MANILA, Philippines - Aside from lapses and controversies, the first 100 days of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in office was marked by infighting among the many power blocs that supported his candidacy and now form part of his administration. Far from abating, the power struggle has only turned more vicious over time.
Dr. Edna Co, dean of the University of the Philippines’ National College for Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), said that in an administration swept to power by several forces, the existence of factions is normal. “Ang hindi siguro maganda dito ay kung ano ang extent ng pagkakaibaiba ng grupo na ito na maaaring humadlang o magkaroon ng obstacle sa tinatawag nating effective o mahusay na pamumuno,” she said.
Among the more prominent factions in the administration are the so-called “Balay” and “Samar” groups.
Named after the Noynoy Aquino-Mar Roxas tandem headquarters in Cubao, the Balay group is composed of Liberal Party stalwarts, former Arroyo Cabinet members dubbed the “Hyatt 10,” and other supporters of the Noynoy-Mar ticket.
Samar group is named after another campaign headquarters on Samar Avenue, Quezon City, where then-Aquino counsel and now Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. held sway.
Together with some Aquino relatives on the Cojuangco side, the Samar group was widely held to have supported Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Other blocs within the president’s extended official family include former Cabinet members of late President Corazon Aquino and their supporters, and some long-time and close friends “who have the president’s ear.” Some in the latter group, such as Interior and Local Governments Undersecretary Rico E. Puno, gravitate towards the Samar group.
Familiy feuds, power struggles
Early on in the administration, it became apparent this was not one big happy official family, but a house wracked by family feuds, power struggles and turf war.
One indication was the president’s decision to appoint two communications secretaries – one from Balay, the other from Samar.
In the wake of the hostage crisis, the two communication chiefs gave contradicting statements, with one of them admitting he didn’t know who between them should have kept the media in check during critical moments of the incident.
Also significant was the president’s own admission he split the leadership of the Department and Interior and Local Government (DILG) between his party mate Secretary Jesse Robredo and Puno.
This has given the impression that the president was torn between party and personal loyalties, and decided to give in to both.
Turf war worsens
ABS-CBN News sources, meanwhile, said the turf war between Ochoa and Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Abad-Parker – Aquino’s chief of staff when he was a senator and daughter of Budget Secretary and LP stalwart Florencio “Butch” Abad – has worsened to the point that official correspondence and administrative duties in Malacañang have grounded to a halt.
Co said this does not bode well for good and effective governance. She urges the president to act quickly and decisively to stop the bickering.
“Dapat na itong ayusin habang maaga pa at ipakita talaga na merong isang namumuno,” she said. “I think he is trying his best to do that, subalit ito'y medyo mabagal, medyo kumakain ng oras at ng isyu.”
Still, Co believes the president has shown a capacity to be decisive as well as the ability to put his government back on track in the next 2,000 or so days of his term.