor were baskets and bags of donations and gifts from new admirers and supporters.  She disappeared in it and emerged with two small bottles of sardines and tells her staff, “Ito ang pagsaluhan sa lunch.”  She explained, “Tira pa iyan noong Pasko. Daming nagbigay.  May five star hotel vouchers, Metro Manila Film Festival tickets, pagkain.  Ipinamigay ko ‘yung mga pagkain sa community at sa staff at kaibigan yung tickets at vouchers.”

She is not so different out on the field, her staff said.  She walks muddy paths to remote communities, gently shooing away those bringing her umbrellas to shield her from the relentless sun.  She sits at poor people’s kitchens to talk to them and listen to their plaints first hand.  At a forum with persons with disabilities, she stays behind so she could talk to every participant who wanted a chat.  She is sometimes impatient with staff who take time bringing her papers she asked, but she is unwearied when she talks to common folk.

What most people know about the DSWD now is its prompt response to disasters and pleas for assistance. Relief goods packed in cartons arrive immediately after typhoons and earthquakes, with corned beef, noodles, sardines, soap and rice fit for human consumption.  This efficiency can still be sabotaged by unscrupulous local politicians, but no one is now saying rotten items are still being distributed.   Moreover, DSWD’s prompt response to the disaster brought about by Supertyphoon Lawin did not require the country begging for foreign aid and assistance as had been trademarked in the past.

In a blink of an eye, the agency that symbolized criminal neglect and inefficiency under past governments is resurrected in the people’s esteem, dearest of all agencies under Rodrigo Duterte’s reign.

Even her department colleagues are reinvigorated.  “Ang Social Welfare Employees Association of the Philippines ay never naging pro-management. Ngayon pa lang kami nananawagan ng confirmation ng aming secretary,” its president Manuel Baclagon said yesterday at a forum for Taguiwalo’s confirmation, along with Agrarian Reform secretary Rafael Mariano and Environment and Natural Resources secretary Regina Paz Lopez.  “Sa 20 years ko sa serbisyo, dating puro ka-plastikan, puro showcase lang ang programs ng departamento.  Pero kay Sec. Judy, ang correct attitude sa paglilingkod sa sambayanan , tunay na malasakit, pantay na pagtrato, tapat na serbisyo, nangyayari ‘yan. Kitang-kita naman ‘yan sa Luisita, sa Lumad, sa Pandi,” Baclagon said.

MC9 and pork barrel

Ten months is a short time for one who really wants to institute reforms in a government line agency.  But it had been enough time for at least one controversy.

Scarcely four weeks as secretary, Taguiwalo issued Memorandum Circular 9 last August 6. MC9 reminded DSWD employees that so-called guarantee letters from congressmen is not a requisite in the identification of beneficiaries.  It also ordered the entire agency to act on requests from intended beneficiaries even without a letter from lawmakers.

For such a bold move at trying to stop the practice of making the DSWD the congressmen’s pork barrel, the agency was threatened with budget cuts to make it helpless; for such audacity, the circular’s signatory may not be confirmed by the Commission on Appointment at the Senate today.

But Taguiwalo herself is not too fazed over what her supporters are so worried about: her confirmation by the same kind of people she challenged with a simple memorandum.  At yesterday’s forum, she said what is important to her is the affirmation from fellow social workers, public school teachers, single parents, persons with disabilities and activist comrades.

Many want Taguiwalo’s service as social welfare and development secretary extended with her confirmation.  What she has shown in 10 months can only be described as one of the Duterte government’s genuinely pro-people achievements. # (Raymund Villanueva)