MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 5) - Barely a day after assuming power, the administration of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was forced to replace its first official order declaring all non-career executive service positions in government vacant.
Memorandum Circular No. 1, which was issued on Wednesday, June 30, declared "all non-career executive service positions vacant as of 30 June 2010 and [extended] the services of contractual employees whose contracts expire on 30 June 2010.”
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, said Malacañang had to "fine-tune" the memorandum circular since it was supposed to affect only political appointees and not all non-career officials in government.
"Some people feel that since these officials are non-career, they are political appointees but that's not true. Some are just lacking in requirements, which they need to comply with. A bulk of them are not even political in nature. It's really the consequence of a bureaucracy," he told reporters in Malacañang.
He then produced the revised memorandum circular, which now declares all "co-terminus third level positions vacant" as of June 30, 2010.
The revised order, which was still signed as Memorandum Circular No. 1, now declared "all non-career executive officials occupying career executive service positions to continue to perform their duties and responsibilities and extending the services of certain contractual and or casual employees whose contracts expire on June 30."
The revised order thus contradicts the first memo issued Wednesday since it effectively retains non-career executive officials occupying CES posts.
Lacierda refused to call the revision of the President's order "a blunder", stating that the memo's language only needed fine-tuning. He said the Cabinet received a lot of text messages from non-career officials in government who were raising concerns on their status.
"It's not a retraction. We are just fine-tuning the language. The essence of the circular is the same," he said.
Asked if the revision of the order could cause embarrassment for the newly installed president, Lacierda replied: "Not really. It's part of the growing, learning curve."
He also denied that the revised memorandum circular was in fact a new order, only stating that the new document negates the old one.
The spokesman reiterated that the memorandum does not cover the so-called midnight appointees under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term but was meant to ensure that the delivery of government services would not be interrupted.
He said the midnight appointees will be tackled on a different venue after the President's advisers determine the most legally tenable policy.
A Palace source, meanwhile, told abs-cbnNEWS.com that the memorandum circular's original intent was to remove presidential appointees in positions with terms of office, usually boards and officials of government-owned and controlled corporations.
Since these are classified as career executive service positions, they will not be affected by the memorandum circular.
The source also noted that under the Administrative Code, only the President can sign a memorandum circular. Lacierda has confirmed that it was Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa who signed the order.
As of posting time, Palace sources told abs-cbnNEWS.com that Aquino had summoned Ochoa, Lacierda, and a deputy of Ochoa to a meeting on the apparent blooper.
6,760 positions affected by order
A top Career Executive Service Board (CESB) official on Thursday said President Benigno Aquino III's first memorandum circular will not result in the collapse of the bureaucracy, but that the Palace intends to revise it
CESB executive director Antonette Allones made the assurance even as she confirmed that only half of the available career executive positions can be occupied by career executive service officers (CESO).
Hours after his inauguration on Wednesday, President Aquino declared "all non-career executive service positions vacant as of 30 June 2010 and extended "the services of employees whose contracts expire" on the same date.
There were fears that wiping out hundreds of political appointees during President Arroyo's term would result in the collapse of the bureaucracy.
Allones admitted that there are a total of 6,760 career executive positions in government, and there are only around 3,800 CESOs.
She, however, clarified that only the presidential appointees or "co-terminus" appointees of the former president are immediately affected by the memorandum circular.
She said senior government officials, who are civil service eligible, holding top government positions are given hold-over capacity until July 31.
She added that there is hope that President Aquino will re-appoint or promote the civil service eligible officials to occupy positions that cannot be fully filled up by CESOs.
Allones said President Aquino's first memorandum circular seeks to dissolve the "over-appointments" of the past administration.
She cited for example the Department of National Defense, which has 7 undersecretaries. She said that under the law, the defense department should only have 3 undersecretaries.
"The excess of four is already declared vacant or dissolved," the CESB official said.
Allones clarified that the memorandum circular announced by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was not yet final.
She said that based on her initial meeting with the staff of newly-appointed Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa, Malacañang will revise the memorandum circular to clarify the ambiguous provisions.
She said she will submit a list of qualified government executives to Ochoa. The list will be passed on to President Aquino for his reference.
Allones said that the law also allows Aquino or his Cabinet secretaries to make at least 1 political appointee.