Of course I love Bel Cunanan even more, bless her conservative pro-government heart...
Teodoro as foil to Trillanes
By Belinda Olivares-Cunanan
Last updated 01:09am (Mla time) 07/03/2007
"President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is apparently keeping the matter of a Cabinet revamp close to her chest, as few officials seem to know much about it, although talks of Cabinet changes have been rife for the past two weeks. Rumors of the impending appointment of former Tarlac Rep. Gilbert Teodoro to the defense post had swirled for a whole year and intensified after he turned down the President’s suggestion that he run for senator. When Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane was moved to the defense department, the rumors about Teodoro died down, but it turned out that the former was merely warming the seat for him.
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Teodoro, 43, has been quite low-key in the House and even during the heated debates in the two impeachment attempts, he was hardly heard. But the few times he opened his mouth to speak, he sounded suave, articulate and polished. He seldom gave interviews, but his credentials were enough to attract attention: a graduate of the University of the Philippines' College of Law Class ’89, Harvard Law School for his master’s and the National Defense College; bar topnotcher; chair of the House committee on defense and former head of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in the House (from about 60 members several congresses ago, it’s now down to about half its old strength).
But for the media, Teodoro’s most significant qualification is perhaps his being the favorite nephew of industrialist Eduardo Cojuangco. One can feel resistance to his appointment because of this factor, but his supporters argue that he was too young to fully understand what his uncle was up to in the 1970s with the coco levy funds and Marcos, and that they are two separate individuals. But certain acts of Teodoro in the past indicate how close their interests were.
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From what I observed in the House, Teodoro preferred to operate in the background. I recall that he was obviously pulling the strings in the NPC’s attempt three years ago to impeach then Chief Justice Hilario Davide in what was widely believed to be a proxy war for his uncle who had several unresolved cases in the Supreme Court. At that time, the NPC was the biggest bloc next to the ruling party and it flexed its muscles hard. During the deliberations on Davide’s impeachment, Teodoro’s good-looking wife, Nikki Prieto-Teodoro (who was elected recently to his old Tarlac seat), and other Cojuangco women were prominent in the galleries.
In the light of public outrage over this move against the popular and respected Chief Justice, young Representatives Wimpy Fuentebella, Darlene Custodio and Jack Duavit were sent to the Inquirer to explain the NPC’s action. They were met by hostile editors, columnists and reporters who reduced them to tears or migraines. The journalists castigated their party for bringing the nation to the brink of a constitutional crisis, through a deadly confrontation between two branches of government. I recall asking to myself, “Where is Teodoro?” I hope he has since matured about the use of political power.
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Teodoro’s new appointment comes at a crucial time for the DND. The new Human Security Act of 2007, more popularly known as the Anti-Terrorism Law, will take effect on July 15 and it is causing a lot of anxieties among activist groups. His legal background, honed for eight years in the law office of Estelito Mendoza, could provide him handy tools.
Then there’s the Armed Forces’ modernization program began by lawyer Avelino Cruz, which calls for close monitoring to avoid the pitfalls of built-in graft. And there’s the peace processes that must be pushed as a crucial requisite to sustaining economic growth. Teodoro’s appointment sits well with those who have clamored for another civilian in the mold of Cruz, who was viewed as a rather detached reformist technocrat. Let’s hope he’s not overwhelmed by his political baggage, as Cruz was by his ties with “The Firm.”
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It’s quite possible that Teodoro was chosen by President Arroyo to dazzle and awe the Armed Forces with his impressive credentials, so that he becomes a counter-foil to the high-powered media buildup of Antonio Trillanes who’s in the same age bracket. To quote our Inquirer colleague from Mindanao, Antonio J. Montalvan II, the former Oakwood rebel leader mesmerized 11 million Filipino voters by presenting himself as “a knight in shining armor who comes to save the republic from the ignominy of an unpopular administration.” This he did by looking persecuted and hardly opening his mouth. It proved a very good campaign strategy, for after his election, Trillanes seems to be confirming suspicions that, as Montalvan put it, “there is nothing between those ears.” Teodoro, by contrast, is expected to be sharp, bright and poised -- a rich kid with brains.
He should be a foil as well to the two new opposition senators who never authored a single bill in the House and who won overwhelmingly because of their incredible press.
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As for Ebdane, many people thought he had slid seamlessly into the defense post, after Ms Arroyo took over briefly from Cruz. Thus, a good number of people were surprised when the appointment of Teodoro came. But what makes Ebdane’s return to the Deparment of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) more significant is that it comes at a time when a recent survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS) placed that department among those with “very bad sincerity” (below 50 points) in dealing with corruption and bribery, along with the Bureau of Customs.
The seventh in the annual SWS Business Survey on Corruption conducted with the Makati Business Club stressed that the DPWH and the Bureau of Customs had improved their ratings from minus 66 to minus 55 and minus 74 to minus 68, respectively, but still the two agencies remained at the bottom, indicating that a lot of cleaning up is needed to be done there.
Will Ebdane rise to the challenge of the new buzzword -- “reformist governance” -- while he pushes for the completion of mega-projects until 2010?"