JPE thwarts Rodriguez bid to get more power

CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile

CHIEF Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile blocked the reported plan of resigned executive secretary Victor Rodriguez to carve out for himself a new and powerful position in Malacañang amid reports he was on his way out.

In a memorandum for President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. dated September 15, Enrile cited Rodriguez's draft administrative order (AO) reviving the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff and draft special order (SO) granting sweeping powers to the holder of that office.

The former Senate president said there was no need to revive that position, “much less grant it so much power.”

The memorandum signed by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

The memorandum signed by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile.

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“The Presidential Chief of Staff has no decision-making power, no signing powers, no review power, no power of supervision or control over any government department, agency, or office, and no power whatsoever to represent or act on behalf of the President,” Enrile added.

Traditionally, the chief of staff merely assists the President in routine daily functions. These include preparing briefers for meetings, organizing and filing documents, and arranging the Chief Executive's schedule.

The twin draft orders — which has Rodriguez's name as signatory — listed several powers for the position. These include the power to “recommend to the President strategic directions”; “provide good, wise and honest counsel on important matters of policy”; “review papers for consideration, action, approval and signature of the President”; “sign and approve memoranda, administrative issuances and instruments, contracts, and administrative and financial documents”; and “implement instructions for the efficient and effective operations of departments, agencies and offices.”

Enrile said these powers were already exercised by his office and Rodriguez's, as well as the Presidential Management Staff and the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.

The power to recommend strategic directions is already being performed by various departments, including the National Economic and Development Authority, he added.

“The proposed AO/SO will certainly cause confusion and conflicts among the said offices, in terms of functions and accountabilities,” Enrile said.

His memo was issued amid reports that Rodriguez will be replaced by retired chief justice Lucas Bersamin.

Rodriguez has earned strong criticism over his involvement in the sugar importation mess and questionable appointments made to the Philippine Ports Authority, Land Transportation Office, Philippine Information Agency and the Bureau of Immigration.

In July, Rodriguez quashed rumors that he stepped down, calling them “hearsay.” He said then he would only quit for compelling “health and family reasons.”

He also said he was willing to leave his post if the President wanted him to.

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