By HENRY EMPEÑO
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The leadership of the House of Representatives has questioned the legality of Executive Order 340 signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which separated the power and functions of the administrator and chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
In a hearing here on Tuesday of the Oversight Committee on Bases Conversion, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas led an inquiry into the separation of the top SBMA positions, which has resulted to conflicts in the agency.
Congressman Ricky Sandoval (Malabon), who is vice chairman of the House Committee on Transportation, called for the committee hearing in view of the issuance of an administrative order by SBMA Chairman Martin Diño. Sandoval said the order “may sow confusion within the SBMA.”
Present during the hearing were Diño, SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma, and other senior officials of the agency.
Asked on what authority did Diño issue Administrative Order 01-2017, the SBMA official said he was empowered to do so under Section 2 of EO 340.
With this, Fariñas expressed dismay over the split in the administrator-chairman position and noted it has apparently become the source of intra-agency conflict.
“Kaya nagkakagulo ngayon ay dahil dalawa na ang posisyon; hindi na nasusunod ang batas (There is confusion now because there are already two positions. The law is not being followed,” Fariñas said.
In giving a historical background of the appointments to the top SBMA posts, SBMA Administrator Eisma said that she and Diño were both appointed by President Duterte under EO 340.
Before them, two other sets of officials were appointed in the same fashion—Chairman Antonio Licuanan and Administrator Alfredo Antonio, and Chairman Feliciano Salonga and Administrator Armand Arreza. All received appointments under President Arroyo.
Eisma added that the previous chairman and administrator Roberto Garcia was likewise appointed under EO 340, only that he was given separate appointments for the separate positions.
Still, Fariñas clarified that RA 7227 is clear that there will be only one position for the SBMA administrator and chairman, contrary to EO 340 which was signed by Arroyo in 2004.
Reading pertinent parts of RA 7227, Fariñas also noted that “The President shall appoint a professional manager as administrator of the Subic Authority…who shall be the ex-officio Chairman of the Board and who shall serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Subic Authority.”
“EO 340 is a transgression of the law,” the lawmaker said. “Paano na-amend itong batas (RA 7227) ng walang legislation (How did the law become amended without legislation)?”
The committee then agreed to set another hearing on the matter on Thursday and to invite now Congresswoman Arroyo, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II, and former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo to shed light on how EO 340 came about.
The committee also asked the two officials to respect the status quo pending the resolution by the committee of this concern.