• Reading time:7 mins read

Aquino’s buddies, the worst officials

By buddies I mean those with whom he has had close personal ties, but who have utterly botched their responsibilities.

Consider for instance this most shameful “tanim-bala” racket at our Manila international airport, which would have been kept from public knowledge if not for a middle-aged female OFW victim who refused to pay the extortion money, so that she had been detained for days until the media discovered her plight.

“Tanim bala” – in which certain airport staff and security men plant bullets in people’s baggage and threaten to prosecute them for the “crime” – has been a lucrative extortion racket that has been going on a daily basis since President Aquino took office, according to an enterprise news coverage by the ABS-CBN televisionnetwork. (See: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/video/nation/v3/10/30/15/sindikato-nasa-likod-ng-tanim-bala).

These extortionists victimized not only our OFWs but also tourists from abroad, who, of course, told the world about it through social media.

It was downright indecent for Presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma to dismiss it with his pseudo-intellectual “put-in-context” claim that there have only been a few such cases out of the thousands that normally pass through our airports. How could he know that? “Ilan-ilan lang naman, ilagay natin sa konteksto,” this clown claimed in his hilarious way of speaking Filipino.

Indeed, the extortion racket is so scandalous – an airport, the nation’s entrance gate, is supposed to be the safest of places to be – that the international magazine Time and the British Broadcasting Corp.’s website reported extensively on it. Popular websites as traveladvisor.com and kickerdaily.com also reported on it, with their articles drawing thousands of views. Time’s report oozed with sarcasm: “The job of airport security is to confiscate dangerous items from suitcases, but travelers have recently found the opposite is true in the Philippines’ Manila Airport, where staff have allegedly been dropping bullets into the bags of unsuspecting passengers.”

Who is in charge of the international airport? Who has command responsibility for such a scandalous crime that has shamed our country?

Retired Air Force General Jose Angel Honrado, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) – that’s who. And who is Honrado?

Cory’s aide-de-camp
He was President Cory Aquino’s aide-de-camp during her entire term, and who, I was told, had been close to our incumbent President and his sisters, being the family’s chief security adviser even after Cory has stepped down from power. This President (Benigno 3rd) had been especially close to Honrado, one of the two “kuya”s (big brother) to him. (A real brother of Jose Angel – Jose Danilo Honrado – is with the Clark Development Corp. who in 2011 lobbied to replace Customs Chief Ruffy Biazon.)

Aquino and his “kuyas”: Honrado, general manager of “tanim-bala” airport and sacked police chief Purisima of Mamasapano notoriety.
Aquino and his “kuyas”: Honrado, general manager of “tanim-bala” airport and sacked police chief Purisima of Mamasapano notoriety.

Jose Angel Honrado’s closeness to Aquino has been well known at the airport and even at the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), to which MIAA is attached.

Even in past episodes when the international airport became an international embarrassment because its facilities were breaking down (as in many cases when its air-conditioning system shut down last summer), nobody in government dared take Honrado to task.

When Honrado suffered a heart attack in July and had to go on medical leave for three weeks, many at the DOTC thought he would be utterly unfit for the high-pressure job so that several officials and two outsiders lobbied to take over his position.

Unexpectedly, Honrado returned in August, although sources claimed that he had been spending half-days only at the office, often offering the excuse to his staff that he was being called to Malacanang for ‘consultations.’ Honrado’s arrogance has, in fact, been such that even a week after the “tanim-bala” controversy had hogged the headlines, he hasn’t bothered to face the press to respond to media questions.

Officials put by Aquino in plum posts because of his personal relationships with them have proven to be his biggest liabilities.

Aquino’s second kuya
Former Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima had been Aquino’s second “kuya.” He was his close-in bodyguard during his mother’s presidency, on duty 24/7, reportedly even during his nightlife in his youth. Purisima has been known to be the only person, other than his personal aide, who could go inside Aquino’s bedroom to wake him up.

Other than Aquino himself, as mentioned in a report by his former ally, Senator Grace Poe, Purisima was accountable for the botched operation against two international terrorists that led to the massacre in Mamasapano of 44 Special Action troops by the Muslim insurgents in Mindanao early this year. Quite obviously, Aquino trusted Purisima so much that despite this police chief’s suspension from his post by the Ombudsman, the President put this “kuya” in command of the operations, anyway.

Things – jueteng things in particular – would likely have caught up with Purisima, if he hadn’t been removed. Can you imagine a police chief being sued for extortion by Atong Ang, the infamous jueteng lord during President Estrada’s time?

Another of Aquino’s long-time buddy, Rico Puno, was kicked out early enough. Aquino had put him in the interior and local government department as undersecretary for the PNP, and had bypassed DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, who had suspicions that he was coddling jueteng operators. If Robredo had not died, Puno most likely would have stayed on in his post, and gotten involved in the Mamasapano operation, together with Purisima.

And there’s Jose Emilio Abaya, another Aquino chum, a Liberal Party vice president and secretary of the transport and communication department, who has command responsibility for the current mess at the MRT-3. That rail transport system could break down anytime and kill commuters – a far, far cry when it had been the pride in the last decade of its Japanese builders, Mitsubishi and Sumitomo, as they boasted about it in their global marketing thrust.

Of course, as has been this office’s trademark, the Ombudsman has charged Abaya’s subordinates for alleged extortion attempts involving the supply of train cars – but not the secretary himself.

Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc has written in detail about the anomalous bidding that awarded a consortium, which included a known Liberal Party stalwart, the P4.2 billion contract to rehabilitate and maintain the MRT-3. As arrogant as Honrado has acted in the case of the tanim-bala controversy, Abaya hasn’t even bothered to dispute Bondoc’s allegation.

Among many things, one of Aquino’s biggest character flaws is his poor judgment of character, a terrible weakness for a President, who appoints – believe it or not – at least 3,000 posts in all branches of government.

Would you trust his judgment in choosing another of his close buddies, Manuel A. Roxas 2nd, to be a good president?