Dureza writes PNoy he will relinquish MinDA chairmanship

DAVAO CITY  (MindaNews/29 July) —  Lawyer Jesus Dureza has offered to relinquish his chairmanship of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to give President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino “a free hand and full opportunity” to choose the chair who will carry out the mandate of  the office under his administration.

Mindanao Development Authority Chair Jesus Dureza. Mindanews File Photo by Keith BacongcoIn his two-page, eight-paragraph memorandum for the President dated July 29 and coursed through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, 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.”

The Office of the President-Malacanang Records Office stamped received the memo also on July 29.

MinDA, created by Republic Act 9996 was signed into law by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on February 17 this year.

Dureza, whose term as chair under the law is six years or until March 2016, was sworn into office on March 8, hence the criticism that Dureza was among Arroyo’s “midnight appointees.”

“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.”

As MinDA chair, Dureza has other roles which he will also relinquish when a new chair is installed: as Philippine senior official to the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA);  as 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; as co- chair of the Mindanao Working Group composed of country representatives of the international donor community; and as head of the oversight group in the implementation of USAID projects in Mindanao.

It took “five decades of waiting” before MinDA, a permanent body that would integrate peace and development efforts in Mindanao,” was finally set up, the Office of the President for Mindanao (OP-MIN) report said.

MinDA strengthens the existing Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), which was first chaired by then Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Paul Dominguez under the Ramos administration, followed by Dureza, who also succeeded Dominguez as PA.

Dureza assumed the post of Presidential Assistant for Mindanao from Paul Dominguez in the last months of the Ramos administration, when Dominguez resigned to join the campaign of then former Defense Secretary Renato de Villa. Dureza took his oath on February 1, 1998. The next day, Dureza had his baptism of fire: the plane crash on Mt. Sumagaya in Misamis Oriental, of a Cebu Pacific flight en route to Cagayan de Oro from Manila. This was followed by a health crisis in Laminusa, Sulu; a hostage-taking crisis at the Davao Penal Colony and the hunger situation among Lumad communities brought about by the long drought of 1998.

Under the Arroyo administration (2001-2010), Dureza has served as Presidential Assistant for Mindanao, MEDCo chair and government peace panel chair in the negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (January 2001 to May 2003), later as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. He also served as Press Secretary for six months in 2008 before taking on the post of Presidential Legal Counsel until his reappointment in 2009, until he reassumed the post of Presidential Adviser for Mindanao also in the same year.

Dureza has served twice as congressman of the 1st district of Davao City from 1987 to 1989, and from 1992 to 1995. During those terms (7th and 9th Congress of the Philippines), he served as the official spokesperson of the House of Representatives.

He graduated cum laude from the Ateneo de Davao University, and placed 10th in the 1973 Philippine Bar Exams. He also received distinct citations that include Datu Bago Award (highest award given to a Dabawenyo) and the Presidential Award of Merit from then President Fidel Ramos.

The Arroyo administration ended noon of June 30 with no action on what to do with the OP-Min,  if it would be merged with MinDA or abolished.

Since June 30, OP-Min has been operating but without a PA since Dureza’s term as PA was coterminous with President Arroyo’s. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)