MANILA, Philippines—Applicants, anyone?
President Benigno Aquino III is looking for qualified officials to fill up vacancies in his administration less than a month before the start of the campaign period.
At least three crucial sub-Cabinet positions are vacant: National Food Authority (NFA), National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth). The top posts of these agencies were left vacant after the resignations of Lito Banayo, Benito Ramos and Eduardo Banzon, respectively.
All three cited personal or health reasons for quitting their posts. Banayo resigned on Sept. 30, while Ramos and Banzon quit early this month.
The President, however, appeared to be in no rush to make appointments.
Not a word
“No news for all three posts mentioned,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, when the Inquirer sought an update on the vacancies.
Valte said she had not received any confirmation on a possible posting for newly-retired Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Jessie Dellosa.
“Haven’t heard anything (about) Dellosa,” she said.
According to Valte, the appointments ban runs from March 29 to May 13, quoting Commission on Elections resolution No. 9385, and this gives Mr. Aquino more than two months to fill up the vacancies.
But in an ambush interview on Friday, Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang disclosed that retired Major General Eduardo del Rosario was being groomed to replace Ramos at the NDRRMC.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin recommended Del Rosario after Ramos tendered his resignation to take care of his ailing wife.
Del Rosario headed the search and rescue task force formed by Mr. Aquino to oversee a massive operation for the retrieval of the remains of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, who died in a plane crash in Masbate last August.
A Palace source separately disclosed to the Inquirer that Orlan Agbin Calayag may soon be named as NFA administrator.
“His (appointment) papers are being readied now,” said the Palace source.
Calayag was the chief of staff of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala when the latter was still a congressman.
The sudden exit of NFA’s Banayo, NDRRMC’s Ramos and PhilHealth’s Banzon from government could stymie—if their posts remain unfilled up—three of the priority programs of Mr. Aquino: rice self-sufficiency (expected this year), universal health coverage for the poor, and climate change resiliency.
All three crucial programs are part of the overarching goal of the administration to break the back of poverty in a country whose population is expected to grow rapidly to 97.7 million this year.
Besides the high population rate, the government says it has to contend with the increasing ferociousness and unpredictability of the weather brought about by climate change, a cross-cutting issue that affects food security, rural development, tourism, municipal and city planning, to name a few.
Smaller vacancies filled
The President, thus far, has filled other smaller vacancies, Valte announced at a press briefing on Friday.
Mr. Aquino moved Undersecretary Jose Mari Oquiñena from the Presidential Communications Operations Office to acting director general of the Philippine Information Agency.
Oquiñena replaced Jose Fabia.
The President also appointed Allan Gepty as deputy director general of the Intellectual Property Office, which is under the Department of Trade and Industry; Jose Grageda as acting undersecretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform; and Janice Santos as assistant secretary of the Office of Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras.
Mr. Aquino also appointed 13 new judges and a prosecutor.