Aquino Cabinet Appointments Raise More Questions than Hope

News Release
June 30, 2010

The appointments made by President Benigno Aquino III raise more questions than hope, according to the umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.

“It remains to be seen how most of the cabinet appointees will perform or how they will prove to be any different from the previous administration. The Aquino officials will be confronting the many problems left behind the outgoing Arroyo regime. We welcome the appointment of human rights defender Leila de Lima as Justice Secretary. This is the one bright spot in the many appointments formally announced yesterday. Many of the appointees are either close associates of Aquino or have been active campaign supporters during the last elections,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr .

Bayan expressed hope that Bro. Armin Luistro, new Education Secretary and an ally in the anti-Arroyo movement, would heed the demands and interests of the youth and teachers. “We worked with Bro. Armin in protest actions and other activities. We hope he will be open to discuss and address the problems of the education sector,” Reyes said.

The militant group however slammed the retention of Alberto Romulo as Foreign Affairs Secretary. “Romulo’s appointment sticks out like a sore thumb. He never resigned from the Arroyo cabinet and has never shown any remorse for the blunders he committed. He should have been sacked after he was rebuked by the Supreme Court when he allowed the transfer of convicted rapist US Marine Daniel Smith from the Makati City Jail to the US embassy. He’s a member of the VFA cheering-squad, an unapologetic Am-boy,” Reyes said.

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“Romulo’s appointment seems to be based on his support for Aquino during the campaign. His track record however shows he did not uphold national interests while in the DFA,” he added.

Bayan is also concerned that the appointment of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, a proponent of the E-VAT in 2005, will result in the continuation of the onerous taxation done under the Arroyo regime. “When Mr. Aquino says Pursima’s credentials speak for themselves, we can’t help but be reminded of the expanded VAT that Purisima pushed. Will we be treated to more of the same fiscal policies?” Reyes asked. Purisima is also listed a big contributor to the Aquino campaign.

The militant group observed that some cabinet appointees were representatives of big business such as Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim who is with the Makati Business Club; Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras who is the former president of the Ayala-owned Manila Water, and Transportation and Communication secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus who is the former president and chief operating officer of electricity distributor Meralco and also former PLDT executive vice president.

“As with the Aquino election campaign, the Aquino cabinet has many ties to big business. Let us see how these ties will weigh in on the decisions of the next administration,” Reyes said.

Bayan also challenged incoming Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin to abandon the counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya which has been blamed by human rights groups as responsible for the many killings of unarmed activists during the time of Arroyo.

“The cabinet appointments are a reflection of the policy direction that the new administration will take. Some of the appointments don’t give much hope for change. Some appointments indicate that we will be getting more of the same from the past regime,” Reyes said.

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