Slew of Arroyo appointments raises hackles

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 29 2010 02:02 AM | Updated as of Mar 30 2010 04:58 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A slew of appointments made by President Arroyo just months before the May 10 elections has been roundly criticized by some quarters who questioned the validity of the appointments.

Mrs. Arroyo appointed at least 12 new officials earlier this month before a 90-day constitutional ban on midnight appointments took effect.

Arroyo appointees in key positions after June 2010

Here is a list of appointments made by President Arroyo that will spill over to the next administration. These posts have fixed terms so the appointees are secured of their tenure. The next president will not be able to replace them during that tenure.

Among the new appointees was 87-year-old taipan Alfonso Yuchengco, who replaced Philippine Ambassador to Germany Delia Domingo-Albert. Ambassador Albert was removed on the day she was given the Most Outstanding Filipino Woman in Global Diplomacy award in Malacañang.

It was also learned that Mrs. Arroyo has named her classmate and aerobics instructor Cynthia Carreon to head the Tourism Promotions Board and Mark Lapid as chief operating officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.

Mrs. Arroyo also replaced the entire boards as well as the heads of the National Museum and the National Historical Institute (NHI), both agencies under the Office of the President. National Museum chairman Antonio Cojuangco was replaced by retired journalist Larry Henares while museum director Cora Alvina was replaced by Malacañang Museum director Jeremy Barns.

The other appointees are

  • Rommel Garcia as Dangerous Drugs Board vice-chairman
  • Retired CA justice Perlita Tria-Tirona as head of the newly formed independent committee on tax evasion and smuggling cases;
  • Arturo Lomibao as Undersecretary of Department of Transportation and Communications
  • Alberto Suansing as Land Transportation Office chief
  • Gabriel Claudio as chairman of Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System
  • Presidential Legal Counsel Natividad Dizon as Board of Pardons and Parole chief
  • Broadcast journalist Mario Garcia as board member of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority
  • CSC head Francisco Duque III as Pag-IBIG Fund board member
  •  

Revamp

According to political analyst Ramon Casiple, a recent Supreme Court decision allowing President Arroyo to appoint the replacement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno Jr. might have emboldened her to appoint other members of government.

"Obviously, the President doesn't want to leave the political scene. Assuming she wins as congresswoman of the 2nd district of Pampanga, you can be sure that sakit ng ulo siya ng susunod na presidente," he said.

He added that the appointment of Yuchengco, who is close to former president Fidel Ramos, could be connected to the controversy involving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, which builder Fraport AG of Germany has taken to an international arbitration court in Singapore.

A spokesman of the Supreme Court, however, said the SC ruling could not be used to justify the recent appointments and dismissals. "The SC decision, as concurred in by nine justices, and which is not yet final, only exempts appointments to the SC from the ban,” SC spokesman Midas Marquez said.

Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr., meanwhile, said Yuchengco's appointment was aboveboard since Ambassador Albert is considered a political appointee recallable at any time.

Assistant Secretary Eduardo Malaya, spokesman of the Department of Foreign Affairs, said Ambassador Albert ceased to be a career ambassador when she retired in 2005. Her term was immediately extended at that time and this has been done annually, but as a political appointee, she serves at the pleasure of the President.

“Political ambassadors are recallable any time and we in the career service know that,” Malaya said.

Political appointments

National Museum senior consultant John Silva, meanwhile, said the institution’s entire board is in shock after they were ordered replaced 2 months before the elections. “It is rather inexplicable for us that Mr. Cojuangco and the board and Alvina were not told, were not forewarned about these changes,” he said. (Read: Sacking of National Museum board sends shockwaves)

Silva said he suspects that politics might have something to do with the changes inside the museum. “Like museums throughout the world, [the National Museum] should not have political theme. It's always above all that and unfortunately I think it’s being dragged into the situation.” 

He also noted that cultural institutions should be spared from politics for this might affect the performance of the museum, particularly its fund raising aspect.

For his part, Sen. Edgardo Angara also questioned the move to replace Alvina and Bureau of Animal Industry Director Dave Catbagan.

Angara said Alvina’s appointment as the museum director was made by the board of trustees according to Sections 11 and 13 of Republic Act 8492, or the National Museum Charter.

“There are many others, but [the cases of Director Alvina and Director Catbagan] are glaring examples of how to demoralize the bureaucracy. Both are internationally recognized experts in their respective fields, long-time career administrators, and are well-respected by their constituencies,” Angara added.

Alvina, the senator noted, is an esteemed anthropologist and past president of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. She is current chairperson of the executive committee of the Asia-Europe Museum Network, under the Asia Europe Foundation.

Meanwhile, Catbagan is a licensed veterinarian under whose watch the country’s livestock was kept free of foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu, allowing the Philippines to export poultry meat to Asian markets. With reports from Business Mirror and Philippine Star