MANILA, SEPTEMBER 2, 2012 (STANDARD) By Joyce Pangco Panares - A major revamp is in the offing in the Department of Interior and Local Government as Liberal Party president Manuel Roxas II takes over the post left vacant by the death of Secretary Jesse Robredo.

“All co-terminus positions will now be vacant,” said Roxas, who will be replaced as Transportation and Communication chief by another Liberal Party official, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya.

In announcing the new appointment, President Benigno Aquino III said Roxas would have a free hand to bring his own people into the department.

IN THE PHOTO ABOVE: The chosen ones. President Aquino announces in Malacañang the appointment of Mar Roxas as secretary of the Interior and Local Government Department (inset, right) and Joseph Abaya as Transportation and Communications secretary.

“We are giving Mar the freedom to choose his own people, including the heads of the agencies under the DILG,” Mr. Aquino said.

These agencies include the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Philippine Public Safety College, the Local Government Academy, and the National Police Commission.

Roxas said Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, a shooting buddy of the President, would likely be given a new assignment outside the department.

While Robredo was acting secretary, the President gave Puno, a close associate, control of the police, a move that some saw as a sign he did not have full confidence in his local government chief.

On Thursday, the President denied that Roxas’ appointment was aimed at improving the chances of the Liberal Party in the 2013 and 2016 elections.

“His primary function is to advance the country’s interest over the party’s interest,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President also denied allegations that this was case of political expediency.

“Political expediency connotes that he is not qualified and we are doing this as a favor to him,” the President said.

Mr. Aquino said Roxas was really on top of his choices for the DILG post.

He added that Roxas and Robredo, who died in a plane crash on Aug. 18 while en route to Masbate to deliver a speech on behalf of the President, both shared his “complete trust.”

Roxas said it would be difficult to fill Robredo’s shoes.

“I am not Jesse Robredo… Compared to him, I have many deficiencies,” Roxas said.

He said he wasn’t giving any thought to the 2016 presidential elections these days.

“I can only succeed with all thoughts of 2016 out of my mind,” Roxas said.

At the Transportation Department, Abaya said officials would keep their post, given their competence and track record.

“We intend to continue with the current team in the [department]. They have been well organized and well prepared. A high-caliber team has been set in place,” Abaya said.

The President appealed to the Commission on Appointments to confirm Roxas and Abaya as soon as possible.

“They cannot sit in their respective posts until they are confirmed,” Mr. Aquino said.

“Congress is in session so we cannot make an ad interim appointment. This is why we are asking the CA to act on these appointments immediately,” he added.

But Abaya said he will assume the post after the 2013 proposed budget is approved on third reading at the House of Representatives by mid-October.

Among Roxas’ priorities are several pending investigations, Mr. Aquino said.

He also said Roxas would have to give priority to upgrading the facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The President said Roxas will also have to make it his top priority to dismantle private armed groups, especially in light of the 2013 mid-term polls.

Abaya, on the other hand, should give priority to infrastructure projects, especially those that affect tourism, the President said.

At the House, lawmakers from both sides of the political fence welcomed the appointment of Roxas and Abaya.

Opposition Rep. Simeon Datumanong, member of the 11-man House contingent in the powerful Commission on Appointments, said both Roxas and Abaya would be easily confirmed.

“Both of them are competent and capable to head their respective agencies,” Datumanong told the Manila Standard.

“Secretary Mar Roxas has been a congressman, senator and Cabinet member, while Congressman Jun Abaya is a lawyer, military man and congressman. Both are seasoned public officials,” he added.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, another appointments commission member, said there was no reason to delay the confirmation of Roxas and Abaya.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. praised Abaya’s “methodical, though low-profile style.”

He added that Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong will replace Abaya as chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations.

Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said Roxas and Abaya both had the character, integrity and administrative capability to handle their respective jobs.

Easter Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said the new appointments would give the ruling party “a big boost.”

But San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito criticized the President’s decision to keep the two powerful portfolios under the Liberal Party’s control.

“Not to undermine the capability of Secretary Roxas and Representative Abaya, but I think the appointment is obviously for the strengthening of the LP’s position in the coming 2013 and 2016 elections,” Ejercito said in a statement.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino added that the DILG might be politicized with Roxas’ political ambition for 2016 presidential elections.

