Bautista says military experience 'advantage' in new DSWD post
MANILA, Philippines – Newly appointed Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista sought to quell criticism of his appointment to the civilian post, saying his years as a soldier allowed him to experience first-hand the problems of marginalized groups.
In an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Department of Social Welfare and Deveoplment’s forum on the Panatawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps on Friday, October 19, Bautista said his being a former soldier was an “advantage” for him.
“Maka-relate ako when you talk about poverty kasi sabi ko nga, na kasama ko na matulog ang mga Lumad sa isang IP [indigenous peoples] community. Nakasama ko na rin sa mga lakad ang mga MILF [Moro Islamic Liberation Front] at MNLF [Moro National Liberation Front] brothers natin. Nakatulog na rin ako sa mga mahihirap na tao sa sasabihin natin pinakamalayo na lugar,” said the retired Army chief.
(I can relate when you talk about poverty because I have slept with Lumads in an IP community. I’ve been with our MILF and MNLF brothers. I’ve spent time with those in poverty in far-flung areas.)
The event was Bautista’s first official appearance as the DSWD Secretary. He had taken his oath two days ago on Wednesday, October 17.
Bautista retired from the military on October 15, Monday. Prior to heading the 90-000 strong Philippine Army, he was the overall ground commander in Marawi City, which was seized for weeks last year by Muslim rebels.
“Kaya nararamdaman ko ang kanilang panganagilangan at sa tingin ko nararamdaman ko din talagang nais nilang mabago ang kanilang buhay,” Bautista added.
(I feel that I know what they need and I also understand they truly want to change their lives.)
Fresh on the job: Bautista, though, admitted he did not have all the expertise needed to run the agency. While he had plans and ideas to bring to the DSWD, Bautista said he still needed these to be checked by officials of other departments in the agency.
“Marami akong plano, even before I assumed the [position of] secretary, meron akong inputs. However, kailangan ma-validate ko kung anuman ang programa ko based on siyempre, sa mga masasabi nating kakulangan at kailangan pang improve sa departemento. Kaya hihintayin ko muna kung ano yung mga report ng chief of offices then go from there, ” he said.
(I had plans and inputs even before I assumed the secretary. However, I had to have these validated based on what is lacking and needed to be improve in the department, I’ll wait for the reports of the chiefs of offices then go from there.)
Prior to his formal appointment as social welfare secretary, groups and individuals such as former DSWD secretary Judy Taguiwalo, slammed Bautista’s appointment as part of the “growing militarization” of the Duterte Administration.
"Social welfare principles include upholding the dignity of individuals and respecting their rights. Hence a strong emphasis on people’s participation in the crafting and execution of the agency’s programs is a given,” Taguiwalo said in a Facebook post.
She added the military’s mission was to “organize, train and equip army forces for the conduct of prompt and sustained combat operations on land,” which was “diametrically opposed” to the DSWD’s mission.
In a statement on October 10, the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development likewise questioned Bautista’s appointment. They argued skills gained during his military career were not suited for social work.
“DSWD is a civilian institution that has been headed by civilians even during the Martial Law years in the Philippines. Its leadership and workforce are composed of various professionals such as social workers, psychologists, educators, and lawyers…. Thus, we question the fit of Lt. Gen. Bautista’s military credentials for DSWD. Counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism skills are not and should not be part of social welfare,” they said.
Asked for a response to these, Bautista said he chose to focus on work in the agency and following the marching orders given to him by President Rodrigo Duterte. (READ: Duterte says army chief Rolando Bautista will be DSWD secretary)
“I don’t want to be distracted kung anuman yung negative o kritisismo laban sa akin,” he said. (I don’t want to be distracted by negative remarks and criticisms against me.) – Rappler.com