Who’s next head to fall?
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2014 - 12:00am

With the lapse of the one-year ban on candidates who ran but lost in the May 13 elections last year, Cabinet members and other presidential appointees in various government positions are edgy these days. He or she may find losing his or her post to any of these losers who are just waiting for the call from the appointing authority at Malacañang Palace.

The jitters started when President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III immediately accepted the sudden resignation of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) chairman Margarita “Margie” Juico. Citing she has reached retirement age, Juico submitted at the office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. her handwritten resignation last week. It was accepted the next day.

Among other reasons, Juico, however, admitted “the last straw” that she decided to call it quits was being told that former Cavite congressman Erineo Maliksi had allegedly announced he would be the next PCSO chairman. P-Noy campaigned for Maliksi as the Liberal Party (LP) candidate in last year’s election but he lost to Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla. However, the Palace has yet to make an official announcement who would be the new PCSO chairman.

This may come as bad news for these appointees-in-waiting, at least for those aspiring for Cabinet posts they think might soon become vacant.

For the nth time yesterday, President Aquino shrugged off talks of possible removal of certain members of his Cabinet who were lately again being linked to the pork barrel scam of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The President sneezed at calls made by leftists groups pressing for the removal of these Cabinet officials named by Napoles in her list of lawmakers allegedly involved in the scam.

The President’s reaction to these ouster calls were echoed in his press conference yesterday in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental where he inaugurated the country’s first large-scale, commercially financed solar power plant under his three and a half-year old administration.

As usual and as expected, President Aquino defended anew these Cabinet officials without naming them.

Incidentally, they happen to be LP card-bearing members also who were in the infamous Napoles list. They supposedly channeled their respective Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to alleged “bogus” non-government organizations (NGOs) put up by Napoles while they were still congressmen.

They are, namely, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) director-general Joel Villanueva. Abad was formerly congressman from the lone district of Batanes while Villanueva was former party-list representative of Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC).

Although he was also repeatedly being linked to the PDAF scandal, the name of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala, however, did not come up in the Napoles list. However, he was being linked to the pork barrel scam because several DA-attached government agencies under him were the chief recipients of PDAF that were allegedly cornered by NGOs identified with Napoles. The former congressman from Quezon Province is also LP partymate of P-Noy.

Alcala’s looming exit from the Aquino Cabinet grew rife following the appointment last week of former LP Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (PAFSAM). P-Noy created this new Cabinet-rank position for Pangilinan who was given oversight functions to four attached agencies that were taken away from the DA secretary.

The four DA-attached agencies were, namely, the National Food Authority (NFA); the National Irrigation Administration (NIA); the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA); and the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA). So far, NFA chief Orlan Calayag and (PCA) administrator Euclides Forbes submitted their respective courtesy resignations to the Office of the President.

NIA administrator Claro Maranan said he would prefer to serve the remainder of his term ending this June to explain why he has not submitted his courtesy resignation. No word yet from FPA director Norli Gicana as of this writing.

Except for Gicana, Alcala told me, Calayag, Forbes and Maranan were all his recommendees to their respective posts. Both Calayag and Forbes told the President in their letters that their resignations would take effect as soon as their respective replacements are named.

Alcala lauded the “delicadeza” displayed by Calayag and Forbes in submitting their courtesy resignations “to give a free hand” to Pangilinan to choose his own people as newly appointed PAFSAM. “They are the kind of people who do not cling to their posts,” Alcala cited. He, too, Alcala swore is not someone who clings to one’s post if he no longer has the trust and confidence of President Aquino.

But as it is right up to now, Alcala noted with extreme disappointment the continuing attacks against him by his enemies and detractors rooting for his removal from the Cabinet. As he has been suspecting all this time, there is a highly financed smear campaign to distract the attention of the Aquino administration from implementing reforms to curb rampant smuggling of agricultural products from rice to onions and other illegally imported crops.

While the Cabinet-level shake-up is not in the offing, the Palace dropped hints yesterday there will be changes in sub-Cabinet officials who head certain “problematic” agencies.

Last Sunday night, while he was attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders’ Summit in Myanmar, President Aquino disclosed to reporters he had ordered an investigation of a certain government agency, of which he has been receiving so much complaints and reports of continuing hanky-panky.

He refused though to say which one. Saying he does not telegraph his punches, the President said between gritted teeth: “Can I just say na sobrang kapal talaga nitong pangkat na ito?”
 If the Chief Executive can let go of a very long-time family friend and ally like Juico, this certainly is giving sleepless nights to all presidential appointees who may wake up the next day without a job.

Obviously, there are many waiting in line for the next head to fall from the chopping block.

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