Malacañang switches jobs of key aides

Published by rudy Date posted on January 22, 2009

PRESIDENT Arroyo has reshuffled the members of her Cabinet, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said yesterday.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza was appointed chief presidential legal counsel after he asked Mrs. Arroyo to be transferred to a job with a lighter schedule so he could attend to his ailing wife.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde will replace Dureza, while presidential adviser on the peace process Hermogenes Esperon Jr. will be the new PMS chief.

National Security Council deputy director general Avelino Razon Jr. will be the new peace adviser, while National Counter-Terrorism Action Group head Arturo Lomibao was appointed chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board.

The President has yet to choose Razon’s replacement in the Security Council, and there is no news yet where outgoing Franchising Chairman Thompson Lantion will be transferred.

The President also appointed Land Transportation Office chief Alberto Suansing undersecretary for the maritime sector of the Transportation Department, but has yet to announce his replacement.

Suansing took the post from Elena Bautista, who was appointed head of the Maritime Industry Authority after Marina administrator Vicente Tuazon Jr. resigned in September.

Ermita denied that Dureza’s transfer was triggered by his controversial prayer during a Cabinet meeting in November hinting at a term extension for Mrs. Arroyo, something that reportedly angered the President and even other members of the official family.

Dureza, who placed 10th in the 1973 Bar exams and was a law professor, said his new position was right down his alley, since he had taught civil and corporate law at the Ateneo de Davao and had served as president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

“I am very happy. As a Palace lawyer, I will be working in a field where I have also devoted many of my fruitful years as a law practitioner and in the government,” said Dureza, who served as press secretary for seven months after replacing Ignacio Bunye, who is now a member of the Central Bank’s Monetary Board.

Remonde, who was already in the shortlist when Mrs. Arroyo was choosing a replacement for Bunye last year, is a media practitioner himself, having led the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas for six consecutive terms.

Remonde previously served as chairman of the National Anti-Poverty Commission and head of the now-defunct Government Mass Media Group.

Esperon welcomed his new position even as he denied it was the result of his failure to sign a deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Being the PMS head is a difficult yet critical job because our outputs and recommendations often become ingredients in the President’s decisions. It is a great challenge and a great opportunity to serve the country,” said Esperon, a former chief of the Armed Forces.

Razon said he was excited with his new job even as he appealed to the MILF and communists to give him a chance to prove his mettle as the new peace adviser.

“I know that as an NSC official and a former head of the Philippine National Police, they might have certain biases against me. But we will work hard to achieve our common goal of having lasting peace,” Razon said.–Joyce Pangco Pañares, Manila Standard Today

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