Scandalous midnight appointments, “rewards for loyalty” or Arroyo insurance policy?

Posted: June 8, 2010 in philippine elections, Socio-Political
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Special Release
June 8, 2010

Loyalty is considered priceless by many, but for some Arroyo loyalists, the price may well be spelled out in terms of government posts, even after the President is no longer in office.

Many of the so-called midnight appointees may be getting rewards for their loyalty to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. The umbrella group conducted an initial study of the matrix that appeared in and Newsbreak on the issue of midnight appointments.

“The rush to appoint so many officials at the last minute may not be due actual necessity but more because of their perceived loyalty to the appointing authority. These may be farewell presents or rewards by the President to her loyal followers. Some re-appointed officials may have gotten enough ‘frequent flyer miles’ working with the administration that they get to stay beyond June 30, 2010. These appointments may also be part of an insurance policy of the outgoing administration,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

Bayan said that the “midnight” appointees include several military men loyal to the President, as well as campaign contributors, known supporters and political allies of the president who will keep their posts even after Mrs. Arroyo has long left Malacanang.

The Generals

Among the Arroyo “loyalists” who were appointed before the constitutional ban are military men Rear Admiral Tirso Danga who was appointed board member of the Philippine National Oil Corporation-Exploration Corp on March 1, 2010. Danga was the chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the time the wiretapping of conversations among government officials were done by ISAFP men. This resulted in the 2005 “Hello Garci” scandal.

Former Army Commanding General Romeo Tolentino was nominated by Mrs. Arroyo to the PNOC Alternative Fuels Corporation as President and CEO on March 1, 2010. During his stint as the chief of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) of the AFP, there were many documented cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

Other Arroyo generals appointed at the last minute include former Marine commandant, Lt. Gen. Edgardo Espinosa who will sit as a board member of the Philippine Postal Corporation after being appointed March 5, 2010. Former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Narciso Abaya will sit as Vice chairman, Clark Development Corporation after being appointed last March 5, 2010.

Presidential advisers/assistants
Arroyo political adviser Prospero Pichay will get to sit as a Trustee of the Local Water Utilities Administration for a term of five years after his appointment last March 9, 2010.

“We ask, what is the urgency and necessity of these midnight appointments? Are the terms of these officials being extended because their agencies require it or because they are loyal to the president and they are being rewarded for that?” Reyes asked.

Former Senior State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuno will sit a Board Member, Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation for a six-year term. Prior to his retirement from the DOJ, Zuno was issued a 90-day suspension by the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission for his alleged involvement in a bribery scandal by drug suspects known as the “Alabang Boys”.

Alita Mercado meanwhile will sit as Chairwoman and CEO, Laguna Lake Development Authority after being nominated by Mrs. Arroyo last March 5 2010. Mercado is a known supporter of President Arroyo and was listed as a campaign contributor during Arroyo’s 2004 presidential run. Records show she gave P200,000 to the Arroyo campaign that year.

Bayan said it is also studying the appointment of retired Supreme Court Justice Minita Chico Nazario as Chairwoman, PNOC Exploration Corporation. Nazario concurred with majority decision in Romulo L. Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, et al, preventing former NEDA chief Romulo Neri from having to testify at the Senate investigations on the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal.

Palace spin-doctor and former chief of the Philippine Information Agency Renato S. Velasco will also sit as a Trustee of the LWUA along with Pichay. He too will enjoy a five-year term.

Former Comelec Commissioner Manolo Gorospe, also known as the “Kissing Lolo”, will also sit as a Board member of the PNOC Development and Management Corporation for a one-year term after his appointment last March 5, 2010. He was also a former election lawyer of Mrs. Arroyo.

Former Quezon City congresswoman Maite Defensor was also appointed as a Board Member of the Home Guarantee Corporation last March 5, 2010 for a term of five years. Defensor ‘s name was included in the list of solons who allegedly received part of the fertilizer fund scam from the Department of Agriculture, even though they did not have agricultural areas in their districts. Meanwhile, former OWWA head Virgilio Angelo will sit on the Board of the Metropolitan Wateworks and Sewerage System for a five-year term. Angelo was implicated in the questionable transfer of OWWA funds during the 2004 elections.

Newly-appointed National Youth Commission (NYC) Chair Christopher Lawrence S.Arnuco, Jr. was also a previous NYC appointee and was described as a “presidential assistant”. He will enjoy a three-year term after being appointed March 4, 2010.

Arroyo aide and Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration Susana D. Vargas was appointed as LWUA trustee last March 1, 2010 and will sit for a five-year term.

“What we are seeing is an obvious pattern of patronage in government. Those supportive of the president are appointed to different positions and in this case, with terms even beyond that of the appointing authority. The problem with having Mrs. Arroyo in power for more than nine years is that this pattern of patronage has become so well entrenched and perfected. It is only now when Arroyo’s term is expiring that people are beginning to see it,” Reyes said.

“The appointment spree is nothing short of scandalous and outrageous. Even if Palace officials say that the appointments were made before the period of the constitutional ban, the sheer number of last-minute appointees show an obvious attempt to circumvent the ban,” he added. ###


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