Grassroots & Governance


Last week here in Cebu, I saw a huge bus marked “Office of the Vice-President.” There also happens to be a sign outside an office building here that is marked “Office of the Vice-President of the Philippines.” Why should the Vice-President, who is supposed to be a spare tire in case the President is incapacitated, have offices and huge buses in the provinces? Are there other provincial offices and buses? What else are we funding needlessly with the peoples’ money?

Also, quite recently I got to watch a minimum of two- or three-minutes’ worth of what I would consider to be a commercial for Vice-President Sara Duterte. It was produced like a documentary on the compassion and constructive things she is allegedly doing for our people. For example, how concerned she is about widespread poverty and the low rate of reading skills among our students, as borne out in international exams. And her resolve to overcome the problem. The “documentary” also claimed that Sara Duterte has written a children’s book! So, now, the Vice-President is an author!

It seems to me obvious that Sara Duterte is running for President in the next election. But isn’t it too early to be campaigning, since that is six years away? And whose money is she using in this campaign to look intelligent and compassionate?

I propose that investigative reporters and the Commission on Audit look into the use of the peoples’ money for this image-building campaign.

Apparently her handlers have noted the drop in her favorable poll ratings and have mobilized the campaign. Where did the budget come from? Did this come out of the funds transferred from the President’s intelligence funds?

Vice-President Sara Duterte did say in a speech, during the controversy over her billion-peso budget request for an intelligence fund for the Office of the Vice-President, that those who opposed her proposal are against the Constitution, and against the nation! This budget request was in addition to her proposed intelligence fund for the Department of Education which she also heads.

As we all know, intelligence funds do not need to be accounted for! I guess it could have funded more and more huge buses and offices in the provinces, and related expenses for this and that.

Outside of her documentary, Sara Duterte has yet to demonstrate her competence and mature judgment. Her inability to handle questions during legislative inquiries, and her incredibly idiotic claim in a formal speech that opposing her proposal for a billion-peso intelligence fund is against the Constitution and against the nation, reveals judgment unfit for national leadership. In fact, this kind of judgment is dangerous for our country, if I may express my fear. There could be more of this kind of thinking.

Fortunately, at my age, I do not expect to be around for the next presidential election. So, what I really fear for is what can become of our country and my descendants if she does get to run, and if she does win.

Meanwhile, it also seems obvious that Speaker Martin Romualdez is making himself very present in the media, getting involved in executive functions, beyond legislation. It looks like he is also campaigning for President. But that is six years away!

There seems to be more and more politics and less and less governance. Almost half of our families are still living below the poverty line, in fact, suffering involuntary hunger too much of the time.

Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. still looks healthy and fit, so he should be around until the presidential election in 2028.

The President has decided to forego the meeting on Climate Change issues in Dubai. He could have been effectively the spokesman for climate justice among victim nations, the Philippines being the most vulnerable. Climate Justice is certainly a major concern for us, as well as for the rest of the Third World. Why he chose to stay, allegedly to focus on helping our Filipino seafarers who have been kidnapped in the Middle East, smacks to me of politics. Surely our capable foreign secretary and his cabinet colleagues could handle the job, even with him on telecommunications. Why did he send Environment Secretary Yulo Loyzaga instead?

Let’s focus on the right priorities for our people. And be more careful with the use of our hard-earned and limited funds.


Teresa S. Abesamis is a former professor at the Asian Institute of Management and fellow of the Development Academy of the Philippines.