NO ROOM FOR CHIEF OF STAFF IN RP SETUP - JOKER / MAR ALREADY IN CABINET

MANILA, MAY 17, 2011
 (TRIBUNE) By Angie M. Rosales - There is no room for a Chief of Staff under the political setup in the country since an Executive Secretary is already provided, Sen. Joker Arroyo said yesterday, referring to the plan of President Aquino to accommodate his losing runningmate former Sen. Manuel Roxas II into the Palace by ordering the creation of the Office of the Chief of Staff through an administrative order.

Arroyo said “there is no room for a presidential chief of staff” in the Philippines and, historically, such an office has never been created or

experimented because there’s already an executive secretary, a position created by law under Administrative Code of 1987.

“Creating such an office would only create a power struggle in Malacanang between the executive secretary and the chief of stuff over the same turf which we can ill-afford,” he said.

“If the President needs the invaluable assistance of Roxas in Malacanang, a man of excellent credentials, the President may just as well appoint him executive secretary. Exec. Sec. (Paquito) Ochoa (Jr.) whose government experience should not go to naught, can be laterally promoted,” he said.

“The creation of the position of chief of staff would cause confusion and pandemonium in Malacanang. To begin with, there is no such office created by law,” the senator, further pointed out, in citing the law established during the incumbency of President Aquino’s late mother, former Pres. Corazon Aquino, where Arroyo served as executive secretary.

In a press conference, the senator emphasized that he’s not out to add to the deteriorating factionalism in the Executive but only wanted to stress a fact that this has never happened before and could, in fact, cause only chaos.

“Don’t ask me what should be done. I’m only saying that, to avoid a problem, because who am I to suggest to the President? I don’t want to do that. What all I’m saying is I’m calling the attention of Malacanang, go easy on this,” he said.

“The law is there, very clear. The powers of the executive secretary is defined under the administrative law. Although the President can withhold those powers and give it to another person, whose job has not been created by law, then it becomes a little fuzzy,” he said.

“It’s just a suggestion, meaning, if the President appoints Roxas as executive secretary, he cannot do that for so long as Ochoa is there. So the problem is, what do you do with Ochoa?”, he asked.

In accommodating Roxas, Aquino may exercise his authority in giving such position but “it’s not the same as the law (that provided for the position of an Executive Secretary).”

“In effect, you cannot have the two positions at the same time. In fact, what would happen with that is that they would be competing with each other and that has never happened in Malacanang before. You cannot create a situation where the executive secretary and chief of staff would be fighting,” he said.

“That’s why in the US there is a White House counsel. But there’s no executive secretary. The powers in the Office of the President is centered on the chief of staff, not anyone else. In the Philippines, it’s the executive secretary,” Arroyo added.

“You must remember that the executive secretary is what you call the primus inter pares, the first among the equals. He reviews the opinions of the various department secretaries and he can do that because it’s allowed by the President. So the question will arise, will the President withdraw that power from the executive secretary and give it to the chief of staff?,” he added.

“So you have here an executive secretary whose position was created by law and (a chief of staff like in) the White House whose position was only created by an executive issuance. The President may give the chief of staff greater powers,” he said.

While the President may exercise authority in paving for the creation of the position of Roxas, it will not have the same effect or powers of a law, the senator said.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said regardless of Arroyo’s opinion as well as that earlier made by Sen. Edgardo Angara, the fact remains that President can create positions in the government.

“It’s an opinion but the opinion that matters is the opinion of the appointing power, his needs. I do not presume and pretend that I know the needs of a President,” he told reporters in an interview.

“There will be conflict if they do not define the jurisdiction of each. They must define it very well so that there will be no overlapping,” the upper chamber chief said, adding that issues such as rivalry among the ranks of supporters of Aquino or partisanship cannot be easily resolved or even removed.

Any friction inside the government is counter-productive. It affects the efficiency of the government. Under the Marcos government, that rivalry ended up in Edsa. It’s a matter of history. Why did Edsa I took place? It’s because there was factionalism within the government.

“I must admit that I took a position and there’s a reason. I’m going to write about it so that the people will know if I exit here and go somewhere else, the people will know why,” he said.

More than the worsening power struggle seen by Palace observers, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s interpretation of these turn of events could possibly mean Roxas’ abandonment of his presidential ambitions.

“Well in his position as chief of staff, Roxas will be in effect the ‘wind beneath the wings’ of the President Aquino. However, whatever happened to ‘Roxas for president’? He’s going to be part of the bureaucracy within the Palace and the public will have no access to him. In fact, it might be even be curious in his present position if he kept on meeting public officials,” she said in separate interview with reporters.

