When President Aquino delivers his 6th State of the Nation Address on July 27, expect the usual elements of SONAs past: a list of accomplishments, a countdown on his remaining days in office, a look at what's ahead on the last year of "Tuwid na Daan".
Expect him also to unleash his now-famous zingers on bad governance and corruption -- against the previous government, the current opposition, and even the agencies and personnel of his administration.
This being his last SONA, President Aquino’s upcoming speech will be scrutinized even more closely. Among the things that will be watched for – will Aquino finally call out, even criticize key people and close advisers who figured in controversies?
In Aquino's five SONAs from 2010 to 2014, there was neither comment on nor criticism of the so-called KKK or "Kaibigan, Kaklase, Kabarilan" – the term for presidential appointees whose closeness to Aquino stems from being his friend, former classmate, or shooting buddy.
Of the KKK, quite a number have been controversial, among them:
- Resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima who was dismissed from service last week by the Ombudsman for allegedly favoring his friend in a PNP contract. While suspended, Purisima was allowed by Aquino get involved in the Mamasapano operation, wherein 44 PNP Special Action Force troopers died. Purisima was also alleged to own undeclared property.
- Former DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno who led government response to the 2010 Luneta hostage-taking, which ended in the death of 8 Hong Kong tourists and the hostage-taker. He also came under fire for entering and “securing” the condominium of DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo shortly after his death.
- Former chief of the Land Transportation Office Virginia Torres, who resigned after her photo playing slot machine in a gaming facility was made public. Torres was also criticized for her involvement in a corporate struggle within the LTO’s IT provider, Stradcom Corp.
- Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa, whose name was mentioned in connection with an alleged Korean fugitive, and in agricultural smuggling. Early in the Aquino administration, Ochoa was also linked to the ownership of a Quezon City “glass mansion” which was not in his SALN.
- Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who has come under fire for his failure to meet his own rice production sufficiency target, and curb smuggling of agricultural products. An agency under Alcala, the National Irrigation Administration, also drew the ire of Aquino for its inefficiency.
- Budget Secretary Butch Abad, who authored the Disbursement Acceleration Program -- portions of which were struck down by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.
- PAGCOR chief Cristino Naguiat, who drew flak for accepting expensive gifts and other perks from potential casino operators his office would regulate.
Small wonder that critics ask: are the KKKs exempt from the straight path that Aquino and his administration promised to tread?
TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva is quick to defend the President.
“Siguro ito yung namimisinterpret ng iba no, akala nila pag kaibigan ka ni PNoy andaming plus factor or may favor na makukuha. Actually it’s the other way around. You have to sacrifice. Kasi ang definition ni PNoy ng kaibigan is sasamahan mo siya dito sa anumang pinagdadaanan niya para makamtan yung nais niyang makamtan,” he said.
[Perhaps there’s misinterpretation: they think that if you’re a friend of PNoy’s, you get favors. it’s the other way around. you have to sacrifice, because PNoy’s definition of a friend is one who’d be with him in whatever he’s going through in order to achieve his objective.]
Villanueva would know, for he himself is considered KKK.
Early last year, Villanueva was linked to the PDAF scam; an accusation he vehemently denies. He remains TESDA chief, has not been charged by government investigators, and was publicly defended by the President.
Villanueva insisted the President does not wear blinders when it comes to his controversial friends.
“Kung meron kang kinasasangkutang kontrobersya, ito man ay chismis pa lang o ito man ay nalalathala na o nakakaladkad na ang kanyang pangalan, talagang you have to explain to him. At pag nalaman naman niya at narinig na niya yung side mo at nakita niya yung totoong nangyari in a particular issue, yun naman ang kagandahan sa kanya. hindi na siya kayang i-sway ng mga chismis chismis,” he said.
[If you get linked to a controversy – whether it’s just rumored or reported in media, or if his name is being dragged – you really have to explain to him. Once he’s heard your side and ascertained the truth behind a particular issue, the good thing about him is that he’d never be swayed by mere rumors.]
NO DIRECT SACKING
Of the controversial KKK, three are no longer in office: Torres, Puno, and Purisima.
All three either resigned or were compelled to resign in the aftermath of the controversies that surrounded them. No one was openly sacked by the President.
Which leads his critics to ask: why can’t Aquino seem to let go of his KKK?
Again, Villanueva begs to disagree.
“Siguro nga yan yung nagiging perception pero as a human being, una gusto kong sabihin na hindi perpekto ang Pangulo natin; may mga weaknesses din and shortcomings. And so if you’re a real friend of the President and you messed up and you know you messed up, you will really do the honor of taking that level na, teka lang, aalis na lang ako para hindi kita masaktan,” he explains.
[Perhaps that’s the perception but as a human being, our President is not perfect. He has his weaknesses and shortcomings. And so if you’re a real friend of the President and you messed up and you know you messed up, you will really do the honor of taking it upon yourself to leave so as not to hurt him.]
But while Aquino seems to tiptoe around his friends, there seems to be no hesitation on his part to run after those perceived to be corrupt in the opposition.