MANILA, SEPTEMBER 6, 2012 (TRIBUNE) Written by Angie M. Rosales - Efforts to “fastbreak” the confirmation of Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas as chief of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) by his former peers before the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) “in absentia” started even as he was not among those scheduled for confirmation in yesterday’s proceedings.

This fastbreak move by Roxas’ allies in the CA, however, proved futile under the prying eyes of their overall chairman, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Enrile, concurrent chairman of the bicameral appointments body noted that such unprecedented move can only result in damaging consequences on the CA as an institution.

Enrile was able to prevail upon some apparent eager beaver CA members, reminding them to be “cautious here because the institution may suffer. They might think that we are unduly favoring… a tayo-tayo system is coming into play.”

As the CA screening committee endorsed the approval in the plenary the nomination to the designation of Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and Aurora Lagman as private sector representative to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) due to lack of oppositors, Sen. Panfilo Lacson moved to waive the notice and publication requirements imposed on Cabinet nominees undergoing confirmation so Roxas could be allowed to “immediately” assume the top DILG post, citing its vital duty to oversee local governments and the Philippine National Police.

“Maybe we can schedule the confirmation hearing of Roxas because the agency he is about to head is a very important, sensitive agency. The crime rate is fast rising, at least in Metro Manila and we need somebody in the saddle right away. The proposal is to waive the requirements of publication and schedule him in the next hearing,” Lacson said.

This was seconded by Sen. Joker Arroyo who noted that their former colleague has passed through the CA three times ib the past.

“So with all that, we are supposed to consider the fitness of the nominee but his record speaks for itself,” Arroyo said.
As if on cue, CA majority leader Rodolfo Antonino promptly moved to confirm Roxas even in his absence, citing Roxas’ record as a former senator, former House majority leader and current Secretary of Transportation and Communication until he was named to replace the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash lat Aug. 18.

Antonino sought permission from Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, chairman of the CA committee on local governments that has yet to conduct confirmation hearings on Roxas’ latest Cabinet posting to suspend the rules.
Sotto noted the need to observe a seven day notice and publication.

“Even if he has already submitted all the requirements, we need to do that. I had a call from Secretary Roxas asking me yesterday to schedule all,” Sotto said.

“It is a precedent I do not want to set but I will move that Roxas be confirmed in plenary today. It is not a secret, the world already knows that Mr. Roxas has been nominated to the DILG…it has been in the news (so) publication, in effect, has been done...This would be the fastest confirmation in CA history,” Antonino said, even adding that, “nothing prevents us from confirming Secretary Roxas in absentia.”

Arroyo noted that while he shared Lacson’s concern on the urgency of filling up the vacant DILG post, “there are powers that we cannot abdicate. We have to satisfy the requirement to notify the public and give a chance to anyone who wants to object. The public cannot be deprived of its right to oppose nominees to public office.”

Arroyo suggested as a compromise that the CA can shorten the seven day publication requirement so Roxas can be confirmed earlier, or at the CA session next week.

Enrile then cautioned his colleagues that there could pose a problem if they unanimously waive all the rules and the requirements.

Enrile affirmed that the rules on CA confirmation proceedings can be waived only with unanimous consent of the members.
“The institution might suffer (if we rush this). People might say that we again have that tayo-tayo system here. Let us protect the institution. We will confirm him (Roxas) on the 19th after complying with the requirements,” Enrile ruled.
In another development, while the incoming secretary of the DoTC is going to keep the office personnel of the office of his predecessor, incoming secretary of the DILG, Secretary Roxas, is going to overhaul his office including the sacking of Undersecretary Rico Puno, a protégé of the president.

Thus far, however, the Palace appears to be retaining Puno in his position as undersecretary in the DILG.

Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya Jr., the incoming DoTC chief said that he will just bring in executive assistants who can answer his phone.

“I’m generally keeping his people, I said, I’m just bringing in executive assistants, someone who would answer my phone. He has a very competent team, the perception of stakeholders from the industry is, because the apprehension is we are new, and there will again be instant changes; a start from zero, then we bring in new people again and rules and it’s very big deterrent for the agency,” said Abaya who is expected to assume his post next month.

Abaya also said that he will retain the services of Virginia Torres as chief of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) and Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chairman Jaime Jacob.

