In or out?

CITIZEN Y - Yoly Villanueva-Ong -

Ever since the Palace announced a possible revamp in the Cabinet, coffee circles are abuzz with tittle-tattle and speculation. Bets are being placed as to who’s in and who’s out like the latest gambling game in town. Reports of who’s being considered to replace whom are proliferating, and the irrepressible radio commentators are having a field day.

Those who were passed-up for a position last year believe they now have a second chance. Resumes are being made-over as eagerly as perceived connections to and influencers of Malacañang are being sought out. Claims of secret “negotiations” are being leaked to Media. Meanwhile, the pundits have their own scorecards naming those who, in their personal and informed opinion, ought to be replaced. With our innate appetite for intrigue, the rumor mill is on overdrive!

The people are calling P-Noy out on his promise to purge the non-performers from his Cabinet. In private sector, there is a six-month probationary period where the “probies” must make the mark to become regular employees. This is the sixth month of his Presidency. Hence those who didn’t pass probation should be jettisoned for an upgrade.

A quick roundup on the subject indicates the early favorites for exit. Whether this is just a wish list, or revealed by unimpeachable sources is not clear. There’s also the distinct possibility that the Press feeds are coming from “well-fed” sources. With these disclaimers in mind, here’s the local version of Wiki-leaks.

In first place is P-Noy buddy, DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno. From the onset, his credentials were deemed middling. Retired Arch. Oscar Cruz implicated Puno as a jueteng beneficiary, an accusation that was flatly denied. Later Puno admitted that there was indeed an offer of munificence from some jueteng lords but he refused it. Since there was no hard evidence for this alleged transgression, Puno stayed on as DILG undersecretary in charge of the Police. The deaths of eight Hong Kong tourists last year due to poor handling of the hostage crisis, was the litmus test of his on-the-job competence. When he was judged ineffectual, there was a clamor for his head. Puno unabashedly stated, “P-Noy can’t fire me”— sinking deeper into the quagmire. Since the incident, he seems to have vanished, deftly dodging the public eye.

The golf community cried foul when Lito Alvarez was appointed Customs Commissioner. He was accused of cheating at a tournament and persuading his caddy to improve his score. The caddy was consequently fired. Alvarez was barred from Alabang Country Club for six months and suspended from tourneys for five years! Whereas the non-golfers considered this episode a venial sin, they questioned the possible conflict of interest since Alvarez was the former CEO of Air 21, a courier that dealt with Customs regularly. In his first few months at BOC, he suspended several personnel without due process. Consequently he had to backpedal for lack of legal merit. Alvarez has since announced that he will just focus on collections, a welcome development since he’s way below targets.

Depending on which bench you sit, there is a pandemonium of ouster calls for either Sonny Coloma or Ricky Carandang. But a snarkier digital rage is leveled at Coloma for allegedly commandeering the 2M Facebook fanbase of two Fil-Ams who were volunteers during Noy’s campaign. He was also rapped for posturing as the spokesperson earlier. One more point against him was his role in Donald Tsang’s missed call at the height of the hostage taking. Lately, Coloma has been unseen and unheard, opting to keynote numerous conferences instead.

In contrast, the next tandem suffers from ho-hum invisibility, the nothing’s-happening-here-syndrome. Not a peep from DENR Sec. Ramon Paje and DOH Sec. Enrique Ona on any accomplishments to date. After the initial furor questioning their appointments, Paje for supposedly being the most prolific grant-receiver in the department, and Ona for his controversial stand on organ-selling, the two have closed down, like stores on final clearance.

DFA Sec. Bert Romulo was supposedly just a one-year continuity/transition choice. But the fly-on-the-wall disclosed that his staff could barely wait for his replacement, Albert del Rosario. He was the former US Ambassador who was sacked by GMA purportedly for failing to photograph that singular Obama-GMA eyeball.

The last three names on the list have been hit in the same columns over and over, thereby inviting suspicions of an agenda: Rene Almendras, Dinky Soliman and Jesse Robredo. The three have impeccable credentials and an established track record in their respective fields.

A Southern bloc is opposing the confirmation of DoE Sec. Almendras for reasons unknown. Despite Code NGO’s official statement clearing Dinky from any involvement in the contentious PEACe bonds issue, the attacks against her are relentless. Then there’s Magsaysay awardee, Jesse Robredo, who remains in an acting capacity at DILG. His solid achievements are longer than this space allows. He deserves a medal for leading with perseverance and performing his mandate under extraordinary circumstances. Some ”dishonest brokers” badly covet his job.

Through feedback in mainstream and new media, P-Noy’s bosses have articulated their wish for an improved, strengthened and above all, untainted leadership team. Finding the best and the brightest who will not stray from the straight and narrow path is admittedly a daunting challenge. But the mission is clear: Keep the good ones in. Throw the rotten eggs out.

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