This week, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino said he was withdrawing from the senatorial race even before he had officially launched his candidacy. This announcement came at the same time that he said he was quitting MMDA.
Tolentino’s actions were precipitated by the so-called twerking scandal that accompanied the oathtaking ceremonies of 80 new Liberal Party members in Laguna and the birthday celebration of a yellow lawmaker from there, Rep. Benjamin Agarao. Several skimpily-clad women, collectively known as The Playgirls, performed a dance number that simulated sexual acts. The whole time, the emcee was thanking Tolentino for bringing the girls over as a gift to the lawmaker.
The MMDA chairman apologized and accepted responsibility for what happened, but only for not being able to stop the lewd dancing. He said nothing about being the one who brought the girls over—in fact, he had denied doing so several days ago. This despite photos circulating on social media that Tolentino had the tendency to provide such kinds of entertainment at political gatherings. We really would not know.
It’s a relief he would be out of the MMDA as well, because he should have gone a long time ago when it became clear he would not be able to fix the traffic mess in Metro Manila, or at least keep it from getting worse. Staying on while failing to improve the situation was already a disservice.
This week, too, several organizations filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman against Tolentino for dereliction of duty for the times he visited the provinces when his job was in Metro Manila, aside from violations of the Magna Carta for Women for his role in the Playgirls incident.
The Palace and the Liberal party’s presidential bet Manuel Roxas II have only kind words to say about Tolentino, even as Malacañang spokesman denied Tolentino was pressured to drop out of the race. This is no heroic feat, though, and Tolentino is not a saint who must be extolled. In the first place, they could just be cutting their losses this early, because given his miserable job at the MMDA, a Tolentino victory was a dim possibility, even without the twerking scandal.
But no, Roxas just would not be stopped. He said the “mistake” did not reflect the totality of Francis Tolentino and his service to our people and that he was a true believer of Daang Matuwid.
But what defines the totality of Tolentino, or that of any other official, for that matter? Are we supposed to count only the hours spent on the job? Results and the attainment of performance targets? Shall it include the kind of person that they are, with or without the packaging?
In this case, the Liberal Party did what it was supposed to do. If it held on to Tolentino, totally or partially, it would send the message that it was condoning whatever mistake it was that Tolentino had apologized for regarding the performance.
We only wished the administration acted more deliberately, firing its officials when they did not do their jobs. Tolentino’s failure to carry out his mandate at the MMDA and his obvious attempts at using his position for political gain are mistakes that also contribute to his totality.