“Until I get my feet wet, study the system and find reason to replace, we will keep everybody. It wouldn’t be logical that the moment I assume office, I would just replace people without reason so the safest is to retain until I have justification,” said Abaya.

Highly-placed sources from the Liberal party said that President Aquino had wanted Puno to stay as undersecretary of the DILG but Roxas had insisted that Puno should be removed.

The source said that the issue about Puno’s position is getting in the way of the already strained relationship between the President and Roxas who has been trying to get strategic positions in government for him and for his men.

The same source said that Roxas is not President Aquino’s choice to replace the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo but that Roxas’ allies in the LP insisted that the latter should replace Robredo.

Critics in the House of Representatives said that the DILG post could easily be abused for one’s personal political ambitions.
Roxas has been eyeing the presidency even before then Senator Aquino thought of running for the post.

But Roxas slid down to run as Aquino’s running mate after huge public clamor that was triggered by the death of President Corazon Aquino, the president’s mother. Gerry Baldo

Angara to Roxas: ‘Hold your horses’ Written by Angie M. Rosales Tuesday, 04 September 2012 00:00

[PHOTO - 'Fired' DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno]

A member of the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA) advised Interior and Local Government Secretary-in-waiting Manuel Roxas II to hold his horses over issuing orders on officials and staff of the agency who are co-terminus with the late Secretary Jesse Robredo to vacate their posts since he does not acquire the authority to do this until after being confirmed by the CA.

Roxas’ overeagerness for the post could put him in trouble as he is not in any position to do so since he has yet to be “officially” on board, Sen. Edgardo Angara (photo at right) said.

Angara practically advised his former colleague to obey the civil service rule.

“That will be illegal if they took that act,” the senator said, referring on the reports that Roxas supposedly “fired” DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno immediately after he was named as replacement to Robredo by President Aquino last Friday.

Angara said both Roxas and his successor in the Department of Transportation and Communications, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya cannot dispense with their official duties as they have yet to be confirmed by the CA.

The CA received yesterday the appointment papers of Roxas but not of Abaya. Besides documents to be furnished by Malacañang, the nominee is also required to submit the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALn) and income tax return (ITR).

Puno, however, had reportedly tendered his resignation out of disappointment over the appointment of Roxas as Robredo’s replacement.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, however, said Puno remains attached with the DILG since Aquino has yet to act on his resignation letter. Ochoa added Puno was in fact part of the DILG delegation that graced the 18th National Crime Prevention Week (NCPW) at Camp Crame.

Aquino had mentioned plans to assign Puno to another government post.

In his speech at the 18th National Crime Prevention Week (NCPW) in Camp Crame, Ochoa said the Palace had transmitted Roxas’ appointment papers to the CA yesterday morning and saw no impediments to Roxas’s appointment.

“We don’t see any problem since Secretary Mar had been confirmed before as DoTC Secretary, so the same requirements are in place; probably we won’t see any problem there and hopefully the process will be quicker,” Ochoa said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, however, said he could not make any categorical confirmation on Puno’s resignation.

“Let me confirm on Usec. Puno’s resignation, and when he resigned. We haven’t received Usec. Puno’s papers. As you all are aware of, we can only announce something which we officially receive. We have not received any official confirmation of that resignation letter. We will ask the Office of the President regarding that matter”, Lacierda said.

He likewise warded off earlier reports that had Puno shipped to the Department of Agriculture.

“We have no information on that. In fact, I asked where the information came from. We have no confirmation on that information that’s why we’re verifying’,” he added.

Puno, sources claimed, was expecting that he would be next in line for the top DILG post. An extremely disappointed Puno, however, opted to quit after learning of Aquino’s offer of the top DILG post to Roxas even before Robredo was officially pronounced dead and among the casualties of a plane crash off the Masbate Coast Aug. 18.

Asked whether Roxas, who was given the blanket authority to bring along with him at the DILG his own team, would be relegated the agency’s supervision over the national police, Aquino’s spokesman replied affirmative.

“To my understanding, yes, Roxas will have control over the PNP,” Lacierda noted.

Under the late Robredo’s tenure, power and supervision over the national police were stripped from the DILG chief’s list of concerns that saw function relegated to Puno.

