Robredo no longer ‘acting’ DILG secretary, gets regular appointment from Aquino

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By Ellen Tordesillas,VERA Files

After almost a year, President Benigno Aquino III has decided that he can work with Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, whom he is keeping in the Cabinet and to whom he is finally handing over supervision of the Philippine National Police.

Last June 13, Aquino issued Robredo, who assumed the post in an acting capacity, an "ad interim" appointment.

The appointment elevates Robredo to the status of full-fledged secretary, with Malacanang finally submitting his name to the Commission on Appointments for confirmation once Congress reopens in July.

"We confirm that last June 13, President Aquino issued an ad interim appointment to Mr. Jesse Robredo as secretary of Interior and Local Government," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a text message in answer to VERA Files' query about Robredo's change of official status.

Lacierda also confirmed that the PNP will now come under Robredo's supervision.

Ad interim appointments are issued when Congress is not in session to allow the official to legally perform his duties until the Commission on Appointments confirms or bypasses the appointment. The first regular session of the 15th Congress adjourned on June 8. It will resume for its second regular session on July 25.

Aquino came under fire after VERA Files revealed last year that Robredo, despite his credentials, was excluded from the first batch of appointments Aquino made at the start of his administration on June 30, 2010. Aquino appointed Robredo in an acting capacity on July 9, 2010, but did not give him control over the PNP.

A three-term mayor of Naga City in Bicol, Robredo was a 2002 Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service and was endorsed for the position by civil society organizations.

Explaining Robredo's appointment as acting secretary, Aquino said at the time he was "evaluating" his and Robredo's working style. Aquino is known to put "comfort level" as a major consideration in appointing Cabinet members.

Aquino also revealed that he had differences during the campaign with Robredo, also a Liberal Party member who was then in charge of political sorties.  He said, "It does no good to get him (Robredo) through the whole process of the CA only at the end of the day to find out that there might be difficulties in our working style, among others, our core philosophy, so we did agree na acting na muna (acting capacity first)."

Robredo is the last of three Cabinet members originally appointed in an acting capacity to be upgraded to full-fledged status. The other two were Labor Secretary Erlinda Baldoz and Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

At the 113th anniversary celebration of the Department of Public Works and Highways last Thursday, Aquino named Baldoz and Paje as among the five Cabinet members whose performance he was satisfied with. The others were Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson, Science Secretary Mario Montejo and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

He also disclosed his displeasure with three members of his Cabinet who he said always brought him "bad news," but did not name them.  The President has repeatedly ruled out a Cabinet revamp.

When Robredo was appointed acting DILG secretary last year, his scope of work did not include supervision of the PNP, a vital component of the department.

Aquino has said he told Robredo from the beginning he would retain direct supervision of the PNP.  He also said he instructed Robredo "to address concerns such as coming up with a comprehensive plan on delivering social services to and relocating informal settlers in coordination with the local governments."

But even before he appointed Robredo acting secretary, Aquino had already installed his friend Puno as Robredo's deputy in charge of peace and order. Aquino appointed Puno on July 2, a week before Robredo was named.

In Puno's testimony before the Incident Investigation Review Committee probing the bungling by the police of the Aug. 23, 2010 hostage-taking that resulted in the death of eight Hong Kong tourists, he said he had "verbal instructions from the President to oversee the PNP" in addition to his duties to supervise Patrol 117, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Public Safety College and the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime.

(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. Vera is Latin for "true.")