A tale behind two appointees
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - April 8, 2019 - 12:00am

Like a ghost of the past, President Rodrigo Duterte is being hounded anew by the questioned bank deposits allegedly in the millions of pesos and separate dollar accounts that were allegedly not declared in his statement of assets and liabilities (SALN). This issue cropped up anew following the appointment of Aurora Cruz Ignacio as the new president and chief executive officer of the Social Security System (SSS) on the eve of the election ban against issuance of new appointees in government.

Ignacio replaced former SSS president and CEO Emmanuel Dooc whose term ended last March. Dooc’s term as SSS chief has expired under Republic Act (RA) 11199 or the Social Security Act. She was initially appointed as officer-in-charge of the SSS during a board meeting on March 13, which was presided over by social security chairman and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.

Based from backgrounds provided by the Department of Finance (DOF), Ignacio was previously the first woman who chaired the Social Security Commission, the policymaking body of the state fund. Prior to SSS, Ignacio was former assistant secretary for special projects under the Office of the President. She was designated by Malacañang as the government’s focal person for anti-drug programs in 2017 as member of the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Task Force on the Establishment of Rehabilitation and Treatment Center for Drug Users.

Curiously, however, not mentioned in the personal background of Ignacio, is her working stint at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI). But this missing portion of her resume turned up in my google.com search in a Facebook page called Pinas Thoughts. The Facebook page turned out to be under the social media page of Team Pilipinas#OtsoDiretso, or the eight candidates of the Liberal Party (LP)-led coalition senatorial ticket in the coming May 13 elections. Their post read:

“Who is Aurora C. Ignacio? Meet the new SSS President and CEO...

Throwback: Remember the controversial ‘secret’ bank account of Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Sara Duterte? The alleged secret bank accounts in BPI, and one of them is a joint dollar account with daughter Sara Duterte.

The accounts were proven to be in existence as test deposits were made, received and validated.

A P500 deposit was made to Duterte’s account at the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) branch in Julia Vargas. The machine-validated deposit slip indicated that account number 2433-0695-39 belonged to Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Sara Duterte.

Another deposit was made, $10, at the BPI Pasig Branch for the account number: 2434-0159-71, and the deposit slip also listed both Rodrigo Roa Duterte and Sara Duterte as owners of the account.

Moving on, Aurora Ignacio the new SSS president and CEO, who hails from Davao like the President, just so happened to have worked at the BPI Julia Vargas branch prior to her appointment to various posts in the Duterte administration.”

Meanwhile, there should be no controversy at all on the latest appointment of Eliseo Rio Jr. as “acting” Secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). But what happened to the nomination of outgoing Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan II as DICT Secretary? 

The appointment paper of Rio as “acting” Secretary of the DICT was signed by President Duterte last March 25.

Rio serves as “acting” because the 17th Congress was not in session when President Duterte issued his latest appointment last week.

Rio was previously commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) and was initially appointed by President Duterte as one of the DICT undersecretaries. The NTC is one of the regulatory agencies attached to the DICT. Rio was later promoted as officer-in-charge after DICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima resigned in September 2017 over the stalled third telecommunications company (telco) project of the Duterte administration.

Actually, the President first appointed Rio as “acting” Secretary of DICT on May 8 last year. But somewhere, somehow, the name of Honasan suddenly cropped up as being eyed to head the DICT when the President started publicly complaining about the continuing delay in the entry of a third telco beyond the deadlines he set before.

Then on November 18, 2018, the NTC finally awarded Mislatel to become the third telco, a consortium that includes Udenna Corp., its subsidiary Chelsea Logistics Holdings Corp. and state-owned China Telecommunications Corp. Udenna is owned by Dennis Uy, who contributed heavily to Duterte’s campaign in the 2016 presidential elections. A few days later, the President appointed Honasan as DICT Secretary whose second and last term at the Senate ends this June.

Honasan’s colleagues at the 25-man Commission on Appointments (CA), however, failed to confirm his nomination before they adjourned for the Christmas holiday break last year. The CA failed anew to pass Honasan’s confirmation last February before they adjourned for recess to give way to the election campaign period.

Hence, Eliseo is back as “acting” DICT Secretary and was visibly happy when he joined us during our Kapihan sa Manila Bay last week. The self-effacing 74-year DICT “acting” Secretary arrived without any advance party nor any security escorts when he showed up in our regular breakfast news forum that we hold at Café Adriatico in Remedios Circle in Malate every Wednesday.

A civil engineer by profession, Rio was an integree in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and retired as one-star general. He taught at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) where he had as students other retired generals now serving in the Duterte Cabinet like Defense Sec. Delfin Lorenzana and Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu. Honasan, too, was once a student of Rio at the PMA Class 1971 that also included Sen. Panfilo Lacson.      

A little birdie at Malacañang chirped Honasan would be named as DICT Secretary in July by which time there will be no more complications to his post as he has graduated already from the Senate.

As for Rio’s fate, the President has a track record for recycling his appointees.

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