PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd should replace Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and other “old” officials in his Cabinet, according to Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) Chairman Dante Jimenez.
“There should be a law to disqualify people who are 70 years old and above from holding public office. There are many younger ones to handle the affairs of the state more effectively,” Jimenez told The Manila Times.
He acknowledged that Gazmin, 69, and other “senior” Cabinet officials are exempted from the civil service rule on the mandatory retirement age for being presidential appointees.
But Jimenez said this is where the problem lies.
“That’s the call of the President and that’s why they fail, (they respond) too slow for situations like this [Super Typhoon Yolanda] magnitude. He [Gazmin] is there because he was Cory’s [late President Corazon Aquino]man,” he stressed.
Jimenez said the job of the secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND) who doubles as head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) requires a younger official.
“[It is] better [to appoint]a younger and non-ex military ala Ramon Magsaysay who was a non-PMAyer [graduate of the Philippine Military Academy],” he pointed out.
Gazmin commanded Mrs. Aquino’s Presidential Security Group from 1986 to 1992. His last military post was as chief of the Philippine Army where he retired as a Lt. Gen. when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 56 in 2000.
Jimenez noted that because of his age, Gazmin may no longer be able to perform his tasks well enough in securing the country and in addressing natural and man-made disasters.
“We are in a crisis of huge magnitude from natural and manmade calamities and with a weak crisis President and an SND [Secretary of National Defense] who was an ex-Cory aide, we are all not secure from external and internal threats,” the VACC chairman said.
Gazmin was rumored to be on the way out two months ago after he issued conflicting reports on the structures being set up allegedly by the Chinese Navy in the disputed Spratlys Group of Islands.
Critics have described President Aquino’s Cabinet as “ancient” for having numerous appointees who have already retired from public service.
The Civil Service Commission, according to its Chairman Francisco Duque, does not bar these appointments because they all fall under the discretion of the president.
“It is allowed. Secretary Gazmin can stay on as long as the president wants him there. The mandatory retirement age of 65 applies to career professionals. With the presidential appointees, it’s a different matter,” Duque said.
Perhaps the oldest member of Aquino’s Cabinet, he said, is Health Secretary Enrique Ona.
“I think Secretary Ona is 72. But it is not just them, there are others, undersecretaries who are beyond 65,” Duque added.
He cited the case of former Public Works Secretary Virgilio Vigilar who served under two presidents in a holdover capacity.
“Remember Secretary Vigilar served under President [Fidel] Ramos when he was already old.
More than that, he served under [former President Joseph]Estrada. Not only can those beyond 65 serve one president. It depends on the appointing authority,” Duque said.
“Mostly, I can say, are co-terminus with the official who appointed them,” he added.
Earlier, Rep. Maria Carmen Zamora of Compostela Valley filed a bill in Congress that aims to lower the mandatory retirement age for government employees to 55.
In filing House Bill 242, the lawmaker said the measure would address the “slow manpower turn-over in government” and would provide “job openings for the unemployed.”
Zamora said the present law setting the mandatory retirement age at 65 may be affecting the bureaucracy’s productivity “since studies show that people reaching the age of 50 tend to suffer from a decline of cognitive and physical abilities.”
Besides, she said that older people also find it harder to adapt to modern technology.
“Lowering the compulsory retirement age would also allow retirees to thoroughly enjoy the benefits and assistance extended to them, while giving the Government Service Insurance System [GSIS] the ability to fully prepare and manage the increase in the transaction volume of retirement applications and their processing,” she said.