Sunday, August 28, 2005

Gordon back in power in Subic through his boy, Areza?

BY THE WAY By Max V. Soliven, The Philippine Star

Fantastic and dismaying things are happening in the Save-Me-From-Impeachment World of Presidenta GMA.

First, Senator Dick Gordon has finessed himself back into power in Subic (SBMA) by getting his nominee, his former Department of Tourism Undersecretary Armand Areza appointed Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority "boss."

In short, La Gloria caved in to Gordon’s pressure and will, I’m informed, swear Areza in next Wednesday (he’s an incumbent SBMA Director) as SBMA Administrator.

And what about exiting Chairman Francisco Licuanan – and SBMA Administrator Alfredo Antonio – who both "resigned"? It’s amazing that Licuanan, a real gutsy man of principle whom I know well, and whose praises La Presidenta was fulsomely singing when she appointed him barely 10 months ago, is out. By golly. I bumped into Licuanan himself last Friday and he confirmed he was quitting irrevocably.

Yesterday, MalacaƱang factotum Tom Alcantara was seen meeting Licuanan in the Tower Club to tell him to keep quiet – please. The Palace is trying to prevail on Kiko L. not to raise a howl until it manages to put together a "cover story" as to why he resigned. Whatta disgusting situation.

The truth is that Licuanan had been strongly objecting to Gordon’s meddling. First Dick wanted to push his wife, Kate as SBMA chief, then his former deputy, Inky Reyes – but finally got his wish, with GMA (desperate for his support on the "impeachment" issue?) agreeing to designate his boy, Areza.

Not content with this, Alikabok tells me, Gordon wants another of his men (a certain Arman, or Armin Raquel Santos?) appointed Chairman to replace Licuanan.

If we had hoped GMA was going to let professionals do the job in her Administration, and pull our country out of the mess we’re in, I’m afraid we may have to adopt that phrase from the archway to the Infierno: "Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here!"

Of course, Licuanan (the former president of Ayala Land) and Freddy Antonio, who both assumed office in October 2004 did not resign simultaneously. Antonio did not work well Licuanan, and had been poised to quit earlier hoping to be appointed to the Monetary Board. He was expected to have been sworn into the MB together with Ms. Nellie Villafuerte and former Finance Secretary Nits Amatong last July 4. He was, however, prevailed upon to remain in the SBMA until the appointment papers of his supposed successor, Mr. Roberto Garcia (Licuanan’s nominee) were signed. To Licuanan’s disappointment and frustration, GMA did not sign the appointment.

Having been pledged full support by the President when he hesitantly took the job, Licuanan was appalled. He had planned to work with Bobby Garcia whom he trusted and respected, but never with a perceived lackey of Gordon.

Licuanan also painfully lost face with Garcia who had not volunteered for the position, but was finally persuaded to move to Subic despite the inconvenience of having to transfer his daughter to another school! Thus, there was no alternative for a honorable man like Licuanan but to resign.

I got a call from former SBMA Chairman and CEO, former Congressman Felicito "Tong" Payumo, and he said he, too, was plumb disgusted. He had, Tong affirmed, welcomed turning over Subic to Licuanan and Antonio because he felt that professionals would efficiently and successfully run that vital freeport and metropolitan authority. He may now join the fray, seeing that his old enemies and political nemesis, the Gordons, are on the verge of taking over SBMA.

The problem for GMA will not end there. I also bumped into the Magsaysays (by gosh, this is my weekend of bumping into everybody) and they were fuming, declaring they will not take this sitting down. The Magsaysays, plus Payumo, are the foes of the Gordons.

If GMA has reverted, in her desperation, to playing politics, her arithmetic must be pretty bad. There are three Magsaysays in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. True, one of them, Party List Rep. Amang, has been tweaked in the press for switching his support to the President. But he now says he could change his mind again.

On the Gordon side, there is only Dick Gordon in the Senate. His wife, former Subic City Mayor Kate lost miserably to Mitos Magsaysay, Zambales Governor Vice’s daughter-in-law, in the last congressional race. I spotted Vic and Amang having lunch with Licuanan in "Circles," the coffee shop of the Makati Shangri-la Hotel. I hear that if the position of Chairman is vacated, the Magsaysays want the Chairmanship to be given to them or their nominee. It’s only logical. The Magsaysays know that the "impeachment" battle, although the Opposition has managed to muster thus far too few votes (but counting) is in the House, not the upper chamber. If the pro-impeachment congressmen muster the 79 votes needed to push the process up into the Senate, then PGMA’s goose might (would?) be cooked – and a lone Gordon cannot help her there. Will she risk prompting three more signatures (the Magsaysays) to be added to the growing list in the House?

Once more, may I exclaim in surprise: for a political "survivor," over-eager to please everybody, GMA’s arithmetic is astonishingly faulty

No comments: