It hasn’t been a week since Jesse Robredo was buried when news sprang of how DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno tried to gain access to his office and condo unit to secure confidential documents. It wasn’t a secret that Puno has been deemed untrustworthy by majority of the people. His constant flaws and the means by how the President brushes through them has earned the ire of many. His questionable credibility as part of the DILG has been part of the news every so often. His apparent rift with the late DILG Secretary, Jesse Robredo has been observed time and again. Hence, his actions at the time when majority of the government’s agency were still under “search and rescue” mode raised a lot of eyebrows.
Many asked why he had to secure the documents at the time when Robredo was just missing, still presumed to be alive. Many wondered why his snooping around raised alarms in Robredo’s household prompting his wife to ask for official security to guard her husband’s properties. Many speculated what those documents were. It was no secret Robredo was unto something and that he was investigating certain things to which many speculated involve Puno.
Yet all this brooding ill feelings remained largely at bay. Until the President decided to speak up in defense of his shooting buddy. The President said he ordered Puno to secure the documents at Robredo’s office. The President said he was prompted by DeLima about it.
But digging further, we see that it was Atty. Leni, upon learning of Puno’s attempt to enter the condo unit, who urged DeLima to protect her husband’s properties. DeLima came into the picture after the fact that Puno tried to access Robredo’s office and living quarters.
Also, we see that the President’s orders were for Puno to secure Robredo’s office. Yet Puno went a step further and tried to secure the latter’s condo unit. Foremost in everyone’s mind was the question: Why Puno? The public was not so fond of him. He had his differences with Robredo. Robredo’s family and household apparently mistrust him judging by their actions. So why did the President pick him? Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that it was logical since he was the undersecretary. But is that reasonable given everything that is known about him?
This issue is far from over. As Puno prepares to face a Senate inquiry to which Sen. Miriam Santiago promises there’ll be “sounds and fury“, I cannot help but wonder how committed PNoy really is to his vision of tuwid na daan. It’s such a shame because I can see he is making progress. It’s such a shame because I believed in him and trusted him despite the negative publicity he receives every so often. It’s such a shame because his success will be pulled down by his so-called friends.
In any leadership position, there will always be tough decisions to make. Whether you are a class president or the president of a nation, at some point in your reign you will make difficult and unpopular choices which may or may not favor your friends and even your family. Such is the cost of leadership. True leaders know how to make decisions that would be for the benefit of the common good even if it disfavor the people close to them. Because of this, they say that it is lonely at the top. Indeed, it is.
For PNoy, the path he chose for himself is no easy one. He has decided to veer away from the traditional notions of politicians as corrupt and selfish individuals. He promised the entire nation that during his reign, he would make it possible for true public service to shine through the government. He basically promised to restore our trust in the institution set forth to govern us. This is a tough call for anyone. With this promise, there will be many toes which he will step on. Some toes may belong to his friends, perhaps even, family members.
Yet to truly usher in the transformation he promised this country, he needs to be the tough leader who favors no one. He must learn to stand firm by his words exempting nobody. He cannot make excuses for the people he holds dear to his heart. Rather, he must practice impartiality to everyone. If it comes to the point that the people he holds dear to his heart are proven guilty of wrongdoing, he must be strong enough to exact punishment. It is harsh but it has to be done. Only then can the people see his sincerity to lead them through the tuwid na daan.
This impartiality called forth from him will assault his heart. Along the way, his friends may become enemies and his loved ones might find themselves punished for crimes they thought they could get away with. These decisions will be tough on his part but he has to do it. It will be very lonely at the top for him. But that is the price he has to pay.
That is why, true servant leaders are hard to find. They put the welfare of the people they serve first above their own interest, even above their own relationships. They do not leave unpunished the ill doings of even the people they care about. They are ready to make tough decisions even if it means breaking their own heart.
In this regard, much as I admire PNoy, his constant defense of his long time friend, Puno, shows me that he is not the servant leader I have longed for to become our nation’s president.
(Breaking News: Puno has just resigned from the DILG. This does not exempt him from the Senate probe, however. The question that now hangs in my mind is: will PNoy re-appoint him to some other government agency?)