Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why Gina Lopez lost the battle against the Big Boys

I never doubted even for a minute the thought of Ms. Gina Lopez getting the boot from members of the Commission on Appointments (CA). Those close to her were so confident that the DENR secretary would eventually get the nod that their brassness made them put their guard down. Those who know how things work out in this side of the world knows that public adulation does not necessarily translate into power. Oh no.

The Powers here are thick skinned. They are proud. They think of themselves as demigods. And they know how to play the game, and the game has always been transactional. Those close to her believe that members of the House would not dare "cross the line" so to speak by issuing a rejection. A rejection is a political risk for these politicians. These advisers think that by transforming Gina into a "rock star", that would insulate her from the harpoons thrown at her by the Big Boys of the mining industry who she engaged early on in her administration. They thought wrong.

Gina and her advisers forgot to do their assignments. They suddenly forgot how to count. Confirmation is the way of the Big Boys to influence governmental policy-making. The reason why big businessmen always get their way is thru this process of confirming what the president designated in various posts. Democrats say this is a way of maintaining political equilibrium but thru the years, this power of the CA has always been an occasion where Big Business interests fuse theirs with traditional political powers.

Gina did not give those who support her enough ammunition to counter lobby from the mining industry. She even fumbled when she let fly baseless accusations that some CA members got grease monies. That further prevented her from possibly converting those who really don't know her because at the onset of the fight, Gina was advised to draw first blood. That was very stupid.

Instead of communicating with those who oppose her for "business reasons", Gina's advisers told her to undertake a war which was impossible for her to win. The industry opposes such a person like Gina heading the DENR because they think of her as an extremist. Why they counseled Gina to immediately engage the industry into a brutal battle early on is a great mystery to me. Either they are so stupid or they simply don't know what they are up against, or so proud that, they think Gina has established a Teflon-like personality that she is beyond reproach.

As I shared this thought with one of her close-ins, for Gina to get that nod, she needs to show those outside the DENR that she's a player, that she is not your usual dye in the wool type of people who act like demagogues. What is being questioned about her is her way of managing things and the way she decides. Everyone knows her passion for the environment, but the post which Duterte gave her was not your usual NGO post, oh no. DENR is a regulatory agency of government. It was established based on what the Constitution wants and that is, to balance the interests of the State with those of environmentalists. The State has to produce metals to allow it to progress unto the next economic stage, and without mining, it would be extremely hard to industrialize.

Gina thought that the DENR is an environmentalist platform. It is not. As secretary of the DENR, one has to balance between two concepts: conservation and development. You can't just run around and kill businesses just because you saw a dirty pond. As head of this agency, you are expected to encourage companies to be responsible in mining natural resources with the most minimal of disruption of the environment.

Since Day One, Gina thought that she can only be an environmentalist, and not a developmental leader. She meant business and it got the public's approbation. People love fighters and Gina is one. The only thing is, Gina forgot that she is not doing these things just to shore up public support for an eventual dig at an elected post. Or, did she?

Mining firms here count to two hundred or so. Gina targetted those operating in the Caraga region, and failed to explain why those mines which violated environmental laws were not included in the popular target list which she announced in public. She chose 22 firms while forgetting others which committed more grievous sins during the Aquino administration. Such arbitrary decision-making betrays her rather amateur view about her job.

Yes, people admire Gina's passion. Yes, Gina is true to her Cause. There is nothing wrong with appointing such a person like Gina Lopez in the DENR post.

Eventually, I think what did her in is her impatience. Gina wants to do the things she wants to do immediately, like how a typical cono girl wants nothing more than get that chocolate bar from her rich father. What I don't understand was Gina's strategy of disrupting the mining industry early on when she can very well do just that after she gets the nod first from the representatives of the Big Boys sitting as members of the Commission on Appointments. Her impatience became a Damocles sword hanging above her head.

Now, the Nation lost a fine advocate for the environment. Yes, we can always blame members of the Commission for this. Yes, business interests won this battle. If you think about it quite hard, Gina and her handlers are to blame for this debacle. Gina and her team have the entire six years before them, but they probably thought or had harbored an impression that they would really not last the whole stretch of the game, and instead of playing it safe, they played very dangerous games. And it boomeranged.

This is a lesson for those who want change in government---play the game first while you are strengthening your support bases. When you think you have enough, and you have outclassed the enemy, then, begin the true fight. This system is a big syndicate of a louse. For change agents to really effect transformation, the fastest route is thru a genuine revolution. Playing the game of the Big Boys in the hopes of changing things is a stupid use of one's time. Better to sharpen one's sword than wait for these Big Boys to understand where you are coming from.