Aquino warns: I’ll void ‘midnight’ appointments, deals

Aquino warns: I’ll void ‘midnight’ appointments, deals
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Liberal Party standard-bearer Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Thursday warned foreign governments and suppliers against entering into “midnight contracts” with the outgoing Arroyo administration.

Without giving specifics, the LP senator alleged that graft-ridden, “supplier-driven” deals involving the Armed Forces modernization program were “being rushed even as we speak.”

He also denounced the “midnight appointments” of administration favorites in the defense establishment.

In a wide-ranging speech at the Mandarin Oriental in Makati, Aquino said any “midnight deal” with the administration would be scrapped if proven to be disadvantageous to the government.

“We call upon suppliers and representatives of foreign governments to refrain from entering into 11th-hour contracts with this outgoing administration,” Aquino said.

“If such midnight deals are concluded just the same, they must all be subjected to the strictest scrutiny and immediately rescinded whenever warranted.”

Soldiers’ lives are the price

Aquino lambasted the administration for failing to come up with a comprehensive national security program and failing to curb “endemic corruption” in the security services.

“Every peso stolen from the budget of our security organizations represents a drop of blood of our soldiers, airmen, sailors and police officers who risk their lives in the service of our nation,” he said.

Aquino said procurement reforms that promote transparency must be fully implemented and include the participation of reputable watchdogs. “Anyone caught profiting from procurement contracts will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Personal loyalties

Aquino accused the administration of undermining the defense establishment through the “midnight appointments” of favorites and through “politically driven policies and actions.”

“The most recent of these actions include midnight appointments in key leadership positions based on personal loyalties instead of merit,” he said.

Other politically driven actions were the “coddling and arming” of warlords and private armies that have acted with impunity, as shown in the Maguindanao massacre, reversal of policies to insulate the military and police from partisan politics, and the “repeated abuse” of powers by the Commander in Chief to promote a political agenda “in the guise of addressing emergencies.”

“It is unfortunate how the present administration has quickly forgotten that as a result of similar acts in the past, some of our men and women in uniform have taken to the extreme and rose in mutiny,” Aquino said.

Why warlords are protected

He said the administration was protecting warlords because they were useful during elections.

“It chose to coddle warlords willing to deliver command votes come election time rather than arrest them,” he said.

Aquino cited the Ampatuan clan as a prime example of the Arroyo administration’s failure to rein in warlords and resolve conflict in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“The infamous Ampatuans have become the symbol of everything that has gone wrong in Maguindanao, ARMM and other conflict-ridden areas. While political warlords like the Ampatuans live like kings, their own constituencies live in abject poverty and hopelessness,” Aquino said.

Ominous sign

Aquino said the recent Department of Justice decision to release suspended ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Maguindanao Vice Gov. Akmad Ampatuan—both massacre suspects—boded ill for the elections in Maguindanao.

“Nineteen days from today, our people will go to thousands of precincts all over the archipelago to exercise their right to vote,” Aquino said.

“The release of (the two Ampatuans) comes at a suspicious time—a few weeks before the elections. The consent of our fellow brothers and sisters in Maguindanao, we can predict, will not be given freely and honestly,” he added.

He said that from a broader perspective, the Maguindanao massacre and the Ampatuans “are the symptoms of a deeper systemic problem: The failure of the Arroyo administration to implement a comprehensive national security policy that focuses on the root causes of war and conflict.”

“Unless we correct this problem immediately, the democratic way of life will never be secure in our country and progress will remain an elusive dream,” Aquino said.

Under one flag

He said the national government, in partnership with international donor organizations, must assist the new ARMM government in building a capable bureaucracy with transparent procedures to speed up development projects.

Aquino vowed to make the peace process “transparent and participative” so that Filipinos would have a secure future “under one sovereign flag.”

“With the consent of our people, I am confident that the next six years will be a watershed period in the history of our young nation that is at peace with itself and proudly marching toward an even brighter future,” he said.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.