GMA has 54 advisers, assistants

Published by rudy Date posted on January 5, 2008

How many undersecretaries and assistant secretaries does it take to run a government?

A government directory produced by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) shows that President Arroyo has at least 54 personal advisers and assistants.

Her office also employs the most number of undersecretaries, assistant secretaries and directors. These officials are in addition to those under the office of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

This large number of officials employed by Malacañang does not include those in the office of Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, which is housed in the Palace, and its bureaus  and agencies attached to the Office of the President.

In contrast, the office of Vice President Noli de Castro has only three officials: a chief of staff, an assistant chief of staff and a director for administration and finance. It is perhaps the smallest office in the entire government.

Presidential advisers and assistants hold the rank and receive the salaries and perks of a Cabinet member. Many of them are political appointees who are either former congressmen or retired generals.

Mrs. Arroyo has advisers or assistants for such concerns as police affairs, culture, veterans’ affairs, new government centers, military affairs, energy affairs, the entertainment industry, judicial affairs, special projects, revenue enhancement, police affairs, anti-smuggling, foreign affairs and the peace process.

She also has advisers or assistants for almost all regions, including Eastern Visayas, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, Cordillera Administrative Region, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan), Panay Island, Western Visayas and Cagayan Valley.

In addition to Presidential Assistant for Central Luzon Ma. Lorelei Fajardo, there is a presidential assistant for Pampanga, the President’s home province. He is Vicente Panlilio.

Some assistants of Mrs. Arroyo have been embroiled in controversies. For instance, Presidential Assistant for Special Projects Remedios Poblador was linked to the distribution of P500,000 in cash gifts to more than 150 congressmen at Malacañang last Oct. 11.

The gifts were distributed after the congressmen met with the President. Governors who met separately with Mrs. Arroyo also received the same amount of cash gifts.

Poblador denied she was involved in the distribution of the money.

During the controversial Oct. 11 Palace meeting, the President and her congressional allies agreed to kill the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido against her.

One month after the cash gifts were distributed, Mindoro Occidental Rep. Amelita Villarosa, secretary of Mrs. Arroyo’s Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Kampi) party, claimed that the funds given to congressmen came from their party.

A few years back, the name of another assistant and close friend of the President, Erlinda de Leon, was dragged into the controversy involving alleged bribery in the signing by Mrs. Arroyo of a telecommunications franchise. She denied the accusations against her.

At least three former congressmen – Jesus Dureza of Davao, Santiago Respicio of Isabela and Oscar Garin of Iloilo – are among the President’s advisers and assistants. Narciso Santiago, husband of pro-administration Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, is her adviser on revenue enhancement.

Another former congressman – Antonio Gatuslao of Western Visayas – is among the 14 undersecretaries in Mrs. Arroyo’s office, which also employs 11 assistant secretaries and 14 bureaucrats holding the rank of Director IV.

Among the retired generals who are presidential advisers or assistants are Efren Abu, Edilberto Adan, Pedro Cabuay Jr., Roy Cimatu and Roy Kyamko.

The DBM-produced directory lists all officials of the entire government – from the executive, judicial and legislative branches – including provinces, cities and towns, and even embassies and international agencies.

Copies of the directory were given to some offices in the House of Representatives, where The STAR obtained its copy.

In a foreword introducing his agency’s production “after a hiatus of two years,” Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said: “More than just a list of agency heads/officials and their telephone numbers and addresses, the directory is an information bank that links government to the public. It is DBM’s way of helping ensure an accessible government.”

“Bringing the government closer to the people is a commitment to good governance that the Department is proud to fulfill. Doing so via the directory is a small but nevertheless significant way of assisting the transacting public,” he said.–Jess Diaz, Philippine Star

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