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BS Aquino is still ‘Philippine President’

Well, that’s according to the Republic’s “Official Directory” as posted on www.gov.ph/directory (see image). The website www.gov.ph, since 2010, had become the Official Gazette, the official journal of the Republic, created under Commonwealth Act No. 628 of 1941.

So, according to our Official Directory, Benigno S. Aquino is the Philippine President, Paquito Ochoa the executive secretary, Joseph Abaya is transport secretary — and all that whole yellow gang we wanted to forget.

How difficult is it to update a website? Newspapers do this everyday, and even high school students do it for their blogs. Yet Presidential Communications Office Secretary Martin Andanar, who supervises the Official Gazette, boasts he would transform PTV-4 into the Philippine equivalent of the British Broadcasting Corp.?

This may seem trivial to most people, but the Official Gazette is the Official Gazette – even in its electronic form now – the repository of the national government’s official main documents.

I can’t imagine what foreign embassies are citing as sources for their reports on who runs the Philippines — newspaper clippings? There’s a link at www.gov.ph to “The President.” Follow the link and there’ s a message that’s been there for two months now: “President.gov.ph is getting a major update. While waiting, check our social media and come again soon.” This, more than two months after Duterte was elected President?

That the Official Directory hasn’t even been updated indicates the incompetence of the person in charge of it – the Secretary of Presidential Communications Operations (PCO) – a government post I’ve heard of and  read only in media. The executive  order, if indeed there is one, creating the PCO isn’t even posted in the Official Gazette, which means Aquino’s structure of three offices dealing with information and media still remains as the legal structure.

Maybe Andanar’s appointment and that of his colleagues are in www.gov.ph’s “Appointments and Designations” section?  Nope, the latest appointment posted there was the appointment of a new Coast Guard Commandant by President Aquino on Jan. 18, 2016.

This kind of incompetence could have serious legal consequences, given that there is a law that requires presidential orders to be published first for a certain period of time in the Official Gazette before they take effect.

How many of President Duterte’s executive orders have been posted on the Gazette? Just two: the first E.O. No. 1 (which put 12 agencies under the Cabinet secretary) and No. 2 (the freedom of information order). So we don’t even know how many EOs Duterte has issued so far. How many of his administrative orders have been posted on the Official Gazette? None.

How difficult is it to update a website? Screen grab of the Official Gazette’s Official Directory, on the Office of the President.
How difficult is it to update a website? Screen grab of the Official Gazette’s Official Directory, on the Office of the President.

Listen guys: Duterte is no longer the mayor of Davao City so that if he were so, records could be ante-dated. He is now the President of the Republic, whose actions are translated into executive or administrative orders, which the public must be informed of, through the Official Gazette.

It is such hypocrisy on the part of Duterte’s administration that it boasts of its freedom of information order, yet it hasn’t been releasing to the public through the Official Gazette information such as presidential issuances it is required to publish.

Perhaps Andanar doesn’t understand what the Official Gazette is, which is presumably under his supervision.

I suspect he doesn’t, and thinks that it is merely Duterte’s website. This would explain why EOs that have been subject of news reports, such as the one involving freedom of information, Memorandum Circular No 4 (which ordered the courtesy resignations of presidential appointees), and Proclamation No. 55, declaring the state of national emergency on “account of lawless violence” were posted on www. gov.ph, but not the others. Andanar thinks that the Official Gazette simply publishes the press releases on urgent topics coming from or on behalf of the President’s office.

It isn’t. Instead, it is a repository of all presidential documents that must be released to the public.

That the Official Gazette has been left unattended to by Andanar is probably due to his limited experience, mostly as news anchor, with that kind of job not requiring one to look what’s under the hood, but simply reading what’s fed to them by the TV reporters. He also seems to have a penchant for following Duterte around to appear behind him in front of the TV cameras, and to give media briefings, a role meant for the presidential spokesman, in this case, Emilio Abella.

During Aquino’s administration, Manuel Quezon 3rd ran the Official Gazette, and I think he did a very good job, which projected a lazy, incompetent President as an efficient professional. When I needed to read for myself an EO Aquino issued in the morning, I could find that in the Gazette the next day. Since July 1, however, I have had to rely on newspapers’ posting of such orders. Why not get Quezon to run the Gazette again, so we will no longer suffer his very wordy articles in his blog so that he, instead, gives succinct analysis?

The most inefficient department
I stumbled upon the untended state of the Official Gazette when I tried to find out if House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez’s questions over the loyalty of the Department of Transportation’s four undersecretaries were valid.

Alvarez, in a Congress hearing, told DoTr secretary Arthur Tugade: “Let’s be frank and blunt about this. I want to know whose interest you are serving in the department, because it seems that in every administration, big corporations install their people in agencies that have to do with their business.” He also claimed that he also questioned the competence of one undersecretary, who, he said, has been with the former Department of Transportation and Communications (the previous DOTC) for many years and could not solve the problem of inadequate car plates, driver’s licenses and certificates of registration for vehicles. (Is that the undersecretary appointed by President Arroyo who quickly became a Yellow Cultist with Aquino’s election?)

Alvarez’s suspicions seemed to me worth following up, so I tried to find out from the Official Gazette who the DoTr’s current undersecretaries were. There was nothing there, as the Gazette’s official directory had not been updated to the time the Duterte Administration stepped in. An indication of the department’s incompetence is that its own website does not even list its own officers.

It seems to me that the DoTr is emerging as this Administration’s most inefficient department, with its officers unchanged from Aquino’s watch. Its secretary, Arthur Tugade, Duterte’s law-school classmate at San Beda, was head of the Clark Development Corp. for four years in the Aquino Administration, and what accomplishment can he boast about when he was there?

You wouldn’t guess what was one of Tugade’s bright ideas for solving the traffic in Metro Manila.

Cable cars. In a TV interview in July, Tugade said cable cars running about five to 10 kilometers from Pasig City to EDSA and Makati City might help decongest roads.

Not a single thing has changed under the new DoTr. Traffic along EDSA has worsened as Tugade and his undersecretaries have been spending their time discussing such cockeyed solutions to the EDSA traffic, like banning private cars, instead of focusing on the MRT-3’s efficiency, the real solution to the problem.

I renewed my car’s registration in May, and when I asked the LTO people the other week when the plates would be available, they said they had no idea. I have friends who renewed their car registrations in 2014. I renewed my driver’s license last week, and was given only a receipt. I was told to return on Jan. 17, 2017 to check if my new license is available by then.

What kind of a country have we become if it takes more than two years for a car plate to be issued, and six months for a simple plastic ID to be renewed?