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Aquino has full trust, confidence on Abaya

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Ever wonder why President Aquino has kept Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio T. Abaya in his Cabinet despite criticisms over his alleged incompetence?

The President has argued that he has full trust and confidence in Abaya, insisting he is not corrupt and should not be blamed for the problems hounding the Department of Transportation and Communications.

“No. 1, (he’s) not corrupt, which is the fundamental. No. 2, had training in the very related fields. No. 3, he was chair of appro (appropriations committee) of the House (of Representatives),” Aquino said in a recent interview with Rappler about the Transportation chief.

“When you talk about corruption, let’s say DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways), we talk about Customs. Not too many people seem to realize that because of all of the jargons, technology involved in the DoTC, it’s the easiest hub,” he added.

Abaya, appointed to the top DoTC post in 2012, has been widely criticized for the lingering DoTC woes, from heavy traffic on EDSA, slow Internet connection, and exorbitant mobile fees, poor airport facilities, delays in release of license plates, and breakdowns of the Metro Manila railway system. Many groups have demanded his resignation but Abaya has refused to leave the Aquino Cabinet.

The President, however, defended that Abaya tried his best to address the issues plaguing the DoTC, such as the malfunctioning Metro Rail Transit coaches. He said the past administration was unable to conduct proper maintenance of the MRT coaches in 2008 that consequently resulted to frequent breakdowns.

“Anything made by an imperfect being like man, by definition, is imperfect and can be improved,” Aquino said.

“I’m sure in hindsight, everybody would say ‘done this, done that.’ But everybody who keeps saying an opinion hopefully will also go back to what are the conditions emanating,” he added in defense of Abaya.

Aquino also denied that he was holding on to Abaya and other government officials who were linked in controversies due to their friendship.

“Friendship stops when the country’s interest is at stake,” said Aquino, who was widely criticized for his soft spot for the so-called “KKK or Kaibigan, Kaklase, Kabarilan” in government.

Aquino recalled that he let go of Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno since he was “not performing to the level that I felt he should be doing.” Puno, a close friend and shooting buddy of Aquino, resigned in 2012 after being implicated in an alleged irregular firearms deal.

Aquino said there were “certain attitudes on issues” while remembering the early retirement of the late Virginia Torres as head of the Land Transportation Office. Torres, also an ally of Aquino, left government service after she was spotted gambling in a casino. (Genalyn D. Kabiling)