‘Little President’ quits as ES, but is now Marcos’ Chief of Staff

Rodriguez was appointed by Marcos as Presidential Chief of Staff, a new position created by Administrative Order No. 1, signed over the weekend by the Chief Executive.
Former Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez (Photo by Yummie Dingding)
Former Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez (Photo by Yummie Dingding)

After all the recent brouhaha and speculations, Atty. Victor Rodriguez finally broke his silence to announce that he quit as Executive Secretary — a position he held since President Ferdinand R. Marcos assumed office on 30 June.

In a statement Saturday, the beleaguered "little president" said he has asked permission to step down but will be Chief of Staff instead, contrary to persistent reports that he was already beyond the radar of Marcos Jr. and has been forced to resign due to several controversies.

"To the Filipino people, I shall continue serving you and the country as the Presidential Chief of Staff," Rodriguez said in his statement, confirming earlier reports of an imminent changing of the guards at the Office of the Executive Secretary.

Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles confirmed Rodriguez' bowing out of his position.

"We confirm reports that Atty. Vic Rodriguez has stepped down as Executive Secretary," Angeles said in a text message to reporters. "He got permission from President Ferdinand 'Bongbong' Marcos Jr. to do so."

Rodriguez did not expound the reason for quitting his post which has been mired with controversies including the sugar fiasco and contentious appointments of some government officials.

"There is nothing more rewarding than answering the call to serve the country, a rare privilege not extended to all but was given to me by the President, His Excellency Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr.," he said.

The work of an Executive Secretary, he said, is a 24/7 job with myriad topics expected to be attended to every day.

"It demands a sense of urgency which essentially requires almost all of a public servant's time to ensure that services are met and delivered," he added. "Equally valuable, however, is to witness firsthand your young family grow and evolve into how every parent would wish them to become and they most need me too."

He thanked President Marcos for his continuing trust and sincere understanding of his decision.

AO 1 creates PCOS

Meanwhile, the Office of the Press Secretary said Rodriguez was appointed by Marcos as Presidential Chief of Staff, a new position created by Administrative Order No. 1, signed over the weekend by the Chief Executive.

The OPS did not say exactly when AO 1 was signed.

Rodriguez's statement came a day after an unofficial document circulated online — a Memorandum by Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile for President Marcos Jr. dated 15 September.

The memorandum, which was received by the Office of the President on the same day, was Enrile's legal opinion on the two draft proposals from Rodriguez: A Special Order titled "Granting Authority to the Presidential Chief of Staff"; and an Administrative Order "Creating the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff and Rationalizing the System and Accountabilities in the Line and Staff Offices of the Office of the President."

The 5-page memorandum, which was signed by Enrile, bearing his signature on each page, and had a 'received stamp' by the OP at around 2:14 p.m. of the same day, did not recommend the approval of the proposed AO and SO resurrecting the Presidential Chief of Staff as it will necessarily confuse and even inevitably rifts among the different offices under the OP.

The proposed additional powers of the Presidential Chief of Staff did not sit well with Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile saying, "There is no need to create the position of the Presidential Chief of Staff, much less grant it much power."

"The Presidential Chief of Staff has no decision-making power, no signing powers, no review power, no power of supervision or control over any government department, agency, or office, and no power whatsoever to represent or act on behalf of the President," Enrile's memorandum read.

Enrile added that by tradition, the Chief of Staff merely assists the President in routine daily functions, including preparing briefers for meetings, organizing, and filing documents, and arranging the schedule of the President.

Under the proposed AO and SO, the Office of the Presidential Chief of Staff will be effectively involved in governance, decision-making, and other affairs including appointments.

The SO will also grant the Chief of Staff additional authority, as follows: Sign and approve memoranda, administrative issuances and instruments, contracts, and administrative and financial documents; Implement instructions for the efficient and effective operations of departments, agencies, and offices; and Implement policies and standards for the efficient and effective operations of the Office of the President and attached agencies.

Enrile's memorandum said these powers have already been given to, and are already being exercised by other offices like the Office of Executive Secretary, Presidential Management Staff, Office of the Special Assistant to the President, and his office.

The power to recommend to the President strategic directions, he said, is already being performed by various departments, National Economic Development Authority, and Cabinet clusters.

"The proposed AO/SO will cause unnecessary duplication and overlapping of functions, inconsistent with the right-sizing policy of the present administration," the memorandum said.

President's disapproval

The OPS, however, said the draft Special Order which sought additional functions to what was already provided under AO 1 was disapproved by President Marcos based on the recommendation of Enrile.

According to OPS, the newly created OPCOS will be under the direct supervision of the President.

"The OPCOS shall have the primary function of supervising and ensuring the efficient and responsive day-to-day operational support to the Presidency to enable the President to focus on strategic national concerns," read the AO 1, which took effect immediately.

AO 1, it said, provides for the PCS to have the rank and emoluments of a Cabinet secretary.

"The PCS will be assisted by a senior deputy chief of staff with the rank of secretary and two deputy chiefs of staff with the rank of undersecretary, assistant secretaries, and a such number of directorial and other administrative staff as he deems necessary and upon the approval of the President," AO 1 read.

The immediate staff of the PCS will reportedly come from abolished agencies such as the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission.

Immediate assumption

Rodriguez will immediately assume his new position as PCS. This, in effect, will leave vacant the Office of the Executive Secretary.

The OPS said there are names now being considered for the position of Executive Secretary and these names are now under the process of vetting by the OP.

As provided for in AO 1, the OES shall continue its supervision, control, and oversight function over all the agencies and offices under and attached to the OP under Executive Order 1.

AO 1 provides for the Presidential Management Staff and OPS to assist and support the PCS, whose office will serve as the coordination mechanism of the Office of the President. It will be in charge of the President's security monitoring system, which shall be responsible for providing regular situation reports to the President on a real-time basis.

The OPCOS will also supervise and coordinate closely with the PMS as the primary government agency directly responsible for providing substantive staff assistance in the Presidential exercise of the overall management of the development process, and with Presidential advisers and assistants whose outputs shall be submitted to the President through the OPCOS copy furnished to the Executive Secretary.

Reports circulated on Thursday that Rodriguez will be on his way out as ES and will be designated as President Marcos' Chief of Staff. An online news report said he be replaced by former Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.

Broadcaster Anthony Taberna in his Facebook vlog "Uncutunying" on 16 September divulged Rodriguez' draft AO and SO.

In his 14 September vlog, Taberna said a top Palace official was not invited to the "intimate" birthday dinner of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday.

The official was reportedly seen fuming after apparently being told not to enter the party venue and his advance party after being advised that their boss was not on the guest list.

The buzz at the party, he said, was about the official once rumored to have resigned or forced to resign from the Cabinet.

Daily Tribune