by Tonyo Cruz
The majority members of the Commission on Appointments perhaps thought that not only would they seize back Department of Social Welfare and Development funds as pork. They thought rejecting her appointment would humiliate and break her.
But Judy M. Taguiwalo emerged triumphant. The pro-pork barrel lawmakers could only scratch their heads, wondering why.
Today, outgoing Secretary Taguiwalo could be the most popular and most admired cabinet secretary in recent years.
One would have thought that it would be President Duterte’s partymates who would stand and defend Taguiwalo at the CA. But not a single one did. No “Partner for Change” stood up for Taguiwalo, who brought to DSWD changes so profound that public trust was restored into this very essential frontline agency.
Perhaps dreams of disaster relief funds turned into lard that covered CA members’ eyes.
Meanwhile, the “Dilawan” senators stood up to honor her. Senator Ralph Recto paid tribute to her and asked the CA what else they could ask from a woman with such academic background, life experience, progressive mindset, and outstanding work in her first year.
Senator Loren Legarda took to the rostrum to honor Taguiwalo and although she was a former journalist, she struggled to find the words to describe the situation where CA members would not confirm her. Senator Sonny Angara also stood up and expressed his support for Taguiwalo.
Elsewhere, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate pointed out, “Nobody came forward to file any opposition to Taguiwalo’s appointment and nomination.” Apparently, the opposition came from within the CA and Congress, and it was as hard as frozen “mantikilya” on a cold Baguio morning.
Which partly explains why Taguiwalo looked and felt triumphant until the end. For by their own acts, the CA majority showed the nation that it is the gatekeeper who would not let a Partner for Change — in the truest sense — into the cabinet.
Taguiwalo was ready to continue serving at the pleasure of President Duterte and in a manner that the public more than expected and has grown to admire. With competence, compassion, and commitment. The CA majority said no. More precisely, the pro-Duterte CA majority said no to Duterte’s chosen Partner for Change at DSWD.
Taguiwalo leaves the DSWD at the pinnacle of national acclaim. She has done what no leftist activist has been given the honor of doing before: She showed that leftists could just be not just good cabinet members. She showed that leftists would actually deliver the promised changes as a member of the cabinet. She thus elevated leftists, specifically national-democrats, as a source of an outstanding cabinet members that the public could trust and be proud of.
What Bayan Muna did in 2001 by victoriously topping the partylist elections against all odds, Taguiwalo did in 2016 by accepting the President Duterte’s appointment to the DSWD as a National Democratic Front nominee.
If Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan fought pork barrel, corruption and patronage inside Congress — Taguiwalo brought the fight to the DSWD, protecting its funds, and directing them to the poor and marginalized in a manner that everyone found great. Except if you’re a lawmaker who thinks you own DSWD funds and wants to use it for “epal” ends.
Duterte did not make a mistake in appointing her. Taguiwalo more than delivered; she brilliantly championed change in DSWD and the cabinet cluster the DSWD belonged to.
Taguiwalo not only led DSWD like a progressive leader that she is, she spoke truth to power by asking that government should practice what it preaches by ending contractualization in government. She also tore through the elaborate lies about government’s “tax reform” bill and bravely pointed out that it would in fact result in tax increases against the poor and the middle class. And, boy, did she preach. She preached that Conditional Cash Transfer cannot be an alternative poverty alleviation measure to genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization which are what the nation needs.
Some have asked since November, 2016, why Taguiwalo (as well as Rafael Mariano and Liza Maza) choose to stay in the cabinet of a President that has been turning more fascist and elitist by the day. They said, they should resign.
But that could only be acceptable if we view Taguiwalo, Mariano, and Maza as mere pawns in the political chess game. They’re obviously not. They are decent people, out to do the people’s work. The cynics forget how bravely they broke ranks with Duterte on many instances — the killings, tax reform, making free tuition “socialized,” and the Marcos burial. They joined protest actions. They have remained the brilliant and the unblemished in a cabinet dominated by oligarchs, corrupt militarists, and incompetents. Even this evil cabal cannot find an issue against them.
Which brings us to President Duterte’s supporters called DDS and how they conducted themselves when the CA rejected Taguiwalo and Gina Lopez. DDS folks are so brave online and sometimes offline, and loudly proclaim themselves as Partners for Change.
But except for very muted “sayang” and “we lost her,” the DDS suddenly lost their anger. They didn’t condemn the CA majority as loudly as they would condemn critics of Duterte. They did not condemn the decision of Lopez’s successor to restore the old rules for mining permits. They did not condemn the pork barrel-hungry lawmakers who successfully eased out an anti-pork barrel cabinet member.
The DDS apparently do not know what real change looks like. Lopez fought against the big powerful oligarchs. Had she been confirmed, it would have meant profound change in the areas and ancestral domain plundered by mining areas. Taguiwalo fought against pork-hungry lawmakers. Had she been confirmed, she would have kept the DSWD budget pork-free and given the entirety of it to the survivors of calamities and other intended beneficiaries. That’s what change looks like, and by their silence against those who waylaid Lopez and Taguiwalo, they partnered with them.
Yes, change is not easy. Thanks to Judy Taguiwalo, we are reminded that although it is difficult, it is beautiful and worth fighting for. Thanks to the likes of Judy, Gina, and the leftists, we now know where to look for real partners for change.
Follow me on Twitter @tonyocruz