Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary and Spokesperson Jonathan Malaya stressed today that the public appreciates the results of good performance by government officials better than their background in reaction to Rep. Edcel Lagman’s call for the President to dismantle the alleged “military oligarchy” in government.
Malaya said that the DILG, in particular, has been assured by the continuing public approval it gets in the performance of its duties in the campaign against the global COVID 19 pandemic which,he said, is largely due to the active role played by DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año in the daunting job of combating the spread of the virus.
As one of the senior members of the Cabinet, Año is Vice-Chairperson of the National Task Force COVID-19 and an original member of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. The DILG is also the lead agency in the government’s contact tracing efforts, mobilization of LGUs in COVID-response, implementation and enforcement of quarantine protocols, management of locally-stranded individuals, maintenance of peace and order, among others.
He explained that there is no “military oligarchy” to dismantle because the IATF is led by civilians Health Secretary Francisco Duque and Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles and the vast majority of its members are civilian government officials with no military background. The NTF, on the other hand, is led by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana because he is also the NDRRMC Chair which is the government’s national response body during disasters and emergencies.
“Secretary Año has been given this task by the President because he delivers, period. It’s not about his military background but because of his performance. Statements to the contrary are not well-meaning but are clearly meant to disparage the accomplishments of this administration, including that of Secretary Año,” the DILG spokespersons declared.
He said the perennial reference by some sectors to the background of Cabinet officials like Secretary Año and other retired military officers also reflects the opposition strategy to remind the public of their narrative of victory over authoritarianism more than three decades ago. “The narrative that they are the champions of democracy is now a broken record given the problems that Filipinos deal with today like stopping the spread of the virus and making sure their families don’t starve amid the economic slowdown,” the DILG official noted.
Malaya said that their military background and training in fact proved useful in quickly organizing the government’s response to the global pandemic, thus avoiding epidemiological experts’ forecast that the number of COVID 19 cases in the country will reach 250,000 to 1.3 million cases by the end of this month. “Secretary Año’s calm, calculating, yet firm demeanor under extreme pressure has helped mobilize LGUs and uniformed personnel nationwide to rise up to the challenge of the pandemic. This is the same demeanor he showed when he defeated ISIS and Maute group in Marawi when he was armed forces chief,” he said.
He said the President relied on the organizational capabilities of Cabinet officials like Año, Lorenzana, Galvez, and others like them to mobilize the entire government down to the barangays to respond quickly to the global pandemic amid a suspension of government work except those in the frontlines and the need to provide social amelioration to cushion the impact of the lockdown on their livelihoods.
Coordination between the National Government and local government units (LGUs) also improved further under Secretary Año’s watch, especially during the pandemic as local chief executives were immediately mobilized to localize the implementation of the NTF’s National Action Plan in their respective communities.
“Secretary Año has the respect not only of uniformed services but also of local government officials partly because of his reputation as a no-nonsense military officer. While he has been instrumental in empowering our LGUs to deliver the best service to their constituents, we also cannot discount the fact that he has been consistent in implementing the law against abuses by our LGU officials by reining them in and filing cases against recalcitrant local chief executives. This is a first for the DILG,” he added.
Malaya said that he would rather Congressman Lagman focus on helping dismantle the political and economic elite that has become a bane of Philippine progress since the establishment of the Philippine Republic by pushing for the passage of the anti-dynasty law and the removal of the restrictive economic provisions of the constitution.
“Until President Duterte took office, the political and economic elite had lorded over policy-making and in decisions on the exploitation of the country’s resources. And as a result, millions of Filipinos remained shackled in poverty, and progress remains dependent on the limited flow of capital by oligarchs who controlled our economy through their use of the protectionist provisions that their kind has inserted into the Constitution. They are still here, biding their time,” Malaya pointed out.