By HENRY EMPEÑO
MALACAÑANG is set to repeal Executive Order 340, which split the highest position in the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), and install just one top official in order to head off the ongoing leadership tussle in the Subic agency, a senior Palace official said on Wednesday, August 2.
In a joint meeting conducted by the House Committee on Bases Conversion and the Ad Hoc Committee on Central and North Luzon Inspection, Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra said the Office of the Executive Secretary has already submitted a draft executive order (EO) to President Duterte to solve the problem at the SBMA.
Guevarra described the new EO as “expressly repealing EO 340 and reaffirming the provision of RA (Republic Act) 7227.” He declined, however, to reveal the full content of the new EO pending review by the President.
Section 13 of RA 7227, or the Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992, provides for the appointment by the President of “a professional manager as administrator of the Subic Authority…who shall be the ex-officio chairman of the board and who shall serve as the chief executive officer.”
However, EO 340, which was issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004, had separated the position and functions of the SBMA chairman from that of the SBMA administrator.
Pasay lone district Rep. Emi Calixto-Rubiano, who chairs the House Committee on Bases Conversion, said the second joint committee hearing on EO 340 last Wednesday was meant “to resolve once and for all the overlapping responsibilities at the SBMA” which had embroiled SBMA Chairman Martin Diño and SBMA Administrator Wilma Eisma in a leadership battle.
The two appointees of President Duterte have been at odds since May following Diño’s issuance of an administrative order that Eisma said encroached upon her power and functions as administrator.
The misunderstanding had led the seven local government units near the Subic Freeport and, lately, the Subic Bay Freeport Chamber of Commerce to call upon President Duterte to retain just one official to head the SBMA to prevent confusion and to resolve the conflict.
Before Guevarra presented Malacañang’s position in last Wednesday’s hearing, the committee asked former Senator Alberto Romulo to shed light on why EO 340 was issued by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.
Romulo, who was then Executive Secretary when Arroyo signed the EO, explained that EO 340 derived its provenance from the Constitution, the 1987 Administrative Code of the Philippines, the General Appropriations Act, and several other jurisprudences that gave the President broad residual powers to reorganize the executive branch.
“Since May 4, 2004 when it was signed, more than 13 years have passed and to my knowledge no question has been issued on (EO 340),” Romulo said. He also noted that the said order had “served well” the administrations of Arroyo and her successor, President Benigno Aquino II.
Guevarra, who represented Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, completely agreed with Romulo on the origin of EO 340 and added that the Office of the President has also taken into account all the relevant laws, issuances and rulings in reviewing the matter.
However, he added that “We cannot escape the fact that there is a definitive law governing (the SBMA issue), and that it is clear that we’re talking about one and the same person in this situation.”
Therefore, the Office of the Executive Secretary has deemed it proper “to recommend to the President to repeal EO 340,” Guevarra said.
On this note, Rubiano’s committee formally ended its inquiry on EO 340 and said it would just await the decision of President Duterte.
The committee also urged both Eisma and Diño to maintain status quo ante at the SBMA and to strictly do their duties until the new EO has been served.
TOP PHOTO: Former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo explains the origin of EO 340 during a congressional hearing on Aug. 2, as other resource persons look on (from left): Asst. Secretary Kelvin Lester Lee, Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra, Romulo, BMA Administrator Wilma Eisma, and SBMA Director Tomas Lahom III. (Photo: Dong Andres)