The President is on a roll
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - July 29, 2019 - 12:00am

A week after the state of the nation address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte at the 18th Congress, top executives of government agencies he identified under his watch out list are edgy on the fate that awaits them. President Duterte took the opportunity of his SONA not only to highlight his administration’s accomplishments for the past three years but also named the government agencies that are mired in corruption or track record of poor quality of public service.

President Duterte first zeroed in on the most recent scam that resulted to his removing the head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. Also on top of the President’s hate list is the Bureau of Customs which he described as “corruption-ridden” agency of government. President Duterte announced more personnel of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) who are facing corruption charges, 62 of them plus 100 more, will be removed from their posts.

The Chief Executive though commended the present leadership of Customs Bureau headed by commissioner retired Gen. Leonardo Guerrero for being able to surpass its revenue collection target for the period. “Imagine how much more could have been collected had the BOC been clean and less corrupt,” the Chief Executive fumed.

In his usual unfiltered language, President Duterte did not mince words in attacking at his SONA the government-owned Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). He chastised LBP for operating like a profit-oriented bank instead of serving its mandate to help in the financing needs of Filipino farmers and the rest of the Philippine agriculture sector.

“What the heck is happening to you? You are supposed to finance agricultural enterprises and endeavors. Bakit wala?  Bakit – Why can’t you just buy a few wagons or whatever? Go to the countryside and ask the people if there are cooperatives, tulungan ninyo to form one,” the President seethed in between gritted teeth.

“You know, you are called Land Bank but you are now the number one commercial bank in the Philippines,” the President ranted. “Land Bank should go back to land. Why are you mired in so many commercial transactions? Bumalik kayo where you were created for and that is to help the farmers. Ilang administration na wala? You better decide on that. I will give you until the end of July to give me a plan or else I will ask Congress to reconfigure you,” the President warned.

In the same vein, the President reiterated his promise to continue to invest in the countryside through agricultural programs that will increase the productivity and income of our small farmers and fisherfolk. He vowed to safeguard the livelihood of small farmers through the provisions of modern farm equipment and machineries, seeds and credit, and extension services.

What also riles him most, the President disclosed in his SONA, is the plight of thousands of Filipino coconut farmers while the sequestered more than P5 billion coco levy funds remain unresolved. Much of the coco levy funds are deposited at the sequestered United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB). Last Friday, UCPB president and chief executive officer Higinio “Joey” Macadaeg Jr. submitted a handwritten resignation to President Duterte. The UCPB is the country’s 12th largest lender in terms of assets of P311.22 billion as of end March this year and ranked 14th in terms of capital with P16.65 billion.

The President’s sentiments on the LBP were most appreciated by the private banking sector. The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) concurred with the presidential concern that LBP has been acting in competition with commercial banks through these years. The BAP, currently headed by Cezar Consing as president, agreed with the President’s directives for LBP to give priority to providing equity funds to agriculture-related ventures and the Filipino farmers to be the state bank’s foremost clientele.

Consing, who is the president and chief executive officer of the Bank of the Philippine Islands, lauded the Duterte administration’s giving more attention to the country’s agriculture in tandem with the Build, Build, Build Infrastructure program to spur an investment-led growth of the Philippine economy.

Consing credited the President’s economic team that included former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno and now Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). He described Diokno as best fitted BSP Governor for having both the fiscal experience and skills as former Budget chief and competence on monetary management.  

In his SONA, President Duterte joked about his having transferred Diokno to the BSP because the former DBM chief along with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez would always purportedly claim the government have so much revenues but do not have enough money whenever he asks for funding sources for government projects he wants to pursue.

During the same SONA at the joint opening sessions last Monday at the Batasang Pambansa, the former Davao City Mayor also lashed at government agencies with poor public service records. Digressing from his prepared SONA speech, the President listed the following in his horror roll.

Ranked as the “top five agencies that need to drastically improve their service,” the President called out, namely, the Land Transportation Office (LTO); the Social Security System (SSS); the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); the Land Registration Office (LRA); and, the Pag-Ibig Office.

And more to follow especially after a visibly irate President Duterte made an impromptu taped announcement on late Friday night. He ordered suspension of all lotto and other gaming operations franchised by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) due to so much reported massive corruption in the state-run agency. Only last March this year, the President accepted the resignation of retired Marine Gen. Alexander Balutan as PCSO general manager over alleged corruption issues. Ex-Policewoman Col. Royina Garma took over from Balutan.

While the President is on the roll, we may perhaps see more heads rolling soon from these government agencies.

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