Barely three days after delivering his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Beningo “P-Noy” Aquino III appointed retired Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan as the new Director of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor). A member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1979, Pangilinan retired last July 25, 2011 when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 — the same day P-Noy delivered his SONA. On July 28, Pangilinan took his oath of office before his news boss, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima.
Pangilinan seems like the ideal “poster boy” for P-Noy’s campaign against corruption and fighting “utak wang-wang” (“wang-wang” mentality) — or abuse of power — in the government. Why not? After all, he was a recipient of the Philippine Legion of Honor and holds a masters degree in Strategic Studies at the United States Army War College. His credentials are impressive: he previously led the Counter Intelligence Group of the AFP; and as the first commander of the Task Force Davao, he developed the module for counter-terrorism campaigns in urban areas. He earned his third star when P-Noy appointed him commander of Northern Luzon Command.
Pangilinan may have been the best choice for the job except for one major, major issue: there is a pending plunder case against him before the Department of Justice, which must have placed his new boss, De Lima, in a very awkward position of investigating her new subordinate for a plunder complaint.
Some DOJ officials doubt Pangilinan’s ability to institute reforms at BuCor while he is facing a plunder charge. One DOJ official said, “Personally, I think Malacañang should have been more circumspect and discriminating in appointing people to sensitive positions like the BuCor.” But Pangilinan downplayed the plunder case, saying that it was just a “fabrication” of retired AFP Comptroller Lt. Col. George Rabusa, the complainant.