MANILA, Philippines - The resignation of Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto is the start of an exodus of officials from the Arroyo Cabinet to the political battlefield in 2010, Malacañang disclosed yesterday.
Recto’s resignation came just 14 weeks from the deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said he expects Recto to remain with the ruling Lakas-Kampi-CMD party even if he has close friends in the opposition.
He cited Recto’s being “independent-minded” when he was still in the Senate.
He said President Arroyo understood that Recto needed time to prepare for another run for the Senate and she wished him well. Malacañang has yet to name Recto’s replacement.
“As you know Senator Recto did not make it during his first re-election (in 2007).
I suppose that this time he’s going to prepare in earnest so he can be successful in his second reelection bid in the Senate,” Ermita said.
“The former senator believes in the saying that the early bird catches the worm, and therefore he wants to be able to move around more freely with much more time in preparation for 2010,” he said.
He said Recto might have recommended a successor although Mrs. Arroyo has “the latitude of choice” among current deputies at the National Economic and Development Authority.
Ermita also dismissed speculations that the resignation of Recto was linked to his public quarrel with Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes over local fuel prices. Recto had accused the oil firms of overpricing at a time when Reyes was being criticized for allegedly not protecting the interest of consumers.
“I guess it’s safe to say that those who may be aspiring for political positions, and (who will) join the elections in 2010 may have to resign come filing of certificates of candidacy,” he said.
He said the Palace has “anticipated” the exodus and is confident of getting competent replacements for the resigning officials.
Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs Gabriel Claudio earlier said between eight and 12 Cabinet officials would be seeking elective posts next year.
He declined to name the officials to keep them from being exposed to political attacks prematurely.
“A good number of them (Cabinet officials) represent agencies that have been performing well and supporting the President effectively and efficiently,” Claudio said.
“They can be better motivated to do a good job at what they’re doing because the public is watching them,” he said.
“I think it is to be expected of them if they run for public office they have to be presenting themselves on the issue of performance,” he said.
Among those rumored to be eyeing elective posts are Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr., reportedly a congressional seat in Pangasinan; Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, either as a congressman in Bohol or as senator; Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as senator; Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process Avelino Razon Jr. as Manila mayor; Education Secretary Jesli Lapus as senator.
Also reportedly running for elective posts in 2010 are Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III and deputy presidential spokespersons Anthony Golez and Lorelei Fajardo.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde is reportedly considering running for a local post in Cebu.
Reggie Velasco, deputy secretary-general of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, said Recto is included in the senatorial lineup of the ruling party.
“He (Recto) is part of the senatorial lineup. As far as Lakas-Kampi is concerned, we have no problem with him. We are 100 percent behind him,” Velasco told reporters during the weekly Ayes and Nays forum in Quezon City.
“We have no information if he’s moving to another party. We don’t know the reason for his resignation. Perhaps to give him ample time to prepare for the senatorial race,” he added.
Recto sought re-election in May 2007 but lost. He was first elected senator in 2001 and served his full term until 2007. Prior to that, he served as congressman of Batangas for three terms, or a total of nine years.
The party official disclosed that national officers would be conducting “regional consultations” starting Aug. 27 to get the pulse of the local executives on who they would want to endorse for the May 2010 presidential elections.Consultations will continue until September after which a “mini convention” will be held in Metro Manila on Oct. 15, or more than a month before the Nov. 30 deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy