On Target

Aquino doesn’t fire inefficient subordinates

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11:04 PM November 12th, 2012

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November 12th, 2012 11:04 PM

President Noy won’t go wrong with his new “little president,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, my Palace source said.

Almendras was featured in the front page of the Inquirer on Sunday as belonging to the President’s “innermost circle of classmates, schoolmates and buddies from Ateneo de Manila University.”

The former energy secretary is one of the trio in the President’s inner circle, including Bong Naguiat, chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) and Romy Mercado, whose family used to own Red Ribbon Bakeshop.

(The Inquirer article failed to mention another of President Noy’s closest friends, although he’s out of the limelight now: retired police Lt. Gen. Ernesto Diokno, former director of the Bureau of Corrections.)

According to my Palace source, Almendras is very protective of the President—“in fact, overly protective”—and probably asked to be assigned in Malacañang so he could be close to Mr. Aquino and advise him of his every move.

“With Almendras, Naguiat and Mercado advising him on what to do, the President can’t go wrong,” said my Palace spy.

*   *   *

Mr. Aquino is bullheaded and usually doesn’t listen to advice from his Cabinet members, but he listens to Almendras, Naguiat and Mercado, said the Palace birdie.

“Why? Because he knows that they’re only interested in his welfare,” my source said.

Another Palace insider confirmed what my first source said about

Almendras.

*   *   *

So what happens to Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa whose functions have been turned over to Almendras?

“Nahihiya lang na paalisin ni P-Noy si [Executive Secretary Jojo] Ochoa dahil sa kanyang bayaw (P-Noy is uncomfortable telling Ochoa to resign because of his brother-in-law),” said the second Palace insider.

Ochoa’s brother-in-law, Jose Acuzar, a construction magnate, was one of the President’s biggest financiers in the 2010 elections.

Ochoa has been performing below par as primus inter pares (first among equals) among Cabinet members because he always comes to the office late, according to Malacañang insiders.

It’s not in the President’s character, said the second source, to embarrass a subordinate by telling him to resign.

Another proof of the President’s unwillingness to axe subordinates is Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon Paje.

“The President, in a fit of anger, once told Malacañang officials that Paje was corrupt,” said the source.

If Paje reads this, he knows how the President feels about him.

*   *   *

Speaking of Paje, why has he not made public statements about the dumping of hazardous wastes on Subic Bay by US Navy ships?

As secretary of the environment and natural resources, it’s Paje’s job to

protect our seas, rivers and air from pollution.

*   *   *

Gina Lopez’s Bantay Kalikasan, under ABS-CBN Foundation, cut down at

least 44 gmelina trees in sitio Cabar, Bgy. Aribungos, Brooke’s Point, Palawan province.

The foundation plans to set up a resort in the area.

It didn’t have any permit from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cut down the trees.

Bantay kalikasan (guardian of the environment) or patay kalikasan (killer of the environment)?

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