Elections key to PNoy's choice for next DILG chief

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 30 2012 11:07 AM | Updated as of Aug 31 2012 01:02 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Political analysts believe the 2013 and 2016 elections could well have a bearing on President Aquino's choice for the next secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Political analyst Malou Tiquia said the DILG is “one of the crucial agencies for [President Aquino’s] survival in the midterm and legacy by 2016.”

She said that for the 2013 elections, the administration would want a sizable number of the President’s party-mates in the Liberal Party to win at the local level so that the government’s reform agenda can be achieved.

Professor Prospero de Vera of the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) also said the DILG portfolio will attract many vested interests as it could have a bearing on the 2013 and 2016 elections.

He said the job could attract “politicians and political factions who want to gain a decisive advantage in the 2013 elections, have ambitions for 2016, or want to earn big bucks because of big Philippine National Police contracts.”

President Aquino is set to name a new DILG Secretary following the death of Secretary Jesse Robredo in a plane crash last August 18. Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino will name the new DILG chief before he leaves for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders meeting in Russia next week

Tiquia said Robredo was picked for the DILG post based on the overall design of the LP for the 2016 polls.

“He was a nominee of Balay. But since he is out of trapo mode, the Palace needed their own point man in the mold of a Rico Puno,” she said.

The political analyst said the DILG is a big organization with several natural assets covering geographic bases: from barangay to province; functional base from local government, police, fire, jail, public safety, and the National Police Commission.

She said Robredo’s death “comes at a most precipitous time when country is preparing for elections in midterm. Without Jesse, DILG can again be a tool for political maneuvers for the interests of the ruling political order.”

Political survival

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, who is also the country’s anti-crime czar, is now officer in charge of the DILG.

Among the names publicly floated for the job are Vice-President Jejomar Binay, Senator Panfilo Lacson and Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Ochoa and Binay belong to the so-called Samar Group of Aquino’s supporters, composed of personal and family friends and allies of the Aquinos who are non members of the Liberal Party.

The Balay group derived its name from the Liberal Party headquarters in Cubao, Quezon City, owned by the family of former Senator Mar Roxas, the running mate of Aquino in the 2010 polls.

De Vera said many names are being floated by both factions to try to influence the President. “In the end, I think it will be a toss up between Lacson, Abaya and a ‘reluctant’ VP Binay.”

The professor said Aquino’s political survival beyond 2016 will also be a factor in his choice for DILG chief.

“His rallying cry for daang matuwid and effective delivery of basic services can only be realized if local governments do a good job in service delivery and if corruption will be reduced in the PNP. The bigger stake is of course for LP if it plans to remain a party of relevance after 2016,” he said.

Tiquia said the best steward of the LP’s survival is the Balay Group. “That ensures another 6 years of LP leadership, thereby ensuring 12 years of economic stability,” she said.

Malacañan has denied that special interest groups are lobbying for the DILG post.

Pressed on the President’s main criteria in choosing the next DILG chief, Lacierda said “the President’s main consideration for the replacement will be someone who can continue to do the reforms. Secretary Robredo has done so much for governance reforms.”