Malacañang clarifies appointments row; sees nothing wrong with replacement of envoy to Germany

March 29, 2010 11:34 pm 

MANILA, March 29 — Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said today that all the recent appointments made by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were a timely and legitimate exercise of her appointing powers, with the highest interest of the country in mind.

Stressing that nothing was irregular in the appointments, Mendoza said all, but one, were done in accordance with law, civil service rules and other regulations and before the 60-day election ban on appointments took effect.

Even the only exception, which was the change at the top post in the Department of Energy where Jose C. Ibazaeta was designated, in temporary and acting capacity, to replace the recently-resigned Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, was justified by Mendoza as a case of a “permitted executive appointment” covered by Section 15, Article 7 of the Constitution.

Newly-assumed Presidential Legal Counsel Raoul Victorino helped explain that the particular Constitutional provision allows temporary appointments when “continued vacancies will prejudice public service and endanger public safety.”

Victorino, a former Sandiganbayan justice and member of the Judicial and Bar Council, said the DOE appointment satisfied the required elements of “temporariness” of the appointment and the elements of public safety and service.

Earlier the Department of Justice said that the absence of a secretary at the DOE will prejudice public service, especially in Mindanao where a power crisis is taking place on account of the El Nino phenomenon.

“I wish to clarify, once and for all, that all of the appointments recently made by President Arroyo constitute a timely and legitimate exercise of her appointing authority, consistent with law, civil service and other regulations, and invoking the highest national interest by putting in position only the most competent executives to assist in completing her legacy agenda for the country within the brief time remaining,“ Mendoza stressed during a Malacanang press briefing where he was joined by Victorino and Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Gary Olivar.

During the briefing, the Malacanang officials sought to put an end to the developing controversy over the alleged unceremonious replacement as ambassador to Germany of Delia Domingo Albert by businessman Alfonso Yuchengo, by allowing Albert herself to explain her replacement during the press briefing.

Forthwith, Albert clarified that nothing was wrong because in her ambassadorial posting to Germany, she is a “political appointee” serving at the pleasure of the appointing authority — the President.

Albert said she has long retired from the career foreign service but was picked from retirement by the President. “As a political appointee, I am co-terminous with the President,” Albert added.

Albert, who served as foreign secretary in 2003, said she is one of two former foreign affairs secretaries whose services have been extended by the President, the other being Domingo Siazon, who is ambassador to Japan.

Albert categorically said her replacement is “the prerogative of the President.”

She dismissed as conjectures reports that one reason why she was replaced has something to do with a report she made about Germany’s supposed doubts on the feasibility of the first-ever automated election in the Philippines.

“I am surprised by the report,” she said, adding “it was pity that bilateral relations would come in” in her case. She said there was no such discussion in Germany on the matter.

The controversy notwithstanding, Albert said she was thankful for President Arroyo.

She said she was asked by the President to wait for her replacement as there is still a process to be done.

Olivar, meanwhile, took critics to task, especially the political opposition, for injecting political intrigues into the Albert case. “Let us spare our foreign relations and bilateral relations (with Germany) from election politics."

Mendoza said no more appointments are likely as the recent reorganization forced by the 2010 election campaign has been completed. (PNA)

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