CEBU-BASED lawyer Clarence Paul Oaminal has been removed from his post as vice chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), a decision that a former DDB chairman described as “untimely and unwise.”

His fate stood in contrast to that of another local figure in the Arroyo administration. Angelo Verdan will take oath today as the new administrator of the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina).

The change “came as a surprise” to Oaminal, who received a letter dated March 19 from Undersecretary Edgar C. Galvante, DDB executive director, informing him about his removal from the office.

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Undersecretary Rommel L. Garcia, DDB deputy chief for administration, replaced Oaminal. Garcia, who hails from Angeles City, Pampanga, started performing his tasks as vice chairman last March 5. His appointment will expire on July 4, 2012.

Confident

Oaminal said he was “disheartened” because he still has many programs for implementation under the DDB. He blamed politics, but refused to name who he thought might be responsible.

“I was just confident that I will not be removed at this time, because before (Press) Secretary (Cerge) Remonde died, he told the new chairman to take care of me… I never had time to watch my back…was so focused on doing my job, going after drugs,” he said.

Oaminal served the DDB for less than two years. He was appointed to the office last Aug. 13, 2008.

Former DDB chairman Vicente “Tito” Sotto III, when sought for comment, described Oaminal’s removal as “untimely and unwise.”

“I will try to get to the bottom of this. I’m wondering what went wrong. I am surprised, to say the least. I am disappointed,” he said. He learned about Oaminal’s removal from the office only last Saturday night.

Sotto said he will speak with Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza to seek Oaminal’s reinstatement to the DDB. He also agreed with Oaminal’s suspicion that politics is behind the development.

Politics

“The administration should be best advised to keep politics away from the serious problem of illegal drugs,” Sotto said.

Cebu City Councilor Sylvan Jakosalem was likewise surprised.

“It’s surprising and sad why DDB would do that. It’s quite obvious that Atty. Oaminal has been in the forefront of the fight against drugs in the Visayas, both in supply reduction and demand reduction programs,” he said.

Jakosalem said Oaminal’s absence from the DDB will be a real loss in the anti-drug campaign.

Oaminal said that with his removal and the resignation of Sotto, who is running for the Senate, he is no longer sure if some of his programs can be pursued, like teaching former marijuana cultivators to plant abaca and other crops instead. There was a plan to expand this to the cities of Danao and Toledo and towns of Alcoy, Dalaguete and Badian.

Still, Oaminal said he will continue his fight against illegal drugs. He will ask for the support of his friends in the government to help him realize his “hanging, unfinished job,” especially in Central Visayas.

The news that reached another Cebu-based official of the Arroyo administration was happier than what Oaminal got.

Circulars

Verdan has officially left as general manager of the Cebu Port Authority to assume as the Marina administrator, replacing Maria Elena Bautista. (Bautista is now director general of the Presidential Management Staff.)

Verdan told Sun.Star Cebu the first thing he will do is address the suspended memorandum circulars Bautista issued, which were the subject of a protest by the Philippine Shipping Association (PSA) last month.

The PSA, which includes the Cebu-based Visayan Association of Ferryboat and Coastwise Service Operators, has described the circulars as unreasonable and untenable.

Deputy General Manager Dennis Villamor is now officer-in-charge of the CPA.

A reliable source from the Department of Transportation and Communication said that CPA Commissioner Vicente Suazo will be appointed as general manager to replace Verdan.

The same source said that Michael Mendoza, the Associated Labor Unions area vice president for Visayas-Mindanao, was appointed CPA commissioner.