Senate President said Roxas’ appointment showed the depth and trust that Mr. Aquino had in his 2010 running mate.

“Mar Roxas was earlier appointed as the replacement for former DOTC Secretary Ping de Jesus, whose resignation from the Cabinet deeply saddened me because he was a very dedicated and honest public servant,” said Enrile.

“Now, the President has summoned Secretary Mar Roxas once again to handle an even greater and more formidable challenge.”

He added that he believed Roxas would be up to the task.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who had earlier been tipped as a leading contender to replace Robredo, said it was no surprise that a sensitive post would be given to a member of the ruling party.

“I’m pragmatic enough to realize that the first crack should go to the Liberal Party,” he said.

He added that both Roxas and Abaya were qualified for their new jobs.

“We know that they are competent. They have the integrity. They are honest people,” he said.

National Police chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome welcomed Roxas’ appointment and said the 148,000 members of the police force were ready to serve under their new chief. With Maricel Cruz and Macon Ramos-Araneta


Mar, Abaya expected to breeze through CA By Marvin Sy (The Philippine Star) Updated September 02, 2012 12:00 AMComments (2)

[PHOTO FROM ABS-CBN- KEY POSITION: New Interior Secretary Mar Roxas acknowledges he is no Jesse Robredo. And he also denies he is preparing for the 2016 presidential election. LYN RILLON]

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Manuel Roxas II and Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya are expected to breeze through the Commission on Appointments (CA) for their new roles as Interior and Local Government secretary and Transportation and Communications secretary, respectively.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile urged President Aquino to immediately transmit Roxas’ and Abaya’s appointment papers to the CA to allow their confirmation as required by the Constitution.

“I trust that the Palace will immediately transmit his appointment papers to the Commission on Appointments so that we can confirm Secretary Roxas as soon as possible,” said Enrile, chairman of the CA.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, who is also a member of the CA, said the appointments of Roxas and Abaya will be taken up right away.

“We in the Commission on Appointments assure immediate facilitation of their appointments,” he said.

Drilon is vice chairman of the Liberal Party where Roxas serves as president and Abaya as secretary general.

If Roxas’ experience at the CA would serve as the basis for what would happen during his next appearance there, then he should have no problems at all.

Roxas’ confirmation for his previous appointment as Transportation and Communications Secretary was a walk in the park and came with the blessings of all his former colleagues in Congress.

Abaya would also be among his peers at the CA and, being a member of the ruling LP, should also have no problems securing a confirmation.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said he would call on his colleagues in the CA to take up the appointments of Roxas and Abaya right away.

Lacson stressed the importance of taking up the appointments of the two officials at the CA right away because with Congress currently in session, they would not be able to assume their respective new positions until they are confirmed.

Lacson recalled the case of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., whose assumption to office he questioned during his confirmation hearing.

Lacson questioned the legality of Jimenez’s assumption as Tourism Secretary and why he took his oath before the President since his appointment was made while Congress was in session.

As a rule, new appointees of the President to the Cabinet could only assume office in an acting capacity if the appointment was made while Congress is in session.

It is only when Congress is in recess that the President can issue ad interim appointments and as such, the Cabinet members can assume office even without confirmation by the CA.

In the case of Jimenez, Malacañang promptly clarified that he was just serving in an acting capacity.

Congress will adjourn for a two-week break on Sept. 21.


Lawmakers belonging to the ruling party defended the appointments of Roxas and Abaya, saying their being partymates was “incidental.”

LP leaders, however, also said there was nothing wrong with appointing party members to government positions since other government agencies headed by other members of the ruling party have been performing well.

Opposition leaders earlier warned about the LP’s dominance in the Executive branch even as administration lawmakers and Aquino himself had hinted that Roxas’ appointment could groom him to be the next presidential candidate of the party.

“I believe P-Noy (President Aquino) based his choice on his trust and confidence on the individuals and whether their working style matches the demands of the position and that of the President,” Deputy Speaker and Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III said.

“Being a Liberal is incidental,” he said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat said there was nothing wrong with the President deciding to appoint LP members to key Cabinet posts.

“I think it’s just fine for as long as they’re performing and the LP people in the Cabinet are doing extremely well,” Baguilat said.

“P-Noy is telling the people that the LP leadership is what the country needs,” he added.

Gonzales said since the late Interior and Local Government secretary Jesse Robredo was an LP official, it was logical that his successor should come from the same party.

