Justice chief develops ‘caretaker phobia’
One of President Rodrigo Duterte’s most trusted Cabinet members has apparently discovered a new kind of fear.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Friday said he might be suffering from “caretaker phobia.”
He blamed it on the two occasions when he was designated officer in charge (OIC) of the national government while President Duterte was on official trips abroad.
Given that job when the President went to Israel and Jordan this week, Guevarra found himself at the center of the controversy over the presidential proclamation revoking opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes’ amnesty for his participation in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and the 2007 Manila Peninsula hotel siege during the Arroyo administration.
As OIC, he is tasked to take care of the day-to-day operations of the Office of the President and to oversee the general administration of the Executive department while the President is away.
Through a special order, the President grants the OIC the authority to “act for and on behalf of the President, except on matters that the President is required by the Constitution to act in person.”
Based on special orders issued by the President earlier this year, it is usually the executive secretary that is designated as the OIC. Guevarra was the first justice secretary given that task in recent history.
When Guevarra was still senior deputy executive secretary, he was the one ordered to draft Presidential Proclamation No. 216 that placed the whole of Mindanao under martial law in response to the Marawi City siege.
He received that order on the phone from the President, who was then in Moscow along with Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and other Cabinet members.
Last time ‘nothing happened’
“I’m starting to develop a phobia of all this caretaker business,” Guevarra said on Friday in a speech at the National Police Commission’s 52nd anniversary program in Quezon City, where he was the guest speaker.
Guevarra recalled that the only time “nothing happened” while he was designated caretaker was when the President went to Kuala Lumpur to watch the Manny Pacquiao-Lucas Matthysse boxing match.
“But here we are again with all this caretaker business,” Guevarra said. “The first thing I prayed for when I was designated caretaker [this time] was that this week would be quiet and have no problems.”
Guevarra recalled that he received from Medialdea the proclamation to revoke Trillanes’ amnesty as he was sending off the President and fellow Cabinet officials on Sunday at the airport.
“I was handed a piece of paper. ES [Medialdea] said, ‘Pare, read it carefully.’ When I looked it over, it was another proclamation! I’ve just about had it with proclamations,” he said.
“I thought: ‘I’m dead this week. This will be explosive.’ True enough, that’s what has happened this week. Every day since Monday, that has been the thing that has been occupying my attention,” Guevarra said.
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