The Palace on Tuesday admitted that Davao-based businessman Michael Yang, a Chinese national, is an economic adviser to the President, two weeks after the Chief Executive denied his appointment due to his nationality.
“Yeah, [he is] one of the consultants of the President. He consults him every now and then,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in response to questions about Yang.
He would not say, however, what particular services Yang provided, but referred to him as an economic adviser.
“I think that’s between the President and the economic adviser. You cannot be revealing those things,” he said, referring to Yang.
Panelo said Yang, who has been cleared of any links to illegal drugs by the President himself, started from a poor background.
“You know Mr. Yang is a wealthy man. He has risen from poor origins to being a wealthy man. And he has a technical know-how how to run a business,” said Panelo.
“And because he is Chinese, he knows a lot of people in the Chinese government. He knows the psychology of Chinese. On that aspect, the President needs people like him,” he added.
The Palace official also dismissed claims that Yang, owner of Davao City Los Amigos stores in Mindanao, could influence the establishment of national policies.
“One economic adviser cannot create policies. It’s the President that creates policies,” Panelo said, adding that Duterte did not lie about Yang’s appointment.
Panelo spoke up after the online news site Rappler reported that the Palace appointed Yang as an “economic adviser to the President” from Jan. 1, 2018, to June 30, 2018, and from July 1, 2018, to Dec. 31, 2018.
The appointment papers released by the Palace, which were both signed by Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, identified the Chinese tycoon by his birth name Yang Hong Ming.
Panelo said he has not seen the appointment papers of Yang, but said this arrangement is allowed under the Constitution.
During a press conference with Palace reporters, Duterte previously said he could not appoint Yang because of his Chinese nationality.
Under the 1987 Constitution, public officers and appointees are required to pledge allegiance to the Philippines.
Section 9 of the Constitution states that “all public officers and employees shall take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend this Constitution.”
The Administrative Code also says, “Public officers and employees owe the State and the Constitution allegiance at all times.”
Yang, however, did not pledge allegiance to the Philippines’ charter as he remains a Chinese national.
“Cannot be, he is a Chinese,” the President said at the time.
Despite the denial, Panelo said Duterte had knowledge of Yan’s appointment, which he said was legal and allowed under the Constitution.
“It’s allowed if it’s only a consultant... Of course, it’s with his knowledge. What he was saying because apparently, the implication is he could not appoint as a consultant this particular person – that is what he was saying,” Panelo said, adding he would clarify the matter with the President.
Guevarra said there is no legal prohibition against engaging Yang as s consultant to the President.
“It’s purely advisory function and without any compensation. The President may or may not listen to him,” Guevarra said in a text message when asked about the legality of Yang’s appointment.
Guevarra, a signatory to one of the two contracts when he was senior deputy executive secretary, said he does not know Yang and that he no longer has access to the document.
“I never met him [Yang] and I am not aware if the contract was renewed after I left my position in the Palace,” he said. He was appointed to the Department of Justice in April.
The contract stated that Yang, identified in the document by his Chinese name Yang Hong Ming, is “contracted as Economic Adviser to the President for the period Jan. 1, 2018 to June 30, 2018.”
he contract referred to Yang as the “Second Party” who has agreed to “devote his technical knowledge, training and skill in the employ of the First Party [Office of the President as represented by Guevarra] as Economic Adviser to the President, in the Office of the President not presently undertaken by any regular personnel of the First Party.”
He is to be given compensation of “one peso [P1.00] per annum, chargeable against the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses of the Office of the President.”
Yang, states the contract, also “agrees to observe the same decorum as that expected of regular employees and submits to be bound by the Office and Civil Service rules and regulations, and that any violation merits appropriate disciplinary action.”
Despite the provision of compensation, the contract states that it “does not create an employer-employee relationship” between Malacañang and Yang.
Meanwhile, appointment papers released by Malacañang on Tuesday showed that Duterte has named Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor chairman Noel Felongco as the new lead convenor of the National Anti-Poverty Commission.
Felongco, a former Environment undersecretary for national solid waste management, will take the post vacated by then NAPC chairman Liza Maza who resigned in August.
Maza cited the cancellation of peace talks with communist rebels as the basis of her irrevocable resignation.
Felongco also served as president of the ruling Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan Central Visayas chapter.
In a move to prevent paralysis in the government, the President then designated Alvin Feliciano as the new PCUP chairman.
Before his appointment, Feliciano served as the Deputy Director General for Operations of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority in 2016.
He also served as an assistant secretary under Medialdea in Malacañang.
Both Felongco and Feliciano’s appointment papers were signed by Duterte on Oct. 31.
The Palace also released the appointment papers of former military chief Eduardo Año as interim secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and Davao City 1st District Rep. Karlo Nograles as Cabinet secretary.
Both Año and Nograles took their oath of office in the presence of the President in Malacañan Palace on Monday.
READ: Senate chief wary of Palace’s new economic adviser
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