He said LP members in the bureaucracy are relatively few.

“It is only appropriate that more LP members are in government because the President is head of the LP,” Gonzales said.

Sen. Ralph Recto, a ranking member of the LP, lauded the President’s choice of Roxas and Abaya for the two important Cabinet posts.

“The President has found a fitting replacement to secretary Jesse Robredo in the person of Secretary Mar Roxas as head of Department of the Interior and Local Government. Robredo and Roxas are cut from the same cloth. Integrity, passion and hard work are their common thread,” Recto said.

In the case of Abaya, Recto said the President scored a home run by placing him in the DOTC.

“Abaya’s stint as House budget chief would prove useful every time he seeks approval for new transport infrastructure like railways, airports and seaports. Abaya would never be caught fishing for numbers,” Recto said.

“His military past could also be harnessed as a fiscal tool to deliver DOTC projects on time and strictly within budget,” he added.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said there was nothing wrong with the appointments since Roxas and Abaya are “highly qualified functionaries, who should be given a chance to lead their respective departments.”

“Besides, the LP is the party in power and naming LP leaders to key posts is an exercise of party politics… The President should be given the leeway to put people of his choice and confidence in key posts. It’s primarily based on qualifications, second (is) party accommodation,” Castelo said.


Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada also defended the appointment of Roxas amid criticisms that the move was in relation to the 2013 and 2016 elections.

“I believe in his capability. I have worked with Secretary Mar at the Senate, and he has been doing his job well,” Estrada said of Roxas, who is his kumpadre, being the godfather of his (Jinggoy’s) youngest son.

Estrada differed from the views of his half-brother San Juan Rep. Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito who regarded the appointments of Roxas and Abaya as a move to bolster the LP’s political clout for the upcoming elections.

Although they both belong to the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) founded by their father, former President Joseph Estrada, Sen. Estrada said Roxas and Abaya are professionals.

“In fairness to Sec. Roxas and Rep. Abaya, these are two individuals who are professional and judicious in doing their jobs. Let us not politicize the issue too much,” Estrada said in reaction to his brother’s statements.

Estrada said everyone should respect the President’s decision.

“I believe in the wisdom of the President in filling up the post left by secretary Robredo. Let us give him that, it’s his prerogative,” he said.

Rather than focusing too early on the 2013 and 2016 elections, Estrada called on everyone to buckle down to work “in the interest of our country and our countrymen.”

Some local officials like Bulacan Gov. Wilhelmino Alvarado expressed confidence in the capability of Roxas to lead the DILG.

Alvarado said Roxas may not have experience in local government but he is experienced in management.

“In behalf of the province of Bulacan, we welcome Secretary Roxas as administrator of the DILG,” he said.

Alvarado said Roxas’ experience in government service would make a difference in DILG.

“What he said is true, that he has a big tsinelas to fill, but I know he will be a good alter ego of the President to local government units,” he said.

Palawan Gov. Abraham Kahlil Mitra hailed the appointment of Roxas as “an excellent decision that will build on the reforms toward transparency, accountability and people empowerment.”

Mitra cited similar outstanding leadership qualities between Roxas and his predecessor Robredo, saying these were enough to dispel apprehensions that he might exploit his DILG post for his political goals.

“They shared the quality of incorruptibility and honesty. No one has doubted this, which is quite reassuring in this age of cynicism,” Mitra said.

Mitra said he didn’t foresee Roxas departing from Robredo’s wide-ranging reform agenda, which was widely praised during the latter’s two years in office.

“Definitely, this is the right path, and Filipinos from the high and mighty to the ordinary folk know this and expect no less from Secretary Roxas,” Mitra said.

He also praised Aquino’s choice of Abaya, saying “he will bring to the DOTC his excellent work ethic in the legislature, because he gets the job done efficiently and without airs.”

Militant groups, however, are wary of Roxas’ appointment as DILG chief.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Anakpawis party list-Laguna Lake chapter and Save Laguna Lake Movement said the appointment of Roxas as DILG secretary will usher a new era of violent demolitions of fishing communities in Laguna de Bay and other low-lying areas in Metro Manila.

They alleged that Roxas has no concern for poor people like fishermen and other ordinary Filipinos. They branded Roxas as an epitome of a patrician exploiting a plebian. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Dino Balabo, Michelle Zoleta

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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