MANILA, Philippines — Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual was confronted about the leadership controversy at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) when he faced his confirmation hearing at the Commission on Appointments on Tuesday.
According to Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, the controversy started when Pascual designated Deputy Director General (DDG) Tereso Panga as officer-in-charge (OIC) of Peza.
Peza, an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, was previously headed by Director General Charito Plaza.
“The first action of Director Panga was to padlock the office of Director Charito Plaza. Then after that nagkagulo na ang Peza,” Pimentel said during the hearing of the CA’s committee on trade and industry.
Employees supposedly identified with Plaza were either terminated, demoted or placed on floating status, the lawmaker said.
“I think Director Panga clearly has an abuse of authority in demoting, transferring, terminating these employees just because of his self-interest. Hindi ho maganda po yun. Yun lang ang blemish na nakita ko po dyan sa DTI ngayon,” Pimentel said.
(I think Director Panga clearly has abused authority in demoting, transferring, and terminating these employees just because of his self-interest. That’s not good. That’s the only blemish I see in the DTI now.)
Pascual clarified that he did not designate Panga as the OIC of the Peza.
According to him, Panga assumed the post in accordance with memorandum circulars issued by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., declaring some posts in the executive department vacant.
“Now this matter of employees having complaints is coming to my attention only now. I have not had reports from the employees directly when these things are happening. Now that I’m aware of this, we will investigate and see how we can address the problems,” the DTI chief said.
And even if the case is already with the Civil Service Commission, Pascual reiterated that he would look into the issue.
“And if OIC DDG has accountability for his action, he should answer for it,” he also said.
Pimentel said it would be “very impossible” for Panga to take over Peza without an order from the DTI chief himself.
“If according to you, Secretary Pascual, hindi ka nagbigay ng written order, walang designation, illegal yun,” he stressed.
(If, according to you, Secretary Pascual, you did not give a written order, then there is no designation then that’s illegal)
“Tinanggal yung mga contractual employees, denemote, pinalagay sa floating status. Why? Is he God at Peza? Sya na ba ang Diyos na dapat gawin nya yun?”
(The contractual employees were dismissed, demoted, and placed on floating status. Why? Is he God at Peza? Is he now God to do that?)
Pimentel accused the DTI chief of lying before the CA when the latter claimed he was only made aware of the problem during the hearing.
“You’re lying. Sasabihin mo sa amin ngayon na you only knew. Anong klaseng Secretary ka, ngayon mo lang malalaman? You know it from the very beginning because it was you who gave the order to Panga,” he said.
(You’re lying. You’d tell us now that you only knew. What kind of Secretary are you that you’d know it only now? You know it from the very beginning because it was you who gave the order to Panga)
Other CA members, including Senator Imee Marcos, claimed to have prior knowledge of the Peza controversy.
“It is alleged that you empowered Panga with full power [although] he’s a mere OIC, despite that his assumption is still under protest at the Office of the President given that he has no presidential appointment,” Marcos said.
She said Panga is not also “exercising absolute powers over Peza employees,” but he has also supposedly reappointed several officers with pending graft cases before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Pascual reiterated that he would look into the issues raised during the hearing.