Press Release
January 25, 2009

Propriety of appointing ex-general as PMS chief questioned

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today questioned the propriety of appointing retired Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, former armed forces chief-of-staff, as head of the Presidential Management Staff.

Noting that the PMS serves as the think tank and planning arm of the Office of the President, Pimentel said such appointment merely reinforces the impression that the Arroyo administration is increasingly being militarized by former officers close to the President.

Pimentel asked what Esperon has done in terms of accomplishments that make him deserving of being rewarded with the post of PMS chief, which is also tasked with reviewing and recommending projects for funding by the P2 billion President's Support Fund.

He noted that during Esperon's stint as presidential adviser on the peace process, the government's peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been irreparably setback when the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain was voided by the Supreme Court for being unconstitutional.

"It was as if the new round of Cabinet rigodon was meant to give more powers to certain personalities," the minority leader said.

"In the case of Esperon, he was apparently transferred from the peace process to a new assignment after the scrapping of the agreement on ancestral domain. What are his qualifications to make him deserving of the Cabinet-level position?"

Pimentel noted that this only indicates the awesome influence, if not control, that certain generals wield over the Arroyo government. He said important and strategic positions have been given to an exclusive clique of retired military and police officers whose common denominator is their contributions to Mrs. Arroyo's victory in the fraud-ridden 2004 presidential election, aside from their proven loyalty to her.

At the same time, Pimentel said he does not think it is right for President Arroyo to take over the helm of any government agency or the lead role in any program when things go awry to quell public outrage.

He was referring to the President's decision to assume the chairmanship of the Task Force on Climate Change from Presidential Adviser on Climate Change Heherson Alvarez, shortly after deciding to step into the shoes as anti-drug czar.

"The correct approach is to give the head of an agency or government program with sufficient authority, funds, manpower complement and other resources, instead of taking over his or her role," Pimentel said.

In the case of the campaign against illegal drugs, he asked what Malacañang has done to the long-standing request of Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency director general Dionisio Santiago to augment the budget of his agency so that he can recruit additional anti-narcotics agents, instead of relying on military officers who are temporarily borrowed from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Pimentel said that since the problems of corruption, illegal logging, human smuggling, unemployment and insurgency in the country are as grave as the drug menace and global warming, does this means that the President will also have to act as czar in these critical areas.

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