PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo named Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza as replacement of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, who recently resigned to run for congressman of Batangas.

Ermita, who was Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr.'s guest at his press conference Wednesday, also announced the appointment of Solicitor General Alberto Agra acting justice secretary replacing Agnes Devanadera who is running for congresswoman of Quezon Province.

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The President also named Agriculture Undersecretary Bernardo Fondevilla as ad interim secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) head Ma. Elena Bautista as new director general of the Presidential Management Staff (PMS), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Deputy Director General Rogelio Pijuan as new Tesda chief.

They would replace outgoing secretaries Arthur Yap of the DA, Hermogenes Esperon Jr. of PMS and Augusto Syjuco of Tesda who all resigned to run for congressmen of Bohol, Pangasinan and Iloilo, respectively.

Also being considered as new Budget Secretary is Senior Deputy Executive Secretary and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office head Joaquin Lagonera replacing Rolando Andaya Jr., who is running for congressman of Camarines Sur, and Deputy Executive Secretary Natividad Dizon as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel replacing Raul Gonzalez who is running for mayor of Iloilo.

Ermita said the two are "considered" because they have not yet been informed about their new appointments. Lagonera is still in the Middle East.

He said informing the new Cabinet officials about their new appointments was the last directive of the President before he stepped down as Executive Secretary.

He added that undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and other officials would step up to fill other vacancies that would result from the resignation of officials who are running in the 2010 elections and the vacancies that would be left behind as a result of the new appointments.

Ermita said he and other Cabinet officials who are running in the 2010 elections had immediately vacated their posts after the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that appointed government officials running for public office are deemed resigned upon the filing of their certificates of candidacy (COC).

President Arroyo, during the Year-End Philippine Economic Briefing at the Dusit Thani Hotel, Ayala Center, Makati City, acknowledged and thanked her outgoing secretaries for their contributions in her administration's programs and implementation of policies like Andaya for “the reforms that he made in procurement” and Yap “for the 1.8 million jobs that we created in agriculture through your leadership”.

Mendoza a retired general and a member of the Philippine Military Academy batch 1969 is a Batangueno like Ermita who is from the PMA Class of 1957.

Mendoza, like Ermita, is among the first appointees of Arroyo when she assumed the presidency on January 2001. Mendoza 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 head the DOTC.

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

Ermita, who he expects the formal turnover to be made on Monday, said the job of Executive Secretary is “position of confidence.”

Agra, who just headed the Office of the Solicitor General in January, served as Arroyo’s lawyer during impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives in 2006, and was one of the election lawyers of the President in 2004.

He was named head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel in 2007 and later became acting head of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) Regulatory Office until June 2008.

Fondevilla meanwhile is a native of Semirara in Romblon. He was the former executive director of the National Agriculture and Fishery Council (NAFC).

He likewise headed the Agriculture Competitive Enhancement Fund as its executive director, and served as acting secretary of the DA late in February, during Yap ’s trip abroad.

Bautista, a former undersecretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications was formerly from the PMS before she was named Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) head.

She was then transferred to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) as undersecretary and later as Marina's officer-in-charge.

Pijuan, who is a member of the Tesda family, was previously named by Syjuco as head of an internal task force tasked to investigate allegations of overpricing of training tools within Tesda.

Lagonera rose from the ranks under the Office of the President being assigned to the various offices from the PLLO and other offices under the Office of the Executive Secretary, while Dizon who was sworn into office as Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs April 2009, was the former executive Judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 106.

She first joined the Office of the President in 2003 as Deputy Chief of Staff with the rank of Undersecretary for the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff. (JMR/Sunnex)