“He (Roxas) is still with the DoTC (officially). He cannot act as (secretary of) DILG (yet). He cannot assume the post in DILG when Congress is in session. The only time he can assume is when we (Congress) have our break in Sept. 21 or 22. Or better, he has to be confirmed first (by the CA). I don’t think there’s an issue on that on him,” said Angara.

Based on Angara’s explanation, a presidential employee like Puno cannot be dismissed by another presidential appointee who has not been confirmed.

A Cabinet official and other presidential appointee subject to CA confirmation can assume the position and discharge of the duties of office if they were appointed during congressional recess. But when Congress re-opens his nomination should immediately be submitted for confirmation.

In the case of Roxas, since he is not yet confirmed, he cannot sit if Congress is in session – meaning until the CA confirms his appointment.

This means that Roxas can assume the post in a capacity of an officer-in-charge (OIC). In the case of Robredo, he was allowed to assume post because Congress then was not in session.

“There’s also a practical problem concerning Abaya. He has to finish first (deliberations on the national) budget (bill). He said he wanted to finish it first. Mar (Roxas) can move (to the DILG) so his papers ought to be sent to us now. And I think in one sitting (he can be approved by the CA),” he said.

Lacierda expressed hope that the CA will also confirm the appointments of other Cabinet secretaries who remained without the CA’s nod.

“We would certainly hope that if there are no obstacles in the other cabinet secretaries, that they would find favor and confirm their appointments,” said Lacierda who cited the need for CA to promptly act not just on Roxas and Abaya’s Cabinet rank appointments but also on other presidential appointees who have yet secured their nod.

As this developed, Malacañang doesn’t see any imminent clash between Roxas and Vice President Jejomar Binay over the designation of former to an agency seen as crucial for politicians eyeing on the presidency.

Lacierda told Palace reporters that Roxas’s appointment at the DILG should not create a division between two protagonists in the 2010 vice presidential race.

Amid clamor asking that he quit as president of a political organization seen as actively taking part in time for next year’s midterm elections, Roxas does not seem inclined caving in to pressures even as he claimed that his Liberal Party position has nothing to do with his new Cabinet post.

Roxas has been asked to quit party presidency by San Juan Congressman JV Ejercito, among the senatorial candidates running under the opposition coalition group United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Roxas, however, doesn’t see any reason for him to let go of the party grip even as he claimed in an interview with a television news program that he sees no connection linking his LP presidency and that of his position as DILG Secretary.
Ejercito earlier cited the need for Roxas to step down from the LP leadership in an apparent effort seen as maintaining the integrity of the Cabinet rank position abruptly left by the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash.

“That will be ideal so that the fear of using the position of the secretary of interior and local government to strengthen LP’s build-up for the 2013 and 2016 elections will be erased,” Ejercito said in a text message.

Ejercito is the son of former President Joseph Estrada who is considered being behind the formation of the opposition coalition.

UNA is seen as the biggest stumbling block of the administration party coalition in next year’s elections.

Roxas has yet to assume his as the new DILG chief as he still have to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments which has expressed through the media concurrence on the President’s plea seeking confirmation of Roxas’ appointment and that of the newly designated Transportation and Communications Secretary, Cavite Rep. Abaya.

Both are top LP leaders with Roxas as party president and Abaya as the Secretary general of the Liberal :party.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño, likewise called for Roxas’ resignation from the LP if only to enable him to devote his time and attention to his new task.

Highly-placed sources from the administration said that the DILG post is Roxas’ second choice next to the post of the executive secretary since he lost the vice presidential race to rival candidate then Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay in the May 2010 elections.

Critics also said that Roxas may not be able to continue the reforms instituted by the late Jesse Robredo who has espoused transparency in the agency.

But House Majority Leader Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II said that there is no basis for Roxas to leave the ruling party’s leadership, adding that such proposal is tantamount to saying that Binay, the incoming president of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), should also detach himself from his political party.

Gonzales said that Roxas should be given a chance in the DILG before injecting politics to his new assignment.

“I appeal to the critics to exercise objectivity, let us give Sec. Roxas a chance to serve in his new assignment. Let us not put any political color in this,” Gonzales said. Fernan J. Angeles, Gerry Baldo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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