By HENRY EMPEÑO
A NEW Executive Order is expected to resolve the ongoing leadership row at the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), an official from Malacañang disclosed on Thursday during a congressional inquiry into the splitting of the chairman-administrator position at the Subic agency.
Lawyer Eulogio Sabban, who represented Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea during the hearing at the House of Representatives, told lawmakers there is already an existing the draft and that this will be presented to President Duterte for his review.
“My guidance from the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, which came from the Executive Secretary, is to give you the information, or the assurance that a draft Executive Order is for presentation to the President,” Sabban said.
“However, I am not privy (to the information and) we cannot divulge the details of the draft EO pending review and study of the President and his approval,” he added.
Sabban attended Thursday’s joint hearing of the House Committee on Rules and the Committee on Bases Conversion after House leaders on Monday invited Medialdea, former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to shed light on Executive Order 340, which the latter signed in 2004.
During the hearing, Sabban agreed upon prodding by Congressman Rimpy Bondoc (Pampanga) that the new EO should hew to the intent of the law governing the operations of the SBMA.
Majority Floorleader Rodolfo Fariñas, who presided over the House inquiry, again pointed out that EO 340, which separated the positions and functions of the SBMA chairman from that of the SBMA administrator, cannot take precedence over Republic Act 7227, a law created by Congress in 1992.
RA 7227, or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, he said, provides for the appointment of an SBMA administrator who will also be the ex-officio chairman and chief executive officer.
Congressman Aurelio Umali (Nueva Ecija), meanwhile, noted the necessity to examine the intent of Malacañang in making the SBMA appointments, and cited EO 340 as the root cause of the problem.
“We started on the wrong foot, and because we started on the wrong foot, we will most likely end up likewise,” Umali said. “I guess it is very important that the ES (executive secretary) should be here to clarify (the EO),” he added.
Duterte had appointed SBMA Chairman Martin Diño and SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma in October and December 2016, respectively, under EO 340.
However, Diño’s recent issuance of Administrative Order 01-2017, which sought to create a task force overseeing certain operations at the agency, had sparked conflict in the SBMA, as it tended to usurp the power and functions of the administrator and board members.
“The issue here is the faithful execution of the law,” said Eisma, who requested the committee to put on record her official statement. “There is no separate position of the chairman under Republic Act 7227; it exists only by virtue of the office of the Administrator.”
She added that when EO 340 was issued, it specifically identified and delineated the powers and duties of the two separated positions, but that Diño’s order went beyond these limits.
“Clearly, unless and until Chairman Diño accepts his role and works within the framework of EO 340, he will only cause divisiveness and confusion in the SBMA,” Eisma concluded.
Meanwhile, Congressman Ricky Sandoval (Malabon) asked Diño to suspend the implementation of his AO while the chairman-administrator issue is being resolved.
Diño agreed to the suspension, saying he is also for the resolution of the issue.
PHOTO: SBMA Chairman Martin Diño (2nd left, seated) and SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma (3rd right, seated) pose with Majority Floorleader Rodolfo Fariñas (middle, standing) and other members of the House of Representatives joint committee after last Thursday’s hearing on the separation of the powers and functions of the top positions in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. – Photo by Fred Pacuan