MANILA, Philippines - Energy Secretary Rene Almendras said on Tuesday he was not aware of reports he would be replacing Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa.
In a text message to ABS-CBN, Almendras said: "I am not aware of such or any plans in that direction. My responsibility and commitment is to the energy sector and I am just doing my job as Energy Secretary."
He even chided, "I am E.S., the Energy Secretary," making reference to the initials he shares with Ochoa's position.
Ochoa's fitness to be executive secretary, also known as the "Little President," has been doubted as one blunder was committed after another.
For example, the first memorandum issued by the Office of the President on the first day after assuming office had to be revised since it caused confusion. The first draft affected all non-career officials in government when the intention was to require only the political appointees to vacate their positions.
This and other blunders prompted Senator Joker Arroyo to openly criticize Aquino's close aides as "inadequate," and "a burden." Sen. Arroyo, who was the executive secretary of the late former President Corazon Aquino, Mr. Aquino's mother, also likened how the Aquino administration is running national affairs to a student council.
At the height of the bus hostage-taking that ended in 9 dead Chinese tourists last August, Ochoa, a long-time shooting buddy of President Aquino, has also been criticized for reportedly preferring to spend time with actress Vina Morales instead of joining his Palace colleagues during a crucial event that potentially had economic and diplomatic implications.
Ochoa, a former city administrator, had asked that he be given a chance to do better as executive secretary. He had acknowledged during in an interview with ABS-CBN's Anthony Taberna the demands of his job. "Walalang panahon para mag-practice,” he noted.
Against these issues, Energy Secretary Almendras' private sector background--president of internationally acclaimed Manila Water Co., and treasurer of Aboitiz & Co., and Aboitiz Equity Ventures--seems to have to prepared him to handle the energy portfolio. -- with a report from Pia Hontiveros, ABS-CBN News