Piñol named DA chief; Domingo gets Pagcor
(The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2016 - 12:00am

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Former North Cotabato governor Emmanuel Piñol and former immigration chief Andrea Domingo are the newest recruits to the incoming Duterte administration – as agriculture secretary and chief of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), respectively.

Before being named to the DA, Piñol had been out of government for six years and engaged in farming.

Domingo, who met with Duterte before dawn yesterday in his temporary office at the Matina Enclave Residences here, was among the Davao City mayor’s ardent supporters during the campaign in Luzon. She was an organizer of volunteer groups for the Duterte campaign.

Earlier named to Duterte’s incoming Cabinet were Salvador Medialdea as executive secretary, Salvador Panelo as presidential spokesman, former Securities and Exchange Commission chief Perfecto Yasay Jr. as acting foreign affairs chief, former Clark Development Corp. head Arthur Tugade as transportation and communications head, former agriculture secretary Carlos Dominguez as secretary of finance, Lyceum of the Philippines Batangas president Peter Laurel as secretary of education, Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar as public works secretary and Jesus Dureza for the peace process.

Former defense chief Gilbert Teodoro Jr., meanwhile, said he is still considering Duterte’s offer for him to return to the Department of National Defense.

Teodoro, who arrived here Monday to meet with Duterte, said he still had to consult with his family regarding the offer.

There are close to 430 positions that the incoming administration has to fill.

Upon assuming office, Piñol said he would push for the rescinding of President Aquino’s executive order (EO) that transferred the National Food Authority (NFA) and three other agencies to the Office of the President from the agriculture department.

Piñol said the supervision of the NFA, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) should be returned to the agriculture department to ensure well-coordinated policies.

“I will recommend to the president that the executive order issued by President Aquino which separated NFA, PCA and NIA (from the agriculture department) be rescinded,” Piñol said in an interview yesterday.

“You can’t possibly function effectively if the operations are compartmentalized,” he added. Piñol said lack of coordination could lead to unnecessary spending and corruption.

The four agencies were placed under the supervision of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, a post created on the same date EO 165 was issued.

Former senator Francis Pangilinan was appointed to the post, commonly known as “food security czar.”

Critics said the transfer of the NFA, PCA, NIA and FPA reflected Aquino’s dissatisfaction with the performance of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Piñol said the post occupied by Pangilinan would be abolished once EO 165 is rescinded. Pangilinan has consistently remained in the so-called Magic 12 in the ongoing tally of votes in the senatorial race.

Priorities

Piñol said Duterte has already given him two instructions – make sure there is affordable food for all Filipinos and stop corruption in the agriculture department.

He said he would ensure that loans and food assistance are given to agriculture workers, especially those affected by El Niño.

“There will be immediate intervention and soft loaning assistance, I will ask the president to direct the NFA to allocate more funds for the procurement of the surplus production of farmers,” he said, noting that the first harvest after a drought is usually bountiful.

Piñol also cited the need to review the irrigation system so that there would be enough water even during the dry season.

With regard to corruption at the agriculture department, Piñol noted that the problem is preventing the government from assisting farmers effectively.

“I’d like to emphasize that the president had made it clear that corruption will stop in the DA. Rice smuggling will stop. The planning processes should start at the ground level,” the incoming agriculture chief said.

“The corruption in the Department of Agriculture is serious. The mere fact that assistance to hungry farmers do not reach hungry farmers proves that the government is ineffective even if the government has lots of money,” he pointed out.

Piñol called the DA under the previous administration an “ill-managed agency that does not respond to the needs of Filipino farmers.”

“Farming has been a guessing game for Filipino farmers. There is little assistance and little guidance,” he said.

Meanwhile, the PDP-Laban said there is no conflict of interest in Villar’s appointment to the DPWH. Villar’s family controls property developer Vista Land and homebuilder Camella Homes.

“With regard to the DPWH secretary coming from a family with subdivision projects, I do not see any outright conflict of interest,” PDP-Laban president Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, said in an interview here.

Pimentel said conflict is present if Villar is appointed to the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), which grants business permits.

“In the particular case that the proposed government infrastructure project will benefit one of your real properties, then you can, for that particular case, inhibit yourself from the decision-making process,” he added.

Pimentel, nevertheless, noted that Villar has to comply with the requirements under the law such as divestment of business interests, rules involving the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth and full disclosure of properties and assets. Outgoing DPWH chief Rogelio Singson yesterday congratulated his successor.

Villar’s senator mother Cynthia also scoffed at criticisms that there was conflict of interest in her son’s appointment to the DPWH.

“The DPWH is for the people. There is no conflict of interest,” Villar said in a telephone interview with reporters at the Senate yesterday.

Since Villar recently won a congressional seat, Sen. Villar said it would have to be determined how his replacement would be selected. She said Duterte has personally chosen his son because of his untainted record.

In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. indicated they would rather steer clear of controversies hounding some of Duterte’s appointments.

“Every president exercises the prerogative to appoint Cabinet members who are deemed capable and trustworthy,” Coloma told a press briefing.

“In exercising this power, the president must submit the appointees to the scrutiny of Congress through its Commission on Appointments, as provided by the Constitution,” he said.

Liberal Party stalwart and Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo said there should be no prejudgment on Duterte’s appointments.

“The resounding mandate the people gave Duterte leaves us with no option but to trust and support him,” Castelo said in a statement. – With Alexis Romero, Aurea Calica, Marvin Sy, Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan

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