Aquino schoolmate being eyed as next DILG chief-A A +A
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
MANILA (2nd Update, 5:02 p.m.) -- A schoolmate of President Benigno Aquino III at the Ateneo de Manila University is being groomed to succeed the late Secretary Jesse Robredo at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
Aquino will announce Robredo's successor before he leaves on September 7 for Russia for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit, Malacanang said Wednesday.
Leaders of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) want the next DILG chief to come from their rank and the guy should be Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of the House committee on appropriations.
Abaya is said to be the number one choice of Aquino's most senior adviser, Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II, who is also president of the LP.
The untimely death of Robredo in a tragic plane crash last August 18 had left a vacuum at the DILG and stalled the late Cabinet official's various programs on good governance.
House Majority Leader Neptali "Boyet" Gonzales said Abaya, LP's secretary general, embodies the qualities of Robredo who was revered as the "best person" for the job.
"We need the likes of Jesse Robredo that you can say is not a politician in the sense that politics comes first before work. I think Jun Abaya has those qualifications. His character is like that of Jesse Robredo's, a silent worker," he added.
In an ambush interview Wednesday, Abaya said he is ready to help President Aquino "in whatever way" he could.
Abaya is already on his last term as congressman. He obtained his law degree from Ateneo de Manila University in 2005.
He also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, United States.
"My general attitude is in whatever way I could help the president, I will and if he'd offer and request me to do (the job), I'll help… I will not expect anything of the president but as a good soldier, I'll do whatever he says," Abaya said.
Abaya said he was never formally — or informally — offered to take over the DILG.
"I'm just laughing deep inside where all of this is coming from," he said.
Robredo's colleague in the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership, Quezon City Representative Bolet Banal, also supported Abaya's possible appointment as Interior secretary.
"There is also Representative Jun Abaya who is widely known as an effective, ethical and empowering leader… [He is] competent and God-fearing," Banal said in a text message.
House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also prefers Abaya over the other alleged candidates to the post.
Other supposed candidates to the DILG post are Senator Panfilo Lacson, former Isabela governor Grace Padaca, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, and Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Lacson is not a member of the ruling party but he enjoys the trust of the President being Aquino's close friend when they were still colleagues in the Senate.
Lacson said he will have to think carefully if given the chance to head the DILG. He added that he is not "competing" to get the post.
"It all boils down to Aquino exercising that prerogative to appoint whoever he wants to appoint," he said in a chance interview.
Gonzales said the post should be given to a member of the ruling party because the late DILG Secretary Robredo was an LP member.
He pointed out that with the death of Robredo, only two Cabinet members allied with the LP are left. These are Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad and Transportation Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II.
"Although you can say that the LP is the ruling party but by no stretch of imagination can you say that it is occupying all the government positions," Gonzales, a member of the LP himself, said.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, meantime, said President Aquino will name his choice for the next DILG chief on September 7.
"Yes, he will name a replacement before he leaves for Russia," Lacierda said.
President Aquino will attend the Apec Summit 2012 in Vladivostok, Russia from September 8 to 9.
Lacierda admitted that the President has been thinking about the best replacement of Robredo but he has yet to meet anyone or any group who has interest for the position.
As to the qualifications of the next DILG chief, Lacierda said the President is looking for someone who will continue the reforms started by Robredo.
"Secretary Robredo has done so much for the improvement of local governance through local government and so reforms that have been started by Secretary Robredo will be a continuing policy under the new—whoever will be the new Secretary of Interior and Local Government," he added.
Asked if the Chief Executive will consider Roxas's recommendation, Lacierda said: "Certainly, the President listens to his advisers and he will take things into consideration. But ultimately the final decision will be done by the President."
He, meanwhile, refused to comment whether it is prudent to appoint someone who is a non-partisan personality to the DILG considering the elections next year.
"I cannot say what the mind of the President is right now," he noted.
Whether the replacement of Robredo will come from the ruling administration party, Lacierda said "everything is up in the air right now."
He said what he is certain is that the next DILG chief would be someone who has the trust and confidence of President Aquino.
Following the unexpected death of Robredo, Aquino has appointed Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa as temporary replacement for Robredo.
Ochoa will be staying in the DILG until the President appoints a permanent head of the agency.
Lacierda, meanwhile, said Ochoa has no interest in the DILG post. (Kathrina Alvarez/Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)