Tolentino bill mandates appointment of gov't advisors based on merit and fitness

Published October 15, 2021, 9:34 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Francis Tolentino is seeking to amend a law to ensure that government consultants and advisors will be appointed based on merit and their fitness for the position.

Former presidential adviser and businessman Michael Yang attends the Senate’s virtual hearing about the Department of Health’s disbursement of COVID-19 funds on September 10, 2021. (Screen capture from Senate livestream/YouTube)

Tolentino recently filed Senate Bill No. 2432 as another remedial measure to the issues that cropped up in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s marathon hearings on the government’s procurement of medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The administration senator said the Senate inquiry “has brought to light the President’s broad authority to select his advisors…with little to no checks on the extent of their influence, whether ethics or regulatory, under the law.”

In his bill, he noted that Article 9 of the 1987 Constitution mandates that appointments in the government “shall be made only according to merit and fitness, as far as practicable, and except to positions which are policy-determining, primarily confidential, or highly-technical, by competitive examination.”

To implement the constitutional provision, Tolentino proposed to amend the Administrative Code of 1987 “to include all government consultants and advisors in the coverage and scope of the civil service as non-career service public officers.”

At present, non-career service officers include elective officials and their staff; Cabinet secretaries and their personal staff; heads and members of commission and boards; and contractual, emergency and season personnel.

In the Senate’s inquiry, senators learned that officials of Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation, the newly-incorporated company awarded with multi-billion-peso contracts by the government for COVID-19 supplies despite a low paid-up capital, had links to President Duterte’s former economic advisor Michael Yang.

Yang denied his ties with Pharmally even as the company’s executives admitted seeking the Chinese businessman for their financial deals. Later, Yang said that it was not him who bankrolled the firm’s purchases but his compatriots.

In a radio interview last September, Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Sen. Richard Gordon questioned Duterte’s appointment of Yang.