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Friday, July 26, 2024

Reorganizing the Office of the President

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One of the first official acts by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. the day after he took office, was to issue Executive Order 1 reorganizing the Office of the President.

As such, the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Office of the Cabinet Secretary and the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson were abolished and the Presidential Communications Operations Office reorganized.

The objective is to achieve simplicity, economy and efficiency in the exercise of his continuing authority to reorganize the administrative structure of the Office of the President.

The Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission was created during the administration of Duterte through Executive Order 43 signed in 2017 response to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, and her deputies Melchor Arthur Carandang and Rodolfo Elman pursuing a fact-finding investigation on Duterte’s alleged illegal bank deposits.

It must be said though that other Presidents since Fidel V. Ramos had their own version of the PACC.

The PACC enables the President to conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding on public officials and employees.

Marcos has transferred the functions of the to the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs.

The Deputy Executive Secretary for legal affairs shall make recommendations to the executive secretary for approval, adoption or modification by the President and promulgate rules of procedure in administrative cases under its jurisdiction.

The abolition of the PACC is a rational measure. Its creation has always been for political objectives (as In Duterte when he used it as a counter-attack against then Ombudsman Carpio-Morales s and her deputies) and it does not serve a useful function.

Aside from the internal process that the Office of the Executive Secretary can run to investigate wrongdoing by presidential appointees, there is also the Ombudsman who is the ultimate official in charge of investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials in the government, especially high level ones.

One other casualty of E.O. 1 are the Office of the Cabinet Secretary (a throwback of the first Aquino Administration) and the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson. Under EO No. 237 issued by Aquino in 1987, the Cabinet secretary heads the Cabinet secretariat, which provides technical support to the official family.

The functions of the OCS are to be performed by the Presidential Management Staff or PMS, an attached agency tasked to manage the development and formulation of the projects and policies of the Office of the President.

The PMS can trace its lineage to the administration of Diosdado Macapagal when the latter created in 1962 the Program Implementation Agency to serve as his technical staff for the socio-economic projects, which his administration was implementing.

For the record, when I was in the Cabinet of Fidel V. Ramos as an environmental undersecretary, I found the PMS as one of the best agencies of government. I welcome this move to restore it to its rightful role.

Executive Order. 2 also abolished the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson while reorganizing and renaming the Presidential Communications Operations Office or PCOO which is now the Office of the Press Secretary.

This is also welcome. The PCOO under Duterte became a hub of disinformation and an instrument against a free press. Hopefully, that will change under the new dispensation.

Under the E.O. the Executive Secretary is granted the authority to exercise supervision, control, and oversight functions over all agencies and offices under and attached to the OP.

Obviously, under the Marcos administration, Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez is prima inter pares—first among equals—in the Cabinet.

Under the law, the President has a continuing authority to create, abolish and rationalize offices under his control and administration in pursuit of efficient public service and effective governance.

Marcos is exercising this power with respect to his own office. One can expect he will do the same for the rest of the executive branch. We must be vigilant as he does that to make sure that government remains effective and accountable.

Marcos said that the reorganization of the Office of the President is with the purpose of a “just allocation of resources” and a “simplified management and governance” in the face of current health and fiscal crises. To achieve simplicity, economy, and efficiency in the bureaucracy without effecting disruptions in internal management and general governance, the Marcos administration shall streamline official processes and procedures, including abolishing duplicated and overlapping official functions.

Every president has the right and the authority to align the bureaucracy to his priorities and leadership as well as management style.

In this case, these issuances are in the right direction as it will result in less bureaucracy and save more money for projects and programs that directly benefit our people instead of just being spent on salaries and wages of government officials and employees.

Surely, in this time of crisis, when the country is still reeling from the effects of COVID- 19, staggering national debt, and runaway inflation, among others, any move to streamline the bureaucracy and save money that can be devoted to meaningful programs and projects, without sacrificing efficiency and service is a breath of fresh air and always a welcome development.

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