Cabinet revamp on amid denials; new DOE chief seen by Aug. 1By Christine O. Avendaño, Daxim L. Lucas, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A Cabinet reshuffle may be off and running shortly, despite Malacañang denials.
Former Finance Undersecretary Noel Bonoan is set to be named as the country’s next energy chief, replacing Jose Rene Almendras who will be moved to head the Presidential Management Staff, according to sources familiar with the issue.
Bonoan reportedly a protégé of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima during their days at the SGV & Co. auditing firm was selected by President Benigno Aquino based on the recommendation of several Cabinet officials, including Purisima, the sources said.
Bonoan will start work at the energy department starting August 1, although the Palace has yet to make an official announcement.
At present, Bonoan heads the accounting firm of Manabat Sanagustin, local partner of the global auditing giant, KPMG. Here, he helped rehabilitate the firm’s audit practice, as part of a new group of investors.
He is best known for starting the Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) program with Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares during their earlier stints with the previous administration.
Bonoan also supervised the Run After The Smugglers (RATS) program at that time.
He first joined the government during the Estrada administration, working for then Finance Secretary Jose Pardo.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda on Wednesday denied that the President had a hand in the reported impending departure of Energy Undersecretary Jay Layug.
“Why will the President concern himself with an undersecretary?” Lacierda said in a phone interview, adding that its “point man” on energy issues was Almendras.
Layug reportedly said he would not resign and would just wait for his termination papers. But Lacierda said “there were no termination papers as far as we know.”
He said Layug “should not make himself a special case.”
“We all serve under the pleasure of the President,” he said.
At a press briefing, Lacierda also maintained that there were yet no plans for any Cabinet reshuffle.
“The President had previously said that some of the Cabinet members really took a pay cut when they decided to join government and it’s natural that there will be changes in the Cabinet as we go along,” Lacierda said.
Also a focus of speculation is Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes who has been criticized by farmers and majority of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines for allegedly failing to meet land distribution targets.
Sources at the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said that Akbayan Representative Kaka Bag-ao, a member of the House team that prosecuted Chief Justice Renato Corona, was being floated to replace De los Reyes.
De los Reyes’s resignation is reportedly being pushed by a “political party” and other members of Aquino’s Cabinet.
In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, De los Reyes declined to confirm or deny his pending resignation, saying he wants to talk to the President first.
“I will give him my report,” De los Reyes said, adding his stay in the department was up to Mr. Aquino.
Bag-ao had served as a DAR consultant. She was also a lawyer of the Sumilao farmers who marched all the way from Bukidnon to Manila to clamor for land distribution in 2010.
Speculation around De Los Reyes was fueled by a reported plan to form a task force on agrarian reform, which would appear to make his department redundant.
DAR officials said the department would be dismantled at the close of the agrarian reform program in two years.