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Duterte ends SBMA leadership row, names Eisma as chief

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Duterte ends SBMA leadership row, names Eisma as chief

Martin Diño and Wilma Eisma —ALLAN MACATUNO

Martin Diño and Wilma Eisma —ALLAN MACATUNO

Ending a leadership row that alarmed businesses operating in the Subic Bay Freeport, President Duterte has replaced Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chair Martin Diño with its administrator, Wilma Eisma.

The President, who issued the appointment order on
Sept. 25, said Eisma’s term would end on June 30, 2022.

Also on Sept. 25, Mr. Duterte issued Executive Order No. 42, which declares that the SBMA administrator will again be the “ex-officio chair of the SBMA board.”

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Eisma took her oath of office as chair and administrator of SBMA before Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra in Malacañang on Tuesday morning.

“It’s a big job. I take this job seriously. More than the position, I’m really concentrating on what needs to be done,” Eisma said after the ceremony.

Barangay affairs

“Now I have a bigger responsibility and I call for everybody’s support and cooperation. I also hope that there will be a smooth turnover of duties and responsibilities,” she said.

Acting Interior Secretary Catalino Cuy said he was waiting for Diño’s appointment papers as undersecretary at the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

There were earlier reports that Diño would be appointed local government undersecretary for barangay affairs.

Accept President’s decision

Eisma urged Diño to accept Mr. Duterte’s decision. “He (Diño) has been saying that we should let the President decide and the President has already made a decision. I hope he will be gentleman enough to honor the word of the President,” she added.

Eisma, a lawyer and former SBMA volunteer, was appointed SBMA administrator in December 2016, two months after Malacañang named Diño SBMA chair.

EO 42 repealed Executive Order No. 340 issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which separated the position of chair from that of administrator in the SBMA. Under EO 340, the chair heads the agency, but it is the administrator who supervises day-to-day affairs.

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Mr. Duterte noted that the two posts were held by one person under the law that created the SBMA in 1992.

“EO 340 has created confusion with regard to the scope of authority, powers, functions and duties of the chair of the SBMA board and the administrator of the SBMA that has adversely affected the operations of the
SBMA as well as of the numerous investors and locators therein,” the President said.

At odds

Diño, an ally and party mate of Mr. Duterte, had been at odds with Eisma and her predecessor, Randy Escolango, since he was appointed SBMA chair.

Escolango, upon his assumption as officer in charge, had voided Diño’s administrative orders for lack of authority.

Diño fired back by filing criminal and administrative cases against Escolango, and later said he would assume the position of administrator by virtue of his being the chair of the agency.

The impasse was only broken when Eisma was appointed SBMA administrator in January.

Task force superfluous

But in May, Diño clashed with Eisma after he issued an administrative order creating a task force to “inspect, monitor and faithfully implement the laws in the conduct of business and financial operations and collections” of the agency.

Eisma said the task force was “counterproductive, superfluous and unnecessary” and that its creation interfered and encroached on her powers as SBMA administrator.

“(Diño) has no power of authority to issue said administrative order, much less create a task force that will directly involve itself in the operations and day-to-day activities,” Eisma said.

She also said Diño’s allegation that the SBMA was in danger of financial collapse was “totally false and misleading” since its revenues this year were 9.5 percent higher than those in 2016, touted as the
SBMA’s banner year.

Diño retained the support of the ruling PDP-Laban with Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III issuing a statement of support in June.

“Subic has not lived up to its potential due to corruption and mismanagement in the past. For this special economic zone to reassert its rightful place as a driver of economic growth, it needs the leadership of someone like Chair Martin Diño to clean up its ranks and streamline its operations,” Pimentel said.

“Chair Diño enjoys the support of his party, PDP-Laban, in his aggressive campaign against smuggling and corruption,” he added.

Doing what is right

The Inquirer tried to reach Diño for comment, but he did not reply to calls and text messages.

“All throughout this saga, I’ve always had the support of the President who has assured me that he believes the leadership of doing what is right is the leadership that he prefers,” Eisma said.

“The fact that I was reappointed is more than a personal assurance to me of this unequivocal statement of the President that indeed change has come and he wants SBMA to soar to greater heights.”

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella did not say what would happen to Diño, who also headed the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

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TAGS: Martin Dino, Rodrigo Duterte, SBMA, Wilma Eisma
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