Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Twenty years ago in the time of the late President Corazon Aquino, the Commission on Appointments (CA) bypassed the confirmation of then Agrarian Reform Secretary Florencio 'Butch' Abad. Leaders of his own Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino party-list wanted him to swear he would be "fair" in his decisions on land disputes. Read "fair" to mean in favor of landlords and vested interests making a mockery of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), touted as the cornerstone of the Cory administration's supposedly people-oriented platform.

Butch Abad's woes came after he fought a plan backed by powerful politicians in partnership with giant Japanese corporations to convert a huge chunk of agricultural land in Cavite into an industrial estate. He was forced into a situation where he had to swallow his pride and principles and obey the commands of his tormentors or quit in disgust and keep intact his self-respect and conscience. After his mutiliation, no scintilla of doubt lingered anymore about the power of landlords and vested interests in that administration.

These powerful groups did not even turn tail before a strong-willed Miriam Defensor-Santiago. So, no upstart like Butch could scare them even a bit. Even former Representative Lorna Verano-Yap could not do anything to his defense but sulk and pout in one corner. She didn't count with those powerful groups in the executive and the legislative departments.

And then, that deep disappointment over the results of a press conference called by beleaguered Secretary Abad where everybody thought he would resign because of the successful drive by landlords to have his nomination blocked by the CA? Butch announced he would stick it out and work for the approval of his case and that he even ran to Tita Cory to help him with his confirmation.

Abad missed the chance for greatness. If he had resigned as a matter of principle and to keep his self-respect and pride, as many had expected, he would have been one of the very few upright officials of the Cory regime. His much-admired late father who was an exemplary government official would have been proud of him. That was then.

Well, maybe Butch thought he should hang on tough and stay on so that he could serve his people better in government service, especially those poor farmers who had looked up to him as one of their remaining defenders against the landlords and vested interests infesting our institutions.

And then there was also President Cory Aquino's vow to use her "persuasive powers" to push through Abad's nomination in the CA. That was better read as to use her "coercive powers."

President Cory felt she owed Abad so much since she convinced him to give up his elective post as a member of Congress and could not leave him to the vultures to pick on his flesh and bones.

The much-ballyhooed CARP under the Cory regime ended in the gutter.

Today, Butch is back as a cabineteer but not at the Department of Agrarian Reform again but instead at the Department of Budget and Management. His daughter heads the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) while two other members of his family hold influential positions in government. He has learned well and knows that whoever holds the gold (budget) makes the rules.

But methinks they're just like the four Arroyos now in Congress. Just too many of them. This certainly sets a bad precedent and a slap on a presidency calling for "change."

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