Seares: Presidential assistants before GMA's Felix Guanzon include FVR's Rhett Pelaez, Erap's Marcel Fernan. Arroyo had three, including Tito Oppus. Mayor Mike says he trusts Marcos 'tack' on fate of OPAV.

Screenshot from RTVM video and Malacanang website
Screenshot from RTVM video and Malacanang website

THERE WERE PELAEZ, FERNAN. The July 12, 2022 item here about the official shutdown of Cebu-based OPAV or Office of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, led by businessman Michael Lloyd Dino, drew out half-buried information that it wasn't president #14 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who started having presidential assistants.

It was Fidel V. Ramos (#12, 1992-1998) who first had a P.A. named Rhett Pelaez, brother of Clark Pelaez who is reportedly listed in Guinness Book of World Records "as a 10-year-old pilot who flew solo from Lahug airport" and a cousin of Lapu-Lapu City businessman cum politician Ephraim Pelaez Jr. Rhett Pelaez was said to have occupied a section of Ecotech in Lahug. Compare that with Felix Guanzon at Malacanang sa Sugbo or Dino at The Greenery.

FVR was followed by Joseph Estrada (#13, 1998-2001), with Marcel Fernan of the Fernan clan as his P.A. GMA (#14, 2001-2010) had three appointees, not just one: businessman and barangay official Felix Guanzon, one Antonio "Tito" Oppus Jr. and a third person whose name is still not tracked down. Then came Rodrigo Duterte (#15, 2016-2022) with Michael Lloyd Dino.

Obviously, P.A.s Dino and Guanzon stand out in people's memory: fresher and linked to digitally-stored news and information about them and their work. Dino, more outstandingly, because he ended a six-year stint just last June 30 and figured in many events from 2016 to 2022.

MAYOR RAMA'S TAKE ON OPAV FUTURE. What good would OPAV bring under the Marcos administration? Did the mayor push for its reopening when Mike said he talked with President Bongbong Marcos about it last June 7? The sparse non-answer, relayed by City Hall P.I.O. Cerwin T. Eviota: The mayor "trusts the president's tack" on OPAV's fate.

Related: SunStar July 12, 2022, Seares: OPAV shut down since June 30. Marcos still has to decide on liaison office in Cebu.

PRESIDENTS' LEGAL BASIS. Then President Ramos issued two executive orders (EO) relating to presidential assistants:

[] EO #7 dated July 5, 1992, which created an extension office of the president in Visayas and Mindanao and defined his powers and duties, and

[] EO #7 of September 30, 1998, which created PARECONs or presidential assistant for regional concerns and defined their powers and duties.

Both Ramos EOs cited his "continuing authority under the Administrative Code of 1987 to reorganize the administrative structure" of the office of the president "to achieve simplicity, economy and efficiency."

So did President Duterte's Malacañang Order #08 of November 8, 2016, defining the functions of OPAV. Its legal basis is also the "continuing authority to reorganize the administrative structure" of the president's office.

WHAT P.A. OFFICES DO. Aside from preparing for the president's visits, offices of presidential assistants have real hard tasks, if their chiefs are serious about the mandate.

For OPAV, as example, duties include pursuing "matters and issues" involving the Visayas that are submitted to the office of the president; monitoring programs, projects and developments in the area; assisting LGUs on matters requiring Malacañang's attention; reporting directly to the office of the president on local governance and recommending measures; and performing other tasks that involve knowledge of the situation in the area.

A National Organizing Commission for APEC or Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation took charge of preparations for the Philippine hosting of APEC meetings in 1996. Cebu was among the venues for the ministers meeting. Ramos organized a host council in Cebu to help in the preparations: chairman was his P.A. Rhett Pelaez with then ambassador Frank Benedicto as co-chairman.

Not mentioned in the executive orders is that the P.A. may serve as buffer, the rampart deflecting artillery fire that otherwise directly strikes at the president. A bad P.A. though may also intensify criticisms against the chief executive.

CHANGES. Ramos in 1992 had Rhett Pelaez as P.A. for the Visayas and Mindanao, then in 1998 abolished the Vismin extension office and changed the setup to having a PARECON in each region.

There were PARECONs for northern Luzon, Bicol region, eastern Visayas, Central Visayas (covering Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor and cities of Tagbilaran, Cebu, Danao, Lapu-Lapu, Mandaue, Toledo, Bais, Canlaon and Dumaguete), and so on, for the other parts of Visayas and Mindanao.

What we know is that presidents Estrada and Arroyo had the regular P.A., not a variation of it. GMA had three for Cebu, about which the late newspaper columnist and TV public affairs host Bobit Avila, in a November 28, 2003 Freeman column, commented "she could've done with one." One of the three, Tony Oppus, was reportedly unceremoniously relieved, causing a minor furor in politics-loving Cebu.

DINO, PELAEZ. Dino was entrusted the entire Visayas and people crowed over the range of coverage. But Rhett Pelaez was given a much bigger area: Visayas and Mindanao. But it must have been in the amount of power and activism, plus wider media coverage, that OPAV appears to have produced more impact in the region in the last six years than the extension office Pelaez ran for the entire southern Philippines for about the same span of time three decades ago.

The success of a presidential assistant's office, whatever form and nature or range of coverage, is measured by breadth of presence of the presidency that it represents. If that fails though, the P.A. might still serve the public-image purpose in the appointment, not to mention the reward aspect, as bounty parceled out after the election.


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