“He’ll be certainly a shoo-in in the 2013 elections, so basically he will be chief of staff for about two years before he runs for the Senate and may be focus to become Senate president,” she said.

Santiago shared the issues raised by Arroyo on the role of the executive secretary in the American government, which in their bureaucratic parlance, the head of the entire Cabinet that reports to the President is called the chief of staff.

“But in the Filipino bureaucratic parlance that position is called the Executive Secretary. So we’ll have two persons fulfilling the same job,” she said.

Santiago said whatever the title is, the function will remain the same. “It is one of supervision over all the Cabinet members, in effect, all the departments of government. So you’ll have to do that division of labor would be foreign policy as opposed to national domestic policy, one will have to take foreign policy another one will have to take domestic policy,” she added.

“But if Roxas takes foreign policy, that will be a surefire way to find defeat in the next presidential elections because he would be out of the country most of the time,” Santiago added.

“In fact if you want to defeat him all you have to do is lobby with President Aquino. So he could send him abroad most of the time and if he has nothing to do with domestic policy then he’ll just be out of the loop. He has to go around the country helping to alleviate poverty or to fight corruption. So I’m very puzzled by this development. It’s not exactly a surefire recipe for disaster but it’s very close to that,” she said.

So unless the lines are carefully drawn, then I think Roxas as of this time, is about to give up the presidency six years from now. That would be the effect,” she explained, Santiago said.

One of Palace’ allies in the upper chamber, Sen. Ralph Recto was quick to come to the defense of Roxas, the president of their political party – the Liberal Party –saying that the former colleague should be welcomed.

“What a welcome presence he would be in the Cabinet,” he said adding that the long-awaited return of Roxas to government service heralds the reunification of the tandem that has promised in May 2010 to bring meaningful changes to the Filipino people.

“I may not have agreed with Mar (Roxas) in the past during his stint as senator and House member, but I’m honored to be at the receiving end of his principled bantering. Mar (Roxas) truly speaks his mind and I’m sure there will no shortage of ‘ears’ willing to listen to him in the Palace.

“I’m not saying this because we wear the same yellow jersey and he’s my party captain, I’m saying this because I know an asset when I see one,” he said.

Recto, a former Nacionalista Party (NP) member who joined the LP shortly before the campaign season in the last round of national elections, said Roxas’ presence in the Aquino cabinet should translate to more healthy and no holds barred debates immune from petty factionalism.

His inputs in crafting national policies would be valuable as he offers the chief executive wider choices of options that would be crucial in decision-making process, Recto said.

“His background as economist, legislator and cabinet official would decisively enrich the doctrines of governance that is anchored on empowering the poor and cutting down excesses.

“The Cabinet should expect heightened competition of ideas, not of egos, in the days to come,” he added.

FROM THE PHILSTAR

Mar eases into job as chief of staff, bonds with Cabinet members By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) Updated May 16, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former senator Manuel Roxas II is already blending with the Cabinet of President Aquino, that’s why he often accompanies the Chief Executive, a Palace official said yesterday.

“I think he’s easing himself into the job (presidential chief of staff). He was also invited here,” said Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications for Strategic Planning and Development Office.

Carandang said that the administrative order for the creation of the chief of staff has not yet been released.

Roxas had joined members of the Cabinet in yesterday’s launch of the nationwide fitness event dubbed as “Ehersisyo Pangkalusugan Para sa Lahat 2011” that was spearheaded by the Department of Health and was held at the Quezon City Memorial Circle.

The administrative order that will identify the functions of Roxas being the incoming presidential chief of staff is still being finalized, to avoid any duplication of functions now being handled by Executive Secretary (ES) Paquito Ochoa and Presidential Management Staff (PMS) head Julia Abad.

“The order is still being drafted by the PMS and will pass through the ES to be signed by the President. It’s simply an AO that defines his (Roxas’) functions and his role,” Carandang clarified.

Carandang, who belongs to the same Balay faction that Roxas heads, said the former senator who lost to Vice President Jejomar Binay would now be seen more often in official functions, especially because the one-year ban on political candidates being appointed to government posts has already lapsed.

“I guess you will see more of him when the AO is issued,” he told newsmen, with the clarification that Roxas will not be in the Palace on a daily basis. “So it’s just upon invitation. No, it’s not everyday that he gets invited. Only when he’s invited will he come.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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