DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 November) – Social development worker Mae Fe Templa who was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte as Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the early days of his administration, was one of three undersecretaries fired following the assumption of retired Army Chief Lt. Gen. Rolando Bautista as the new DSWD Secretary.
Bautista said he did not ask for their termination. “Hindi po ako” (Not me), he said in reply to MindaNews’ query if he asked for the termination of the three undersecretaries in charge of key programs in the DSWD.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea explained to reporters in Manila last Monday that that the services of the three were terminated not because they were leftists but to give Bautista a free rein in forming his own team.
“We expect the new secretary to bring his own team to provide better services to the public,” he said.
Undersecretaries Templa, Ma. Lourdes Turalde-Jarabe and Hope Hervilla, each received a one-paragraph notice of termination from Medialdea dated November 14 but released on November 16.
“On behalf of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, I wish to inform you that your appointment as Undersecretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development has been terminated effective immediately,” Medialdea wrote.
The three Undersecretaries were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte when Judy Taguiwalo was the Social Welfare Secretary. The Commission on Appointments rejected Taguiwalo’s appointment on August 16, 2017, in the midst of the Marawi Siege.
The three continued to serve as Undersecretaries under two OIC Secretaries and on the first three weeks of Bautista as Secretary.
“First leftist President”
The three USecs were in charge of key programs in the DSWD: Templa headed the Protective Operations and Programs and supervised three bureaus under her cluster: Protective Services, Community Programs and Services, and Social Welfare Institutional Development Bureau.
Jarabe was USec for Promotive Services (Kalahi-CIDSS and Sustainable Livelihood Program) while Hervilla was Usec for Disaster Response and Management.
Before joining DSWD, Jarabe was Secretary-General of Gabriela Women’s Party, Hervilla was a regional official of the Bayan Muna partylist while Templa, a social development worker since 1981, was a member of the Forum of Women for Action with Rody Duterte (Forward) which crafted Duterte’s women’s development agenda during the campaign for the 2016 Presidential polls.
Duterte, the country’s 16th President and first Mindanawon to lead the nation, had earlier described himself as the country’s “first leftist President,” appointed leftists in his Cabinet, all of whom were rejected by the Commission on Appointments. He released political detainees to allow them to join the panel of the National Democratic Front (NDF) in the peace negotiations with government but after a series of go and no-go on the peace the talks, called it off through Proclamation 360 issued on November 23 last year, two days before the talks were to resume in Norway to deliberate on the common drafts of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER).
On December 5, Duterte issued Proclamation 374 declaring the CPP-NPA as a
“designated/identified terrorist organization” under RA 10168 or “The Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act of 2012.”
Medialdea denied allegations the three were dismissed because they were leftists. He maintained it was to allow Bautista to form his own team.
Bautista, ground commander during last year’s five-month war in Marawi between government and the Islamic State-inspired Maute Group and its allies, retired as Army chief last month and assumed the post of Social Welfare Secretary on October 22.
Transition, Turnover of responsibilities
The termination, “effective immediately,” did not allow for a transition from the three undersecretaries to their successors or officers in charge.
“There was no directive on turnover or transition. We did not receive any,” Templa told MindaNews on Wednesday.
She said she “took the initiative to convene a meeting with division heads and assistant bureau directors as a wrapping up session.”
“Monday, I decided to meet my own office staff at past 10 a.m. and at 3 p.m. met the senior and organic leaders – division heads and assistant bureau directors – as bureau directors, regional directors and executive committee members were in Tacloban for our semi-annual National Management Development Conference on November 20 and 21.
“Our participation there was no longer considered as notice of termination says ‘effective immediately.’ Thus, no closure,” she said.
Templa’s office received Medialdea’s notice of termination shortly before lunch on Friday, November 16, while she was in General Santos City on official business. Her staff sent her a scanned copy.
“It would have been better if we were talked to, and they told us ahead of time so we had time to prepare. It was unceremoniously done,” Jarabe told ANC on Wednesday morning.
Bautista told MindaNews on Wednesday afternoon that he will be “designating OICs to the vacant positions. And the OICs will ensure that there will be a smooth transition of duties and responsibilities from the outgoing to the incoming.”
The “outgoing,” however, are already out.
“Out na nga kami, sino pa ka-transition?” (We’re out so how can you have a transition?), Templa asked.
Bautista on Tuesday night said the selection process is ongoing. “The vacant positions are open for those who are committed to serve the poor, vulnerable and disadvantaged individuals without any conditions and more importantly those who have unquestionable integrity if they satisfy these basic qualifications then they can form part of the DSWD team.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)