Premises in the political power play

Premises in the political power play

Former Executive Secretary Atty. Vic Rodriguez

Speculations – kind and otherwise – are abuzz following Malacanang’s confirmation that 48-year-old lawyer Vic Rodriguez has resigned as Executive Secretary, only 79 days after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. took his oath as the country’s 17th chief of state and government.

The confirmation was made by Press Secretary Beatrix “Trixie” Cruz-Angeles last weekend, a day before the 65-year-old President Marcos flew out to New York to address the 77th United Nations General Assembly and meet with some of the world’s leaders and the Filipino community at the Big Apple.

Rodriguez, on his Facebook page, asked President Marcos that he be removed, effective immediately, from his current post and be assigned as Presidential Chief of Staff instead while thanking the President for “his continuing trust and his sincere understanding of my decision.”

Political observers think Rodriguez, even while the President approved Rodriguez’s request and appointment as Presidential Chief of Staff, created through Administrative Order 1 which was signed and took effect immediately also last weekend, lost in the power struggle, factionalism, or horse-trading in the President’s Malacanang circle.

Rodriguez, from Quezon City, was the 39th executive secretary since 1936, or the Commonwealth era. The first executive secretary was Jorge Vargas, a lawyer, diplomat, and youth advocate from Bago, Negros Occidental.

Rodriguez justified his resignation since the post of Executive Secretary is a demanding position that requires a “24/7 job with myriad topics expected to be attended to every day that demands a sense of urgency which essentially requires almost all public servants’ time to ensure that services are met and delivered.”

Rodriguez stressed the importance of witnessing “first hand your young family grow and evolve into how every parent would wish them to become and they most need me too.”

Rodriguez is the managing lawyer of Rodriguez & Partners Law Firm which he helped establish in 2003. He is also president of Quezon City Trial Lawyers League and treasurer of the UST Law Alumni Foundation.

Angeles said the President approved Rodriguez’s request and appointed him Presidential Chief of Staff, which was just created through Administrative Order 1, which was signed and took effect last weekend.

Under AO 1, the Office of Presidential Chief of Staff, which will be led by Rodriguez, will be under the Office of the President.

The functions of OPCOS will include “the efficient and responsive day-to-day operational support of the Presidency to enable the President to focus on strategic national concerns” including security monitoring and coordinating with presidential advisers.

But very telling is the comeback of President Marcos’s chief legal counsel Juan Ponce Enrile who shut off Rodriguez’s reported plan to hammer out for himself a new and powerful position in Malacañang by the Pasig while his eyes are supposed to be on the exit door.

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In a memorandum for the President dated September 15, Enrile cited Rodriguez’s draft AO reviving the Office of the Presidential Staff and draft SO granting sweeping powers to the holder of that office.

The 98-year-old former Senate president said there was no need to revive that position, “much less grant it so much power.”

“The Presidential Chief of Staff or PCS has no decision-making power, no signing powers, no review power, no power of supervision or control over any government department, agency, or office, and no power whatsoever to represent or act on behalf of the President,” Enrile added.

Traditionally, the chief of staff merely assists the President in routine daily functions. These include preparing briefers for meetings, organizing and filing documents, and arranging the Chief Executive’s schedule.

The twin draft orders – which has Rodriguez’s name as a signatory – listed several powers for the position which include the power to “recommend to the President strategic directions;” “provide good, wise and honest counsel on important matters of policy;” “review papers for consideration, action, approval, and signature of the President;” “sign and approve memoranda, administrative issuances and instruments, contracts, and administrative and financial documents;” and “implement instructions for the efficient and effective operations of departments, agencies, and offices.”

Enrile said these powers were already exercised by his office and Rodriguez’s, as well as the Presidential Management Staff and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.

The power to recommend strategic directions is already being performed by various departments, including the National Economic and Development Authority, Enrile said.

“The proposed AO/SO will certainly cause confusion and conflicts among the said offices, in terms of functions and accountabilities,” Enrile added.

Earlier on, Rodriguez earned strong criticism over his involvement in the sugar importation fiasco and questionable appointments made to the Philippine Ports Authority, Land Transportation Office, Philippine Information Agency, and the Bureau of Immigration.

In July, Rodriguez put down rumors that he stepped down, calling them “hearsay.” He said then he would only quit for compelling “health and family reasons.”

He also said he was willing to leave his post if the President wanted him to.

Angeles said the functions of the PCS will come from the abolished agencies including the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

In another stop sign, another Facebook post, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino, dean of the San Beda Alabang Graduate School of Law, wrote that he was “aghast” by Rodriguez’s attempt “to give himself more power,” as reported by broadcaster Anthony Taberna in his radio program.

“He wanted virtually a free hand to act as President,” Aquino said.

“Worst of all, the Order was to be signed by Victor Rodriguez himself!” he added, citing a draft administrative order giving him wide powers that he could use whenever he “deemed it wise and expedient to do so.”

Speculations remain. Like the majority of the population, we are intolerantly watching.

(ai/mtvn)

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