Palace can’t explain ‘secrecy’ over PDEA appointmentBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A breakdown in communication among senior officials in Malacañang has led to confusion about the appointment of retired Deputy Director General Arturo Cacdac Jr. as new head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).
The Palace could not explain the secrecy in the swearing in of Cacdac before Executive Secretary (ES) Paquito Ochoa on Tuesday.
Cacdac was sworn in without the knowledge of Undersecretary Jose Gutierrez Jr., who at the time was still PDEA chief and had not resigned as claimed by Malacañang.
Cacdac’s appointment was dated October 11, but Ochoa did not inform the Office of the Presidential Spokesman.
That office confirmed the appointment in the evening after radio stations had already announced it.
That was how Gutierrez learned that he was no longer PDEA chief.
On Thursday, his first day at work, Cacdac said that there should be closure to allegations that Gutierrez received a portion of an P8 million bribe that a suspected drug dealer reportedly gave to erring PDEA agents.
He said he was waiting for the National Bureau of Investigation to submit its report on the case, and then would carry out an “internal cleansing” at the PDEA.
At a Palace briefing on Thursday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said he was kept out of the loop, too.
Out of the loop
Lacierda was informed of Cacdac’s appointment around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, but he couldn’t make the announcement “because we were in several meetings, so we were not informed (ahead of time).”
When asked why he did not announce the appointment during the noon briefing that day, he said he was not aware of Cacdac’s appointment.
The Office of the President is the turf of Ochoa, who runs the daily affairs of the Aquino administration behind the scenes.
For reasons known only to him, Ochoa keeps a cautious distance from the Malacañang Press Corps, keeping himself below the radar most of the time.
A text away, Lacierda is the public face of the government, handling official issuances and announcements as well as deflecting criticism of the administration.
Lacierda could not give a definite answer when asked if it was the policy of the Palace to fire appointees without the courtesy of informing them ahead of time.
“Let me ask the Office of the Executive Secretary. I don’t know the process by which…the announcements are done,” Lacierda said.
When reporters tried to offer possible explanations for the sacking of Gutierrez such as the possibility that the President was unhappy with his performance, Lacierda said: “That is not safe to presume because I haven’t spoken to the President regarding PDEA.”
He defended Cacdac’s appointment, saying: “It’s a presidential [appointment]. The ES cannot make appointments.”—With a report from Marlon Ramos