PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday issued his first executive order reorganizing the Office of the President to make it “more responsive in attaining development goals.”
Under the new clustering, Secretary to the Cabinet Leoncio Evasco will supervise 12 line agencies under the OP, including the Cooperative Development Authority, the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, National Youth Commission, the Office of the President-Presidential Action Center, the Philippine Commission on Women, and the Presidential Commission on the Urban Poor.
The National Food Authority and the Philippine Coconut Authority—two agencies under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization in the previous administration, will remain under the control of the Office of the President.
The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), whose head of agency had a Cabinet-level rank under the Aquino administration, was reverted back to its previous rank of undersecretary and removed from its mother line agency, the Department of Labor and Employment.
Two agencies under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization—the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority and the National Irrigation Administration—were reverted back to the Agriculture Department, their former mother department.
Also in the same EO, a new special cluster—the Office of the President-Events Management Office (OP-EMO) was created to “ensure effective collaboration among the offices and units involved in the preparations for and management of presidential engagements.”
Special Assistant to the President Secretary Christopher Go will head these new agencies.
Under the OP-EMO are the Office of the Special Assistant to the President, the Office of the Appointments Secretary, and the Presidential Management Staff.
Other line agencies under the OP-EMO are the Presidential Security Group, the Office of the Chief Presidential Protocol, the Media Accreditation and Relations Office and Radio Television Malacañang.
The President has previously said that he could not appoint Evasco, a former leftist, to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, due to possible conflicts with the military. He later appointed Regina Lopez, chairperson of the ABS-CBN Foundation, to the post instead.
On Monday, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte would issue an executive order on freedom of information [FOI] before the week ends.
Andanar, chief of the Presidential Communications Office, said, during Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila Hotel, that the order will cover departments and line agencies under the Office of the President.
Andanar said a consultation will be held Wednesday on the EO’s contents and the order is expected to be signed either on Thursday or Friday.
Andanar said the issuance of the EO on FOI shows that Duterte is serious about carrying out his promise to increase transparency in government.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella, on the other hand, said he sees no conflict with the move and Duterte’s pronouncement that he would avoid the media, saying the President wants to devote more time to work.
“He abhors secrecy and he desires transparency and that’s part of his working and part of his values, that work ought to be done in a very transparent manner,” he said.
“It’s not secrecy. It’s not really secrecy,” Abella said of Duterte’s avoidance of media.
“Let’s put it this way and I’m not speaking for him but I’m speaking, let’s say, as a person observing the whole situation. He wants to devote his first 100 or so days to work and he doesn’t want it hampered by having to answer little noises,” said Abella.
Senator Grace Poe, author of the FOI bill that was passed on third and final reading in the Senate, welcomed the release of an EO to give the public access to government records.
“This will complement the avowed commitment to stamp out corruption in government as soon as possible,” said Poe, who vowed to refile her bill.
Under the measure, she said citizens will have the right to request and be granted access to government records or information, subject to reasonable exceptions. Greater access to information will empower citizens to participate in government matters and hold public officials accountable, she said.
Incoming Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III added that a law is needed because it would cover not only the Executive Department but everyone. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Sandy Araneta
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