Row over SBMA control sows confusion
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—A bulletin board in one of the offices of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is peppered with pinned notices, memorandums and office orders.
But the documents carried conflicting messages that sowed confusion among employees.
The messages reflected the brewing disagreement between the two top appointees of President Duterte to the SBMA, and some employees found themselves at a loss on whose directives to follow.
Former presidential aspirant, Martin Diño, was appointed SBMA chair on Sept. 23 last year and assumed office on Oct. 3. Diño declared himself the SBMA administrator in an office memorandum dated Oct. 10 sent to SBMA offices and locators.
Upon assuming his post, Diño had issued various office orders and memorandums to SBMA department heads and employees.
He also designated 14 people as his consultants.
But on Oct. 19, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea issued a memorandum designating lawyer Randy Escolango as officer in charge of the office of SBMA administrator.
Medialdea said Escolango’s designation was “in the exigency of service” and would ensure “uninterrupted delivery of public service” in the SBMA.
Escolango’s designation came on Oct. 19, after Malacañang accepted the resignation of former SBMA chair, Roberto Garcia, who served as administrator on a holdover capacity. Garcia served concurrently as SBMA administrator from 2011 until his resignation.
Diño questioned Escolango’s designation and wrote Malacañang to clarify the lawyer’s position and to challenge an executive order (EO) splitting SBMA’s leadership between the chair and the administrator.
EO No. 340, issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, separated the functions of the administrator and chair.
In a letter dated Nov. 28, Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Escolango’s designation “[had] not been revoked by the Office of the President and thus [remained] in full force and effect.”
On Nov. 29, Escolango nullified more than 30 memorandums and office orders issued by Diño, citing the latter’s lack of authority to implement these.
Escolango also nullified the designation of 14 consultants.
“Only the SBMA administrator has the power to detail, reassign, move or designate new duties for personnel,” Escolango said.
He also said Diño had been interfering with the agency’s day-to-day operations, “encroaching upon the duties of SBMA administrator and chief executive officer.”
On Dec. 21, Mr. Duterte appointed lawyer Wilma Eisma as the new SBMA administrator.
Her appointment was expected to end the leadership conflict at the agency, but people close to the two said they had irreconcilable differences.
Such disagreements were evident in office orders they had issued, the latest of which was Diño’s administrative order forming a task force to inspect and monitor the business and financial operations of SBMA.
But Eisma cried foul, arguing that “this purported task force interferes and encroaches upon this power, function, and duty of the administrator and chief executive officer, and is thus counterproductive, superfluous and unnecessary.”
In 2004, EO No. 340 allowed Francisco Licuanan III to serve as SBMA chair and Alfredo Antonio as administrator.
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