By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
The Cabinet revamp is on, and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye is the first to leave President Arroyo’s official family.
Bunye, who is one of the longest-serving Cabinet members of the Arroyo administration, broke the news yesterday following speculations on his fate after Mrs. Arroyo revealed the impending revamp.
“With President Arroyo’s express permission, I would like to announce that effective June 22, 2008, I will be joining the Monetary Board (MB),” Bunye said.
Before he assumes his post at the MB, the policy-making body of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Bunye said he will continue to discharge his duties as presidential spokesman.
He also announced that in the interim, he is also serving as Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs for Mrs. Arroyo, a post now being held by Interior and Local Governments Secretary Ronaldo Puno in a concurrent capacity.
Bunye said he will announce his successor in the coming days.
“As I have expressed many times in the past, I can and will continue to serve President Arroyo in any capacity. I totally believe in her ability to govern this nation and to make the bold and difficult decisions to move it closer to first world status by 2020,” Bunye said.
He said it was “indeed an honor and a privilege to serve in the President’s team.”
Sources said among those eyed to replace Bunye are former presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor and former press undersecretary Michael Toledo.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, meanwhile, announced the appointment of election lawyer Leila de Lima as chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) following the expiry of the terms of the CHR commissioners led by Purificacion Quisumbing last week.
While some eyebrows were raised over De Lima’s appointment to the CHR, as she is an unknown among human rights advocates, Bunye said his appointment to the MB should not come as a surprise.
Bunye said his departure from the Cabinet is “a matter which I have discussed with the President since last year.”
Bunye said he wrote the President in October last year seeking to leave government and return to his career in banking.
According to Bunye, his banking career was cut short by the 1986 EDSA Revolution, which led to his appointment as Officer-in Charge of Muntinlupa by then President Corazon Aquino.
Bunye said his background as a banker had been obscured by his 12 years of being the local chief executive of Muntinlupa City and his concurrent stint as chairman of the Metro Manila Authority, the predecessor of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) before getting elected as representative of the city.
“My background as a banker has been obscured and is known to only a few associates,” he said.
Bunye said he was assistant vice president in the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) from 1983 to 1986, doing corporate finance. He also served as assistant vice president in the Ayala Investment and Development Corporation from 1980 to 1983, handling international operations.
Ermita also announced the appointment of Ma. Cecilia Rachel Quisumbing as CHR commissioner.
Quisumbing served as executive director of the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) prior to her appointment. She is a daughter of the former CHR chairwoman and Supreme Court Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing.
Ermita said Quisumbing’s post would be temporarily taken over by Undersecretary Severo Catura of the Office of the Executive Secretary.
He said the names of the three remaining CHR commissioners would be announced in the coming days. Newsbreak earlier reported that among those being considered by Mrs. Arroyo are Presidential adviser on new government centers Silvestre Bello and women’s rights advocate and former ambassador Rosario Manalo.
Sources, on the other hand, said De Lima balked at the appointment but after a meeting with the President, she changed her mind. “She (de Lima) had no backers. It was the President who decided,” an official said.
De Lima was earlier pushed by her colleagues to be a commissioner in the Commissioner on Elections (Comelec) but Mrs. Arroyo told her that she was fit for the CHR since she needed someone who could represent the country before the international community and articulate the true state of human rights in the country.
Ermita said the appointments to the CHR would come soon since the Philippines is facing another review before the UN next month.
He also revealed Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who is retiring today, would be given a civilian post in the coming weeks.