‘Little President’ quits after 79 days in post | Inquirer News

‘Little President’ quits after 79 days in post

Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez (File photo from the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines — It kept the Palace rumor mill churning for weeks: that the Marcos campaign spokesperson who rose to become “Little President” was on his way out.

After only 79 days in office, Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez announced his resignation on Saturday, ending weeks of speculation about the most powerful member of the Cabinet whose image got an early battering for his purported role in the sugar importation fiasco and an alleged bribery scheme involving presidential appointments.


Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles confirmed in a separate statement that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had accepted Rodriguez’s resignation and given him a new role as presidential chief of staff, with “the rank and emoluments of a Cabinet secretary.”

The executive secretary is the No. 1 official in the Office of the President.


There was no official word on Saturday about Rodriguez’s replacement but two Inquirer sources — one in Malacañang and another in the judiciary — said former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin had been chosen to succeed Rodriguez.

“The president will appoint Bersamin in the next few days,” the Palace source told the Inquirer on Thursday, two days before Rodriguez announced his resignation.

The second source, who had worked with Bersamin and asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said the former magistrate was “offered the post” last week.

On Nov. 8, 2016, Bersamin was one of the nine Supreme Court justices (against five) who voted in favor of having the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the President’s father, buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani. The low-key rites were carried out 10 days later amid protests, especially from martial law victims.

When Bersamin retired from the judiciary in February 2020, then President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him chair of the board of trustees of the Government Service Insurance System.

Angeles on Saturday did not confirm whether Bersamin had been offered or had accepted the job as Rodriguez’s replacement.

“There are names now being considered for the position of executive secretary and these names are now under the process of vetting by the Office of the President,” she said.


In his statement, Rodriguez cited his need to have more time with family as his reason for resigning.

Being executive secretary, he said, is “a 24/7 job with myriad topics expected to be attended to every day.”

“Equally valuable, however, is to witness firsthand your young family grow and evolve into how every parent would wish them to become and they most need me too,” Rodriguez said.

He thanked the president for his “continuing trust and his sincere understanding of my decision.”

For weeks, rumors had been rife that Rodriguez was on his way out after he was dragged into a political firestorm over his alleged role in an “illegal” order to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar, supposedly to address a shortage that had steeply raised the retail price of the commodity.

Documents authorizing the transaction were issued without the president’s approval, triggering reprisals against top agriculture executives, particularly in the Sugar Regulatory Administration.

In the ensuing Senate inquiry, the embattled officials claimed that they approved the order after receiving positive signals from the executive secretary. But Rodriguez emerged unscathed and was cleared of complicity by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The Palace then also came to his defense, saying Rodriguez approved only an importation plan, not an actual bid.

In July, early into Marcos’ term, Rodriguez’s name also cropped up in connection with an alleged scheme that offered a plum government position for P100 million to a potential appointee who had the backing of a religious group.

He denied the allegation before reporters by saying: “We cannot be held to explain something that is unverifiable or plain rumor.’’

Longtime Marcos aide

Before coming to Malacañang, Rodriguez, 48, was a longtime chief of staff and spokesperson of Mr. Marcos.

Angeles said Rodriguez’s new post — as presidential chief of staff — was created under Administrative Order No. 1, which Marcos signed over the weekend.

Under the AO, Rodriguez “shall have the primary function of supervising and ensuring the efficient and responsive day-to-day operational support to the presidency to enable the President to focus on strategic national concerns,” the press secretary said.

Angeles said a separate draft special order—one that expands Rodriguez’s functions beyond what was stated in AO 1—was rejected by the president on the recommendation of chief presidential legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

Enrile, in a Sept. 15 memorandum to the President seen by reporters, wrote that: “There is no need to create the position of the presidential chief of staff, much less grant it so much power.”

He noted that Rodriguez’s new powers “have already been given to, and are already being exercised by other offices, like the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Presidential Management Staff, the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, and the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.”

Enrile warned that the new position “will necessarily cause duplication and overlapping of functions, confusion and even inevitable rifts among the different offices under the president.”



Rodriguez ‘not entirely blameless’ in sugar import mess — Senate minority report

Rodriguez admits asking SRA to draft import order

Serafica: President eyed 600,000 MT sugar imports; Rodriguez denies it

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