DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/03 September) – After six months in what would have been a six-year term as chairman of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), lawyer Jesus Dureza will step down in favor of Luwalhati Ricasa-Antonino.
Reports about the appointment of Antonino as the new MinDA chair started circulating nearly midnight Thursday through text messages, the social networking lines and the e-mail. The announcement will reportedly be made today at the start of the 12th Tuna Congress in General Santos City.
Former Senator and Trade Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, the President’s representative to the Tuna Congress, made the announcement at 11:19 a.m.
Antonino, a former three-term Representative of the 1st district of South Cotabato who was, in 1996, among the “Tres Marias” along with then Representatives Maria Clara Lobregat and Daisy Avance-Fuentes, who led protest actions against the creation of the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD). Antonino is also the wife of former representative and former General Santos City mayor Adelbert Antonino and mother to incumbent GenSan mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio,
The MinDA chair holds the rank of a Secretary and is part of the Aquino Cabinet.
Asked earlier this morning if the reports about Antonino’s appointment were true, Dureza told MindaNews in a text message: “Maybe. Not officially informed yet.”
But in a later message, he said, “I will relinquish if P-Noy wants somebody else.”
Dureza had written two memoranda for President Aquino coursed through Executive Secretary Ochoa, the first, on July 29, to offer to relinquish the post and the second, on August 10 to withdraw his offer and to continue to serve his remaining term given that the MinDA chair appointment is not a “midnight appointment.”
Asked if the President had answered his memos, Dureza said, “P-Noy wrote thanking but no word on accepting my offer to relinquish.”
But Dureza shortly before 11 a.m. today told MindaNews he spoke with defeated vice presidential bet Mar Roxas, the President’s representative to the Tuna Festival, and said Roxas, will make the announcement today in General Santos City, the Antoninos’ bailiwick.
“My bottomline is I will relinquish if P-Noy wants somebody else,” Dureza said.
On July 29, Dureza offered to relinquish his chairmanship of the MinDA purportedly to give President Aquino “a free hand and full opportunity” to choose the chair who will carry out the mandate of the office under his administration.
In his two-page, eight-paragraph memorandum for the President on July 29, Dureza said he would “voluntarily relinquish the position upon the assumption of the new Chair of your choice,” to “ensure a smooth and seamless transition and avoid any hiatus in the Authority’s operations.”
“If I may, please allow me to immediately point out the fact that my offer to relinquish the position is not because I am turning my back on my work in Mindanao. I have exerted my best for Mindanao all these years starting with President Ramos and then with President Arroyo. There is a lot more to do for all of us. Neither am I trying to undermine the rationale behind the ‘fixed term’ clause of the MinDA law. Nor am I setting aside the honor and trust given to me by President Arroyo who appointed me and to whom I am most grateful,” Dureza wrote.
He said the “most important consideration now” is that the birth of this “institutionalized agency, which is a fulfillment of Mindanaoans’ long dream and Your Excellency’s assumption into office, provide an opportunity for a fresh start.”
But in a memo dated August 10, Dureza again wrote the President, withdrawing his July 29 offer to “relinquish the position upon the assumption of the new Chair of your choice,” claiming the President’s Executive Order No. 2 issued August 4, had “clarified the status of my appointment as Chairman of the newly created MinDA.”
“I was appointed Chairman with a fixed term of six (6) years by former President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo on March 6, 2010 and I assumed office on March 8, 2010. Hence, such appointment per EO No. 2 is valid and outside the ambit of so-called ‘midnight appointments’ whose occupants were forthwith ordered to vacate,” Dureza wrote in his second memo to President Aquino dated August 10.
continuity of our work in Mindanao, I shall continue, with Your Excellency’s support, “In view thereof and in order to uphold the mandate of Republic Act 9996 and to ensure to serve as Chairman of MinDA as mandated by said law,” Dureza said.
Not ‘midnight appointment’
MinDA, created by Republic Act 9996 was signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on February 17 this year.
President Aquino issued EO 2 “recalling, withdrawing, and revoking (appointments of) those who will be proven as midnight appointees of the previous administration.”
Considered as midnight appointments are “those made on or after March 11, 2010, including all appointments bearing dates prior to March 11, 2010 where the appointee has accepted, or taken his oath, or assumed public office on or after March 11, 2010, except temporary appointments in the executive positions when continuous vacancies will prejudice public service or endanger public safety as may be determined by the appointing authority;” those “made prior to March 11, 2010 but to take effect after said date or appointments to office that would be vacant only after March 11, 2010;” and “appointments and promotions made during the period of 45 days prior to the May 11, 2010 elections in violation of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.”
MindaNews repeatedly checked with Presidential Communications Group Secretary Ricky Carandang on the action taken by Malacananga regarding Dureza’s second memorandum. His reply: “Dureza is in place until a permanent appointment can be found.”
The MinDA chair also sits as Philippine senior official to the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA); National Program director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) “Act for Peace Programme” that covers former conflict-affected areas and impoverished areas in Mindanao; co- chair of the Mindanao Working Group composed of country representatives of the international donor community; and head of the oversight group in the implementation of USAID projects in Mindanao.
Antonino is turning 68 on October 22. She served as Representative of the 1st district of South Cotabato from 1992 to 2001.
But according to the congressional website, www.congress.ph, under the list of members of the 11th Congress, the last Congress where she served as representative, Antonino’s profession was listed as “Engineer” and her membership in House Committees as follows: chair of Foreign Affairs, vice chair of Muslim Affairs, and member of the Committees on Games & Amusement, Good Government, Women, Agriculture and Food.
Surfing Luwalahati Antonino and Luwalhati Ricasa-Antonino through the internet yielded very little information about Antonino’s educational background.
Section 7 of RA 9996 states that the MinDA chair “shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines with a Cabinet rank and shall act as the Head of office. He/she shall serve a term of six years from the date of his/her appointment unless removed for cause: Provided, that no person shall be appointed as chairperson unless he/she is a holder of a degree in law or a masteral degree in any of the following fields: economics, business, public administration, law, management, or their equivalent and have at least ten (10) years relevant experience in said fields: provided, further, that he/she shall be a resident of Mindanao for at least (5) years before the appointment; Provided, finally, that he/she shall also be the Philippine Senior Official for BIMP-EAGA and shall likewise be an ex officio member of the NEDA Board and the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority Board. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)