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Judy and Nic

Good people with good intentions, believe it or not, don’t necessarily produce good work. And I’m not even talking about Judy Taguiwalo, whom I still miss as social welfare secretary.

President Rodrigo Duterte has bowed to intense pressure from Congress to remove Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon. Late on Monday, Duterte announced that he was replacing Faeldon with the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, former police general Isidro Lapeña, who will in turn be replaced by Central Luzon police director Aaron Aquino as head of the anti-illegal drugs office.

Faeldon, according to the president, had thrice asked to be relieved as head of the corruption-tainted waterfront agency and had thrice been convinced to stay on. Duterte remains convinced that Faeldon is incorruptible—but that seems to be, among other things, what brought on his removal from office.

Like Taguiwalo at the Department of Social Welfare and Development, I tend to believe that Faeldon’s lack of understanding about how things work in government —specifically the relationship of certain government agencies with Congress—was what did him in, in part. If Faeldon had not been such a hard-ass and knew how play ball with Congress, he probably would still be at the bureau today, just as Taguiwalo would still be at DSWD.

Remember that Faeldon came into Congress’ radar when his office said no to a request for the promotion of a bureau functionary coming from no less than House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. And this was way before Congress went to town with the seizure of the P6.4 billion worth of shabu that mysteriously slipped through Customs last May.

Faeldon was, as they say, “mahirap kausapin” just like Taguiwalo, who was done in by her belief that lawmakers must not dip their hands in DSWD programs like the conditional cash transfer, the calamity funds and the various “soft” projects that they traditionally get for their constituents. Faeldon believed that the president’s trust was enough—and that was his first mistake.

Faeldon’s second (and bigger) mistake was surrounding himself with people who either did not know what they were doing or who had other agendas of their own, to put it mildly. More than the huge shipment of drugs that went through Customs, these people that Faeldon brought in to advise him actually sabotaged him, like those consultants who convinced him to put up a Command Center that only became an added “checkpoint” for goods going through the ports.

Faeldon was also ill-served when lawmakers turned up the heat, failing even, in his defense, to justify hiring a bunch of athletes to play for the bureau in an inter-government tournament by explaining that even Malacañang and even Congress fielded similar teams using the same rules of temporary employment. (That pretty lawyer who was Faeldon’s head executive assistant was also a consultant, and yet she reviewed legal matters for the commissioner and even signed the daily time records of the athletes, both questionable acts.)

In the end, Faeldon could not even prove that he had ended the “tara” system of regular payoffs made to bureau employees since time immemorial, computed on a per container basis regardless of the contents of a shipment or the identity of the shipper. He could not stop the corruption even if he was not personally tainted, could not put an end to smuggling of anything, including illegal drugs.

So, while Faeldon and Taguiwalo are similar, there is a limit to their similarities. Judy did a fine job but ran into the wall put up by Congress; Nic ran into the same wall, but could not really say he did as good a job as Judy.

Judy Taguiwalo’s rejection is on Congress alone. Faeldon’s resignation is, in large part, the result of self-inflicted wounds.

* * *

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has belied the claims of Senator Franklin Drilon that an assistant prosecutor in Caloocan City, Darwin Canete, was prejudging the sensational case of the 17-year-old student who was killed in an anti-drug operation in the city last week. Aguirre pointed out that Canete cannot be removed from the case of Kian Loyd delos Santos simply because the prosecutor has not been assigned to it; in fact, Aguirre said there still is no case filed against the three policemen who allegedly killed the student in cold blood.

I was really surprised when Drilon, who prides himself as a legal expert, did not even bother to find out about the status of Delos’ Santos non-case—and Canete’s non-involvement in it—before thundering about the prosecutor’s alleged bias last Sunday. I was surprised, but I wasn’t really surprised.

Like I wrote yesterday, Drilon and other leaders of the anti-Duterte movement were probably just handed a script after being assigned their roles in the hurriedly-hatched plot to use Kian’s case to hit at the President. And Drilon’s role was to go after a mere assistant city prosecutor who—while he is an acknowledged Duterte supporter—knew a lot about the case, since he was the inquest fiscal on the scene.

When Canete started posting on Facebook about his impressions on the alleged murder of the young man, having arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, he unfortunately began providing a counter-narrative to the widely-reported “EJK version” of events that Drilon and his fellow Liberal Party members had been spouting as gospel truth. That was why Canete had to be stopped—never mind if what he was saying was non-political and his professional opinion as an inquest fiscal on what was, to him, just another crime scene.

Aguirre’s defense of Canete has silenced Drilon—for the moment. I have a suspicion that Drilon will try to once again bully the prosecutor, who has been summoned to appear before the Senate probe of the Kian slay tomorrow.

But if I were Drilon, I wouldn’t be so confident of beating down Canete, whom I’ve known for many years. This is a man who will not back down when he knows he’s in the right; and that’s what Darwin is, once again, in this case.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Judy and Nic , Judy Taguiwalo , Department of Social Welfare and Development , Nicanor Faeldon , Bureau of Customs , Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre , Senator Franklin Drilon , Darwin Canete
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