, JANUARY 25, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Malacañang continued yesterday its defense of President Arroyo’s prerogative to appoint members of her official family.

Palace officials also chided outgoing Civil Service Commission Chairman Karina David for not making official recommendations to Mrs. Arroyo on how to correct what she thought was wrong in the appointment process.

Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said the economy’s surge and diminishing poverty and hunger are ample evidence that the government team is performing well on the whole.

“The few who falter are replaced, as the President has recently done. Performance, not paper credentials, is the ultimate qualification that matters to our people, and questions about legal qualifications are best addressed through due process, not through sweeping generalizations in luncheon speeches,” Saludo said.

He also said there was nothing wrong in her appointing former military and police generals to civilian posts. He pointed out the people themselves voted four retired police and military officials to the Senate.

“Why should generals not serve in the executive branch as well, with their proven discipline and leadership experience?” Saludo added.

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, a former chief of the Philippine National Police, defended his qualifications in remaining in his post.

Guesting at the Palace forum “The Cabinet Speaks,” Mendoza said he was twice confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments.

He noted that many of his counterparts in Southeast Asia are also retired military or police officials.

Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo said it would have been better if David wrote a letter to Mrs. Arroyo to press for what she thought were urgent reforms at the CSC.

She noted that David has been at the CSC for nearly seven years but she did nothing to correct what she thought was wrong in the system.

Fajardo also urged her colleagues without civil service eligibility to secure them to avoid being criticized as not qualified for the posts they hold.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said the appointments of government officials occupying career positions should be withdrawn or revoked if they fail to comply with civil service eligibility requirements under the law and if there are qualified people who can replace them.

Pimentel was reacting to the revelation of outgoing CSC chair David that about 50 percent of some 3,500 appointees of Mrs. Arroyo occupying executive or managerial positions have no civil service eligibility.

“The rule of law should compel GMA to recall or terminate these appointments,” Pimentel said.

Under the Civil Service Law, the President can make appointments to career positions, like assistant secretary, bureau director and regional director, even if the appointees do not have career executive service officer’s liability but these are good only for one year.

On the possible liability of the President for her propensity for appointing people who fall short of qualifications, including retired military or police officers, to career executive positions, Pimentel said Mrs. Arroyo may evade liability due to her immunity from suit.

Pimentel said the abuse of presidential discretion in appointing officials to career positions can be corrected by tightening the rules.

He said this can be done by the enactment of a new Civil Service Code by Congress. He is the author of Senate Bill 1162, the proposed Civil Service Code. – With Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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