Some guys have all the luck
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2019 - 12:00am

Over the past few days, Malacanang Palace has released to the public the latest government officials booted out of their respective agencies and offices. Many of those so far removed were President Rodrigo Duterte’s own appointees in various government posts since he first took office in June 2016.

The Palace at the same time also announced the latest batch of new presidential appointees, a number of whom—as usual—are either retired police or military officials.

Over the weekend, two of the three newly appointed Bureau of Customs deputy commissioners are also retired officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). They were, namely, Raniel Ty Ramiro and

Donato San Juan. Retired Brig.Gen. Ramiro was named the acting head of the Customs' Intelligence Group while retired AFP Lt. Gen. San Juan was appointed as the new deputy commissioner for the Customs' Internal Administration Group. Both of them are “mistahs” at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1984 of incumbent Customs chief Leonardo “Jagger” Guerrero. 

Before his present post, Guerrero once served as AFP chief of staff of President Duterte. He was appointed as head of the Marine Industry Authority immediately after his extended tour of duty. He took over from ex-Customs chief Isidro Lapena, also a retired police general following the latest shabu smuggling.

The third new Customs deputy commissioner named was Veneracion Baquiran. He was previously sacked as former Manila International Container Port district collector who was charged with alleged negligence and tolerance in a case elevated to the Ombudsman for the smuggling of P2.4 billion worth of shabu that were hidden in magnetic lifters.

It was Lapena who replaced former rebel soldier ex-Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon following the P6.4 billion worth of shabu that was smuggled under the latter’s watch. Like Lapena, Faeldon got twice re-invented in office. Faeldon was transferred as assistant secretary at the office of civilian defense and subsequently moved over again currently as Director of the Bureau of Corrections.

The Palace released copies of the appointment papers of the three new Customs deputy commissioners only last Saturday although they were signed on March 6. It was also around that period when former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Alexander Balutan reportedly resigned from his post because of corruption issues hounding his agency. At first, spokesman Salvador Panelo announced that President Duterte had “fired” Balutan but retracted a few hours later that the ex-AFP officer resigned from his post out of delicadeza.

From PCSO insiders, incumbent PCSO board chairman Anselmo Simeon Pinili has taken over Balutan’s post. Two weeks ago, PCSO board member Sandra Cam publicly sought permission from President Duterte to resign due to the corruption issues involving former military colleagues of Balutan appointed also at PCSO. Panelo retorted to Cam telling her to submit her resignation. Nothing so far was heard from Cam.

As President Duterte has publicly admitted time and again, he feels comfortable in appointing ex-military and former police officials to various key government positions. As President Duterte explained his choice of these ex-military and ex-police men over civilian appointees, the former don’t argue with him but are ready to do the assigned tasks to them.

Surely, his arch critics would again decry militarization of the bureaucracy with the latest presidential appointees named to key agencies of the government. But there are more than 1.2 million government personnel and more than half of them are public school teachers. So no worries about militarizing the bureaucracy since they have retired already and therefore they are now part of the civilian service.  

The former Davao City Mayor has repeatedly admitted his comfort zone in the appointment of former military and police officials, saying this is largely based on his having once worked with them at one time or another while they were still in active duty in the uniformed services. President Duterte believes these former military and police officers have still the best years of their lives that could be tapped for public service.

Now that he is the Commander-in-chief of both the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP), what better way to demonstrate this belief of President Duterte is to appoint these former military and police officers to head a civilian office, or to serve in key posts in government agency where their qualifications, skills, and training fit them.

Before he left on official trip to China last April, President Duterte disclosed he would be issuing dismissal orders against unnamed government officials over corruption allegations against them.

On May 16, the Palace released a letter signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea addressed to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Nela Charade Puno that "upon the instructions of the President," her service is terminated effective immediately over unspecified corruption complaints against her. After her unceremonious dismissal, Puno sought specifics of the supposed corruption complaints against her.

Incidentally, President Duterte is scheduled to fly tomorrow on yet another official trip. The Chief Executive will join some of his fellow counterparts from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) attending the Nikkei Conference on the Future of Asia on May 30-31 to be held in Japan.

More likely than not, the latest trip abroad of Mayor Duterte might become another prelude to another round of musical chairs of his presidential appointees.

Following the Metro Manila water crisis, the President finally decided to revamp the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS). The Chief Executive named retired Army Gen. Ricardo Morales to be the new MWSS administrator to take over from incumbent Reynaldo Velasco. According to the President, he very well knows Morales when the latter was still a member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM) that rebelled against his “idol,” the late dictator president Ferdinand Marcos. 

The President re-assigned Velasco, a retired police general, to become the new MWSS board chairman replacing Franklin Monterverde. Latest words from the Palace have it that Monteverde would be re-instated to other government position.

Like some of the previously removed Duterte officials, they are among the lucky ones who get re-appointed, or recycled to other government agencies. 

As one popular song goes, some guys have all the luck.

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