Diño order reignites SBMA turf war

By HENRY EMPEÑO

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — An administrative order issued by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Martin Diño has rekindled conflict between two of the highest positions in the agency, a simmering instability that briefly sparked late last year when Diño questioned Malacañang’s duly-appointed OIC-administrator.

Administrative Order No. 01-2017, which was dated May 2, 2017 but released to SBMA offices only on May 31, sought to create a task force under Diño’s office ostensibly to “inspect, monitor and faithfully implement the laws in the conduct of business and financial operations and collections” of the agency.

The creation of such task force, however, “interferes and encroaches upon (the) power, function and duty of the Administrator and CEO,” contended Administrator Wilma Eisma.

As it is, the task force would just be “counterproductive, superfluous and unnecessary,” Eisma added.

PRRD with Diño and Eisma
SBMA Chairman Martin Diño (behind President Duterte, at left) and SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma join a tour of the Japanese helicopter carrier JS Izumo at the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday.

According to Diño, the task force is necessary because the agency “is hard-pressed in continuing to generate and earn a very substantial and respectable income as a special economic zone.”

“Due to these very bothering and alarming financial predicaments being encountered by the agency, there is an urgent need to respond and provide the necessary solutions to forestall, if not avoid, the unwarranted and untimely financial collapse (of) the SBMA,” he added.

Diño, who appointed six personnel to the task force, most of whom came from his own staff, also said that the Task Force on Business Operations and Financial Safety and Security will be necessary “to prevent graft and corruption.”

He said that the body, among other things, will “recommend to the SBMA Chairman the issuance of appropriate measures to promote transparency and efficiency in business operations and financial practices.”

The intention notwithstanding, Eisma said in her May 31 rebuttal that Diño “has no power or authority to issue said administrative order, much less create a task force that will directly involve itself in the operations and day-to-day activities of the SBMA.”

Diño’s order, said Eisma, a  lawyer by profession, “has no force or effect whatsoever.”

Eisma also called out Diño’s allegation of financial collapse as “totally false and misleading,” pointing out that SBMA’s revenues are this year are 9.5 percent higher than those recorded in 2016, which has been recorded as the agency’s banner year.

Still, Diño retorted with a June 1 memorandum that reiterated his “unflinching legal conviction” that he has the power and authority to issue an administrative order.

“I firmly believe that what you have stated (in your May 31 memorandum) is your honest opinion and, as such, will remain as it is, a mere opinion,” the chairman said.

This was not the first time that Diño clashed with the SBMA administrator, the second in command in the organizational hierarchy, but the de facto manager of the agency.

From October to December 2016, the flamboyant chairman was also at loggerheads with then SBMA Deputy Administrator for Legal Affairs Randy Escolango, who was appointed OIC-administrator by Malacañang.

Escolango, upon assumption as OIC, had voided Diño’s administrative orders for lack of authority. Diño fired back by filing criminal and administrative cases against Escolango, and later said he would assume the position of administrator by virtue of his being the chairman of the agency.

The impasse was only broken when Eisma was appointed SBMA administrator in early January this year.

Eisma admitted in a media briefing on Monday that the current leadership struggle “may result in instability” at the Subic agency.

“But I believe that I am not the cause of this instability, and I am confident of my mandate,” Eisma said.

“I don’t want to lose respect for my chairman—because he is the chairman of the agency, but the law is very, very clear: the day-to-day operations of the agency falls under the authority of the administrator,” she added.

PHOTO: SBMA Chairman Martin Diño (behind President Duterte, at left) and SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma join a tour of the Japanese helicopter carrier JS Izumo at the Subic Bay Freeport on Sunday.

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