The moaning and complaints that have met the issuance of President Duterte’s Memorandum Circular No. 4, wherein he fired all presidential appointees of the previous administrations, could have been avoided had the appointees tendered their courtesy resignations upon the accession of the new President.
The resignations are normally expected and necessary so that the new chief executive can have a free hand in shaping his administration and in choosing replacements for the fired executives.
There is a seeming controversy in this only because many of the affected officials have clung to their positions and salaries, in the hope of prolonging their stay in government service. This, of course, is futile.
The entire presidential appointment system is based on the premise that a new President is entitled to have his own choice of people to run the government at its top levels. President Duterte has had to resort to firing officials, for two stated reasons:
First, his disappointment that corruption has persisted within the government bureaucracy, especially in the regulatory agencies; and Second, because after over a month since Duterte’s accession, the appointees have not submitted their resignations.
These are reasonable grounds for the President taking action the way he has.
The circular is not a blanket order covering all presidential appointees; there are clear exemptions enumerated in the circular.
The exemptions are:
newly appointed Cabinet secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries in their respective departments, including presidential advisers and assistants other officials in the Executive Department, including state universities and colleges, and government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), appointed by the incumbent President career officials as defined by the Civil Service Laws, rules, and regulations members of the judiciary officials whose offices are created by virtue of the Philippine Constitution such as Constitutional Commissions and Ombudsman those whose appointments are currently being processed or who may be appointed by the President shortly after the effectivity of the memorandum circular.
At the House hearing on the 2017 budget, CSC chairperson Alicia Dela Rosa-Bala clarified that officials who may be removed at the pleasure of the appointing authority are those appointed without security of tenure. She also explained that appointed non-career service officials may be removed by the President.
As things stand, President Duterte has actually been more lenient and liberal toward appointees affected by the order than his predecessor, President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd. He gave them a month to show performance and wrap up their affairs. In contrast, President Aquino, on his first day in office, issued a blanket order firing all appointees of his predecessor, President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo. With one, there was a gesture of goodwill; with the other, there was a lash of vindictiveness.
The question has been raised by one Liberal Party congressman whether the Duterte circular observes the constitutional provisions covering and protecting public servants. CSC Office for Legal Affairs director Ariel Ronquillo says it does not transgress the constitutional guarantee of securtity of tenure to qualified and career officials
The principle involved here is clear:
“The presidential power to appoint includes the power to remove.”