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Aquino's 'Daang Matuwid'

The various appointments done recently by President Aquino provide an interesting take on the theme of his administration—the “Daang Matuwid” or Straight Path. The latter, of course, refer to his anti-corruption campaign or honesty in government.

The “deep” appointment of Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno to the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is a bold leap into an uncharted territory. Her appointment by President Aquino catapulted a young, relatively inexperienced, but brilliant, woman jurist into the highest position in the judiciary, and into the history books.

On the other end, DOTC Secretary Manuel “Mar” Araneta Roxas II was appointed by President Aquino to the position of the Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) vacated by the recent death of DILG Secretary Jesse Manalastas Robredo. His appointment was expected as the Liberal Party gears up for the 2013 elections.

In Roxas’ place, another young, relatively unknown, but brilliant, legislator—Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya—was appointed DOTC Secretary. A great-grandson of the first president of the First Philippine Republic, Secretary Abaya is a key member of the inner circle of the Liberal Party.

What we witnessed is the unfolding of an Aquino venture to exert influence beyond his 2016 end-term. The positioning of Secretary Roxas into DILG fits into the traditional strategy of exerting presidential influence for the 2013 elections within the context of the 2016 presidential elections. Though these attempts in the past failed—witness the 1992 Mitra and 1998 de Venecia debacles—the Liberal Party cannot ignore the local political clans and dynasties that still make up much of the political power structure at the local level.

To be sure, Roxas is not an Aquino or a Robredo with their images of reform change. From a reform point of view, the president would have done better by appointing reform Liberals such as Deputy Speaker Erin Tañada, former Isabela governor Grace Padaca, or former Irosin, Sorsogon mayor Eddie Dorotan.

However, the DILG position puts Roxas in a position to project and undertake reform, even if only by continuing the reforms Secretary Robredo has undertaken. Unfortunately, this will become a herculean endeavour as the exigencies of electoral negotiations increasingly require the reining in of reforms that can hurt the local political clans and dynasties.

The Sereno appointment has an eighteen-year effectivity. She will outlast the present president and the next two presidents and will only leave the judicial stage in 2030. She therefore has the potential of implementing massive, long-term reforms in the judicial system. Within the context of the Aquino reforms, this means a corruption-free justice system, with accountability and transparency.

The “Daang Matuwid” certainly is trying to go a long way—as basic reforms should always be.

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