PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino used it in his inaugural speech. He told Justice Secretary Leila de Lima: "You have your marching orders. Begin the process of providing true and complete justice for all."

In the English translation, President Noy told the nation, "I accept your marching orders to transform our government...to one that works for the welfare of the nation."

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda after a Cabinet meeting said P.Noy "gave his marching orders to each Cabinet member."

The other day, Interior & Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo got "clear" marching orders from the President to stop jueteng.

A lot of marching orders less than two weeks into Noynoy's term.

"Marching orders," usually plural, originally meant military instruction before troops march to battle. From a commander-in-chief, it's what the president wants done. In her Aug. 23, 2004 address to the military, then president Gloria Arroyo gave "marching orders to wipe out terrorism."

May lesser mortals give marching orders? The phrase also refers to an order from a superior to a subordinate. A wife can direct her husband not to make a bar stopover and come straight home.

Urgency, authority

"Marching orders" from the President gives a sense of urgency and authority, the chief of chiefs telling his people what he wants done.

Those orders are big and tough: transform government, bring true and complete justice, eliminate corruption and poverty. Can they be met?

P.Noy can sack a Cabinet member who doesn't perform. Dismissal is another meaning of "marching orders."

(paseares@yahoo.com.ph)