Arroyo makes last-minute appointments, says ex-CSC chief

By Maria Althea Teves,

Posted at Feb 10 2010 11:00 AM | Updated as of Mar 30 2010 04:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The next President has about a month to put in place a new Cabinet. According to the 1987 Constitution, the outgoing President is not allowed to appoint any Cabinet member 2 months before the upcoming elections or starting March 11, 2010.

But Karina Constatino-David, former Civil Service Commission (CSC) chair, says the President is making last-minute appointments as an “obvious attempt to control the next government.”

Among Constitutional bodies, David pointed out to the recent appointment of Francisco Duque as CSC chair.

CSC Chairman Francisco Duque III:

·         Confirmed appointment: February 3, 2010
·         Duration of term according to the constitution: 7 fixed years
·         Congress: 15th, 16th and first year of the 17th Congress
·         Replaced Ricardo Saludo as CSC chair after the CA rejected his appointment last September 2009. Saludo was appointed CSC chair last April 21, 2008.
·         Appointed Health Secretary last 2005, resigned January 2010.

Constitutional bodies, according to Article IX, Section 1 of the Constitution, are independent of the President. To further emphasize the Commissions’ independence, the Constitutes states that they “enjoy fiscal autonomy. Their approved annual appropriations are automatically and regularly released.” (Read the common provisions of Article 9 in the Constitution)

The chairs and commissioners of the Commissions have fixed terms. This means that if they are appointed by the current President, the next President does not have the liberty to dismiss them unless for cause and only after investigation. The chairs have 7 years in office.

Office of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman is the office that acts on complaints filed against government officials and employees—even those in government-owned or controlled corporations. (Read more: Section 12, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution)

According to David, the following are crucial posts. (Read: Arroyo to fill up 2 more sensitive posts before ban)

Outgoing Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio
·         Term ending: February 24, 2010
·         Duration of term according to the Constitution: 7 fixed years
·         Reappointment not allowed

Outgoing Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez
·         Term ending: March 4, 2010
·         Duration of term according to the Constitution: 7 fixed years
·         Reappointment not allowed

Terms of PAGCOR chair and AFP chief of staff

There are moves in both houses of Congress to bestow fixed terms on the Armed Forces chief of staff and the chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). The Pagcor chair and AFP chief of staff do not have fixed terms.

Pagcor is one of the government’s revenue generating corporations—a big source of discretionary funds for the Office of the President because a big chunk of its revenues is directed to the President’s Social Fund.

The corporation was created to regulate all “games of chance,” particularly the casino gaming industry. Its funds, according to its mandate, will be for the government’s socio-civic national development efforts and to help boost the country’s tourism industry. (Know more about Pagcor)

Pagcor Chairman Efraim Genuino
·         House bill 6812 (mother bill 6989) filed by House Speaker Prospero “Boy” Nograles, member of the administration’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD political party
-       Seeks to fix the term of the Chairman and all board directors between 3 to 7 years
·         Genuino was somewhat linked to the Jose Pidal controversy last 2003 because he was seen leaving with boxes of unknown contents at the Arroyo’s building in Legaspi Village , Makati where the First Gentleman holds office.
·         Genuino was also linked to the "Hello, Garci" scandal last 2004 elections; he met with former Comelec commisisioner Virgilio Garcillano at the Manila Diamond Hotel. 

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado
·         Appointed: May 1, 2009 (replacing former chief of staff Gen. Alexander Yano)
·         Expiration of term: March 10, 2010
·         Replacement or extension of Ibrado is still to be decided
·         Senate Bill 31 filed by former AFP Chief of Staff Senator Rodolfo Biazon
-       Seeks to have a fixed term of 3 years for the AFP chief of staff. The term shall commence on the date of appointment, not the date of confirmation by the CA.
-       Prohibits the appointment of an AFP whose active service will expire in less than 1 year.
-       No term extension is allowed unless when there is war or
-       Chief of Staff could be removed by the President for loss of confidence.

·         Presidential hopefuls Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar Jr. and Senator Francis Escudero signed a manifesto urging Arroyo to allow Ibrado to continue the leadership of the military during the critical phase of the May 2010 elections.

·         Biazon prefers that Ibrado stay in post to erase doubt of a partisan military in the upcoming elections (Read: Will Arroyo retain Ibrado as AFP chief?)

Other appointees

Philippine Tourism General Manager Mark Lapid

-    Appointed as acting-General Manager: June 3, 2008
-    Appointed General Manager: April 14, 2009
-    Term expiration: 2015
-     According to Presidential Decree 1400 amending Section 13 of PD 564: he shall have a fixed term of 6 years

-   He could serve after his term while waiting for his successor to by appointed and qualified.

National Anti-Poverty Council (NAPC)

Accreditation for new members of the basic sectors of the NAPC is being rushed by the President as their terms will end this February, according to NAPC-non government organizations council office in charge Karen Tañada.

The NAPC Basic Sectors consist of more or less 300 organizations representing marginalized groups in the country.

In an exchange of e-mails with this writer, Tañada said that they received a memo from the NAPC secretariat last February 2, 2010 saying that the general assemblies for the NAPC basic sectors would be held on February 5-7, 2010—revising an earlier announcement that it was going to be held on February 16-18.

She said this is an order from the Office of the President.

The general assembly is a venue wherein NAPC basic sector councils will be replaced. The current members’ terms were extended and were supposed to end July 2008, Tañada said.

Last August 2008, the President issued Administration Order 187 which provides new qualifications for sectoral groups to be nominated and be part of the council.

“The process for replacing these (current) members of NAPC Basic Sector Councils is through Sectoral General Assemblies but we had long debates about the process for this when Pres. Arroyo issued new guidelines  inAO 187,” Tañada said.

She questioned the eligibility for membership of the councils such as having national constituency of the nominated groups. She said that at least 50% of the current sectoral council members are not qualified and that this would defeat the idea of having basic sectors at the grassroots—not really nationally represented.

The new process of organization selection would also need the recommendation of the Lead Convenor of NAPC, who is currently Domingo Panganiban.

“The timing of the administration’s push for the sectoral assemblies and elections of basic sector representatives despite all protests and difficulty, makes us suspect that this is being done to saddle
the new administration with sectoral representatives handpicked from the limited basic sector organizations that are willing or were tailored to meet A.O. 187 requirements, and beholden to the current administration.  And since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo insists on playing a critical role in the coming Congress after June 30, 2010, her various appointees, including the "basic sectors" can support her game plan,” she said in a statement.

Use of NAPC funds

Section 10 of Republic Act No. 8425, or the law that institutionalizes NAPC, established the People’s Development Trust Fund (PDTF) monitored by the NAPC.

The PDTF, amounting to P4.5 billion, is funded from the earnings of PAGCOR in addition to the appropriations by Congress.

According to the law, the President has the power to assign to any existing government department or agency the administration of the PDTF—based on the expertise, orientation or focus of the department or agency.