Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms.  This was published in the Business Mirror on September 10, 2008, page A6.

“The President alone knows the condition in which she appoints people. She thinks these people can perform in those jobs where they are appointed to.” – Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita on Chavit Singson’s appointment

Luis Chavit Singson’s appointment to the post of deputy national security adviser created quite a stir because nobody seems to know exactly what the national security adviser does.  Consequently, nobody can give a job description for his deputy.

Chavit Singson believes his job is about peace and order. He said, “I could have asked for a more lucrative and even higher position but I just wanted to help in solving national problems, like those in Mindanao.”

House Speaker Prospero Nograles agreed. He said, “ he [Chavit] is very respected by the political leaders of Mindanao. Given time, he will know what areas he will be able to work and help the country effectively.”

There’s no doubt Chavit knows his way around Mindanao. In the 2007 senatorial election, many precincts in the ARMM region gave him more votes than their favorite sons and he placed higher there than in his own Ilocos region.

Chavit adds he can also help with the communist insurgency because Jose Maria Sison is his province mate and “pwede ko siyang kausapin.”  (I can talk to him.)

The peace talks with the communists can now resume because Gloria Arroyo appointed someone who can negotiate in Ilocano.

There are those, like Senator  Rodolfo Biazon, Chairman of the Senate Defense Committee, who say that the national security adviser “is a specialized position that requires experience,” “familiarity with national security and defense,” and knowledge of foreign affairs. Others, like former president Estrada, say the job requires expertise in intelligence work.

Is the national security adviser a policy wonk or an operative who gets into the thick of things while giving his president objective policy advice on issues affecting the security of the State?

Is a president well-served by having a national security adviser who is also national security operative?

Here are some things that happen when a president has a national security adviser cum operative like Norberto Gonzalez:

He does not warn Gloria Arroyo about the security implications of inviting a country that we have a territorial dispute with to mediate our peace talks with a secessionist force it sympathizes with;

he does not alert her to the fact that signing the MOA-AD could lead to the dismemberment of the country;

he does not tell her that, as his contribution to her charter change initiative, he hired an American lobby group to help gather political and financial support from Americans who might be interested in inserting certain self-serving provisions in a new charter;

he does not inform her that the country’s claim to the Spratleys might be compromised by an oil exploration deal with a competing claimant;

he does not advise caution over suspicious trade and investment agreements with a foreign power;

he keeps quite about the danger of turning over the government’s broadband network to a foreign power;

he says nothing when his president appoints the self-confessed bagman of jueteng operators as deputy national security adviser.

Now that we realize that the national security adviser does not do national security, we can rightly ask why he even needs a deputy.