(This is first of the three parts of Sun.Star Report on the first 100 days of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. On Saturday, the second part will outline calamities and crisis faced by the Aquino administration in his few days in Malacanang).

MORE than three weeks after his inauguration last June 30, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has made more than 40 appointments that will serve as helping hands in the next six years of his administration.

While most of the important posts, like the Department of Interior of Local Government, the Presidential Management Staff, Department of Finance, among others, have been filled up, the President falls short of the needed 4,500 positions that were left behind by the preceding administration.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Leading the bunch of the Aquino men is Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

But in the search of able and qualified men to help him run in the likely enervated inherited government, the Palace is lagging behind in filling its ranks with the best people.

On Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs), Aquino has made a handful of appointment yet, leaving most of the posts vacant as soon as the one month extension of the former government's co-terminus workers expires on July 30.

After 21 days in Malacanang, Aquino could not simply finalize the composition of the highly-anticipated Communication Group, which is set to replace of the Office of the Press Secretary.

For reasons only the Palace knows, the President was stalled in choosing whom among the three leading nominees -- ANC News Anchor Ricky Carandang, ANC Commentator Manuel "Manolo" Quezon III, and Sonny Coloma -- is the most capable in leading the group.

CABINET MEMBERS
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima
National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin
Education Secretary Armin Luistro
Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad
NEDA Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala
DENR Secretary Ramon Paje
DOTC Secretary Jose “Ping” de Jesus
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz

Health Secretary Enrique Ona
Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim
DTI Secretary Gregory Domingo
DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo
Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras
DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson
DAR Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes
Presidential Management Staff head Julia Abad
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda

DILG Secretary

Jesse Robredo
HUDCC Chairman

Vice President Jejomar Binay

Carandang and Quezon though have both tendered their resignations already from their respective organizations.

Also, the needed appointments in the National Government Agencies (NGAs) and Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) have not been completed.

The latest Inventory of Government Personnel made by the Civil Service Commission placed casual employees to 97,324; contractual 20,882; and co-terminus 19,340.

This leaves political observers, if not the Filipino people, in a quandary of how the President picks his alter egos in governance.

“Sana tama din ang mga taong ma-ilagay niya sa pwesto kasi kung bulok parin ang pamamalakad ng mga opisinang ito, problema parin yan ng taong bayan,” said Susana Oriente, a 35-year-old sidewalk vendor from Pasig.

Even as the President was entangled on his media group, his Cabinet lineup is rather a unified force of the opposition and the administration, which made it commendable than the previous governments.

While his predecessors set the impression that the Malacanang is a force to reckon for the opposition, Aquino established an emblem of a cohesive government by appointing some of his political rivals and antagonists to key government posts.

The most notable appointment was of Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), and the retentions of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's foreign affairs secretary, Alberto Romulo, and Police Chief Jesus Versoza Jr.

Believing that it has more competent people, Aquino also vowed to retain capable and qualified men who served the Arroyo government.

Controversial Aquino men

But as careful as he can be, the President has not pleased everyone in his choice of men to help him run the country. Much more, some of his neophyte Cabinet members engaged hot clash with the media.

First to absorb in media confrontations are Ochoa and Lacierda on wrong memorandum circular and over-delayed first press briefing.

Next is Education Secretary Armin Luistro when, upon assumption in the post, he whacked the media with "Hindi naman kayo nakakatulong" statement.

Romulo likewise engaged in a heated argument with the press when he stammered to answer when asked on the legal basis on the retentions of dozens of the country's diplomats in different nation across the globe.

Customs Chief Angelito Alvarez was also plunged into controversy after the exposition of his "cheating" in a golf tournament.

Militant groups, such as the Bayan, Makabayan, and Gabriela, among others, are bewailing on the likely appointment of Etta Rosales in the Commission on Human Rights, dubbing her as "unqualified" to take the post.

The media did not spare to scrutinize the presence of the Abad Family in the Aquino government, dubbing it as the resurrection of Kamag-Anak Incorporated, a moniker accorded to the members of the Aquino family during the term of the late former President Corazon Aquino.

With Florencio Abad as head of the powerful Department of Budget and Management (DBM), his daughter Julia in the Presidential Management Staff, and his son Luis as the chief of staff of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, surely the entire family is hard to miss.

Josephine Lopez, a 53-year-old restaurant owner in Taguig City, observed: "Sa unang buwan nya meron syang (President Aquino) mga pagkakamali pero maayos din yan sa katagalan. Minsan sumasablay sya."

But the President is standing by his choice, citing his men's qualifications are way above and beyond negative accusations.

Marching orders

At the onset of his government, the country's Chief Executive reiterated his campaign stance on "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap", assuring the people of clearing its ranks from crooked and fraudulent bureaucrats.

On his order to the Finance Department, Aquino clearly directed to “Run After Tax Evaders, Run After Smugglers and Revenue Integrity Protection Service.”

The President also issued a specific order to the Bureau of Internal Revenue to run after tax evaders and intensify its tax collection campaign to augment the country's depleting monetary resources.

To curtail corruptions and misappropriation in Congress, Aquino wanted to come up with a definite list of projects specifically sourced from the lawmaker's Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocations.

He also wanted to curb smuggling activities in any port-of-entry on the country by instructing the Bureau of Customs to arrest and file charges against perpetrators.

A specific order was given to the Department of Education to address the chronic shortages of classrooms, textbooks and teachers in the country's education system.

The Department of Health was tasked at undertaking the expansion of the coverage of the government-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) up to 100 percent in the next three years.

And, once and for all, he instructed that Department of Justice to provide true and complete justice for any Filipino, rich or poor alike.

Moreover, he established the Truth Commission to finally give a satisfying answers to the millions of farmers on the whereabouts of their fertilizer fund, to identify the benefactors and beneficiaries of the NBN-ZTE deal, and to know the truth whether his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is truly the elected president in 2004 elections.

The structure of Aquino’s Truth Commission however is not yet finalized though former Chief Justice Hilario Davide was already named by the President to head this body.

In the observation of Larry Reyes, a 50-year-old newspaper vendor from Taguig, he said: "Mas maganda yung bagong mukha ng goberyerno natin ngayon kasi mas matatakot opisyales na magnakaw kasi malinis ang Pangulo natin."

“We understand that one month is not enough for the President to implement all his promises, it will take, but we will give him whatever help we can," said Rommel Santiago, a 29-year-old software engineer from Mandaluyong City.

In less than a month, the President resurrected, rejuvenated, and revived the trust of the Filipino people to the government that was once lacking, if not nonexistent, in the previous administration. (Sunnex Manila)