Lawmakers worry over appointment of military official as DSWD head
Senator Risa Hontiveros and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin have raised concerns over President Rodrigo Duterte’s seeming penchant for appointing retiring military officials to the Cabinet, latest of which is Philippine Army Chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista, whom the Commander-in-Chief wants to name as new Social Welfare Secretary.
“Nakakabahala ‘yong ganon, because DSWD is an agency that should be headed by a civilian, at alam naman natin ang role ng DSWD is really to do relief and care for our disadvantaged, distressed citizens,” Villarin said in an ambush interview on Friday.
Hontiveros on the other hand, said that while she acknowledges the opinion and views of soldiers, there are other capable people outside the military who can lead the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
“Pinapahalagahan ko ‘yong expertise nila sa national defense, but I think na mas malawak pa, at mas malalim ang bench ng buong lipunang Pilipino para punuin ni President ang kanyang Kabinete,” Hontiveros told reporters.
“At saka ‘yong dagdag nang dagdag na former military personnel sa kabinete ay mas maka-dagdag kaysa maka-bawas sa pangangamba ng mamamayan na parang may creeping authoritarianism talaga na nangyayari,” she added.
On Thursday night, Duterte said he wants Bautista to be the next DSWD chief. Previously, the President said Bautista will head the National Food Authority, after former administrator Jason Aquino resigned.
Villarin expressed fear that if Bautista is indeed appointed as DSWD Secretary, the agency might be used for counter-insurgency efforts of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
He asserted that Bautista’s appointment to DSWD should be “thoroughly looked into,” saying DSWD must be led by a civilian.
“Ngayon kung isang military ang uupo dyan, that mindset could be used as a counter-insurgency tool, so may pangamba na magagamit ‘yong DSWD as a counter-insurgency tool,” the lawmaker said.
“It might lead to a de facto military junta. But again, this appointment, I think should be thoroughly looked into, lalong lalo na ang Commission on Appointments, at tignan kung meron ba talagang basis why a general should head an agency na historically ay civilian dapat ang naghe-head,” he added.
According to Hontiveros, the government should prioritize and uphold the rights of civilians. She, however, still believes that the AFP would continue to be a professional agency.
“Dapat hindi military junta na magmumukha, but it should be in form and in substance ang isang gobyerno na tinataguyod ‘yong prinsipyo ng civilian supremacy at all times,” she said.
“Kaya patuloy ang aking panawagan sa Armed Forces, at sa kanyang Chief of Staff na si Sir (General) Charlie Galvez […] patuloy ang aking tiwala at panawagan na pamunuan niya at manatili ang Armed Forces na isang autonomous institution, na hindi papagamit sa kahibangang destab or pag-atake sa legitimate opposition,” she added.
If appointed as DSWD Secretary, Bautista will join numerous ex-military men in the Duterte Cabinet, namely, former AFP Chiefs of Staff Eduardo Año, Leonardo Guerrero, and Roy Cimatu, who are now officer-in-charge of the interior department, administrator of Marina, and Environment Secretary, respectively; and retired Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, who is currently the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. /kga
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.