MANILA,  September 19, 2004
Malacañang took up the cudgels for presidential adviser Roberto Romulo yesterday amid accusations he is holding multiple positions in the Arroyo administration.

Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye defended Romulo, who holds the position of presidential adviser for international competitiveness, from accusations of having violated the constitutional prohibition on holding multiple positions in the government.

Bunye specifically belied the accusations hurled by former solicitor general Frank Chavez who claimed Romulo, who holds Cabinet rank, has been using his multiple positions in the Arroyo administration for influence-peddling in favor of his crony businessmen.

"That is what we call character assassination of Secretary Roberto Romulo," Bunye said.

"But we would rather that Secretary Roberto Romulo be the one to answer these accusations against him," he added.

In an interview over Radio Mindanao Network yesterday, Bunye strongly took exceptions to the accusations against Romulo made by Chavez which he described as "mere hearsay."

"But better yet...perhaps, the best person to answer these accusations against him is none other than Secretary Roberto Romulo himself," he said.

Bunye kept mentioning Romulo in his full name to avoid being any referral to newly appointed Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto Romulo.

The two Romulos are cousins. Roberto is the son of the late statesman Carlos P. Romulo.

Roberto Romulo used to be the foreign affairs secretary during the administration of former President Fidel Ramos but the domestic backlash over the execution of domestic helper Flor Contemplacion for murder in Singapore in March 1995 apparently forced his resignation.

Chavez had accused (Roberto) Romulo for allegedly continuing to act as a "shadow" Foreign Secretary up to present.

Aside from being a presidential adviser, Chavez questioned the other designations of Romulo as head of the government-private sector task force on the Iraq post-war reconstruction.

In the same radio interview, Bunye expressed confidence that President Arroyo’s appointments of her new Cabinet team as "acting" secretaries have not violated any law or provisions of the Constitution.

Bunye made the statement shortly after the Supreme Court ordered Malacañang to submit its reply to the petition made by nine opposition lawmakers led by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. seeking to nullify the appointments of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and eight other Cabinet officials and prevent them from assuming office.

"We believe in the decided cases by the Supreme Court in 1991 which upheld the powers of the President to issue temporary appointments," Bunye said.

"But this is now with the SC. So the discussion of the merits of this case should be there at the courts now," Bunye pointed out.

For the meantime, Bunye said all appointed Cabinet officials will continue their functions since the Supreme Court has not issued any restraining order.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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