SEVERAL Cabinet officials who are running in the May 2010 elections are already planning to resign from their post even if the Supreme Court still has to decide whether they have to step down or not.

Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr. issued this statement during a media night hosted by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Misbis Bay Raintree Resort in Barangay Misibis, Cagraray Island in Bacacay town, Albay.

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The High Court’s initial decision asking Cabinet officials to resign so as not to have undue advantage over their political rivals would only hasten the process, said Icban.

“Palagay ko, whether or not there is a Supreme Court decision, maybe na-advance na ang (kanilang resignation),” he said, citing that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who is running for congressman of the first district of Batangas, was among those planning to step down.

He assured that government functions and services would not be disrupted if several members of the Cabinet resign, saying the President is already preparing for it and had even started to get names for possible replacements.

Arroyo, he added, is a meticulous planner and would not allow a vacuum in the Cabinet or for government services to be disrupted.

Icban hinted that some of those being considered are current undersecretaries or incumbent officials of affected agencies.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, he said, is among those being considered to replace Ermita, who like the Executive Secretary is a Batangueno, a retired general, and a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy. Ermita is from the PMA Class of 1957 while Mendoza is a member of the PMA Class of 1969.

“Matagal ng pinag-aralan iyan. She (President) has people in mind. Narinig ko si Leandro Mendoza (for Executive Secretary) but nobody knows exactly,” he said.

Mendoza, like Ermita, is among the first appointees of Arroyo when she assumed the presidency on January 2001. He was first named acting Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General by Arroyo in January 2001 and later as chief PNP in March 2001, a post he held until his retirement in July 2002 which was immediately followed by an appointment to the head the DOTC.

Ermita, meanwhile, was first named presidential adviser on the peace process by Arroyo in January 2001 and later as concurrent acting defense secretary. He became the Defense secretary in 2003 and Executive Secretary in 2004.

Asked if he is among those considered for Ermita’s position, Icban said he is looking forward to his “retirement” from government and eventually the media. He added that he is “incompetent” for the job, saying it would be better to appoint a lawyer or even a retired general for the job.

President Arroyo in the past had named the sitting press secretary as acting Executive Secretary whenever she is on leave, like when Ermita was in the United States reporting to the United Nations about the current human rights situation in the Philippines.

She named then Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye and the late Press Secretary Cerge Remonde as acting Executive Secretary during Ermita’s absence.

In Manila, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar said the affected Cabinet officials are expected to file their respective motions for reconsideration after they’ve received copies of the High Court’s ruling.

Olivar said there are concerns about the effect of the SC decision on government operations.

Aside from Ermita, other Cabinet members who are affected by the ruling are Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera who is running or congresswoman of the first district of Quezon; Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap who is running for congressman of the third district of Bohol; Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. who is running for congressman of the first district of Camarines Sur; Presidential Management Staff director general Hermogenes Esperon Jr. who is running for congressman of the sixth Pangasinan.

Also, chief presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzales who is running for mayor of Iloilo City; and Presidential Adviser for External Affairs Edgardo Pamintuan who is running for mayor of Angeles City, among others.

Equal application of law

Lawyer of appointed officials Romulo Macalintal on Tuesday insisted that the law should be equal to appointive and elective officials.

Macalintal said what his clients are seeking is to have “equal application of law” on both the appointed and elective officials.

He dismissed that this battle on the system of resignation of appointed officials does not involve delicadeza but the equality on all civil service or government officials.

To observe decency and propriety, appointed officials seeking a government post were told to resign so that their current post will not be used in their campaign.

“What my clients are asking is equal application of the law…. If elective officials are not considered as candidate upon filing of COC (certificate of candidacy) but only at start of campaign period, the same should apply to appointive officials,” he said.

Macalintal questioned senators who are gunning for re-election and still maintain their post, saying this proved that partiality really exists.

“Why is it that they are only afraid of appointive officials to use government funds in their campaign?...As of now, who is using government time and funds in their campaign? Isn’t it the elective officials like senators who are running for president and vice president?” he asked.

Macalintal added that dishonesty is blatant to elective officials and not the appointed ones.

“The decision seems to regard appointive officials as dishonest because they could use office and only the elective are honest when we are all witnesses now to the fact that these elective officials had started campaigning through infomercials even before the start of campaign period,” he said.

SC decision hailed

On contrary, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) hailed the Supreme Court (SC) ruling on appointed government officials who are running in the May 10 national and local polls.

Lawyer Ferdinand Rafanan, Comelec Law Department head, said he is glad the motion for reconsideration they filed was given credence.

“Tuwang-tuwa ako for the Law Department and for myself… Tama itong decision ngayon ng Supreme Court. It is in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution,” he said, noting that the statement is his personal opinion.

On Monday, the High Tribunal ordered appointed government officials who are running in the forthcoming polls to vacate their post as provided by Section 66 of the Omnibus Election Code, which states that “any person holding a public appointive office or position shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy.”

It would be recalled that on December 1, the SC said the mentioned section is unconstitutional for discriminatory against persons holding appointive positions since elected officials are not required the same.

Rafanan, meanwhile, said they are ready to answer back if somebody files another motion for reconsideration regarding the recent SC ruling. “Yes, we are ready…”

He stressed though that he is not speaking for the Comelec, noting that he will just wait on the decision of the Comelec en banc regarding their next move. (Jill Beltran/JMR/FP/Sunnex)