Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the September 29, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

Sometimes I will, then again I think I won’t,
Sometimes I do, then again I think I don’t – Chuck Berry

Overheard at the cantina…

“The President and Justice Secretary de Lima are on a collision course,” said Ben.

“Why?” Pepito asked.

“Because the president asked his executive secretary and his legal adviser to review the IIRC’s (Incident Investigation and Review Committee) findings and to make their own recommendations.”

“But he can do that, the IIRC’s findings are only recommendatory,” Pepito pointed out.

“Yes, and it will look like the president is protecting some people if the IIRC’s recommendations are not followed through.”

“What do you want him to do?”

“He can tell de Lima to act on the IIRC’s recommendations even if he does not totally agree with them. Tell her to prove her case in court, that way he won’t be suspected of protecting friends,” Ben replied.

“On the other hand, he can fire her if he does not like the report. All cabinet members serve at the pleasure of the president,” said Pepito.

“Firing her will cause more problems.”


“Because the secretary of justice is the only cabinet member who is supposed to be above politics. Her job is to make sure everybody obeys the law, from the president all the way down to us. She’s not there to absolve the president’s friends or persecute his enemies,” Ben explained.

“But de Lima’s statements are bordering on insubordination,” Pepito argued.

“Yes, and if she’s fired the public will ask did she fail to administer justice effectively, fairly, and equitably or did she just fail to do as the president wished? That’s going to be a public relations nightmare.”

“Well, every other justice secretary did as told,” insisted Pepito.

“And that’s why we have no respect for the law. It has always been enforced capriciously.”

“Maybe the president was not satisfied with the report,” Pepito shifted.

“I read the IIRC report and its findings are straightforward and indisputable: there is a manual of operations for hostage situations and no one followed it. There is a code of ethics for news broadcasters and they did not follow it.”

“Going by the book does not always guarantee success.”

“True, but if everyone had followed the manual then we would be talking about improving procedures and techniques instead of arguing over personalities to blame for the tragedy.”

“Mayor Lim got melodramatic over that,” Pepito said.

“Lim displayed his outdated mentality,” Ben replied adding, “A blogger pointed out that ‘De lima is becoming an archetype for the kind of law enforcement official that adheres to procedure, a stickler for doing things by the book, in this case the manual for handling such crises. Mayor Lim on the other hand represents an opposing archetype that would rather dispense with the rulebook in bringing about justice. He represents the kind of justice you would expect from the wild, wild West. His archetype is the cowboy who makes his own rules as he goes along – a sort of nonchalant attitude that flaunts at procedure in order to get the job done.’”

“I think Lim is results-oriented,” Pepito countered.

“I don’t care how you see him, I don’t live in Manila. My concern is the president, can he bring himself to doing what is right no matter who gets hurt in the process?”

“What led you to asking that question?”

“The president’s statement to the press, ‘One thing we have to watch out for is if these people who have been with us when we were still in the harassed opposition and who joined us in our struggles…if all these people who are close to us are removed and replaced by those who are not as close, the next group could already be our enemies.’”

“But the president has a legitimate concern,” said Pepito.

“Friends and enemies are not the issue here, we are not in Dodge City.”

“Well, what is the issue?”

“Accountability. And whether the president is serious about it or not.”