Power struggle at PEZA not yet over

Published August 2, 2022, 6:17 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The power struggle at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is not yet over as succeeding memoranda failed to resolve as to who holds the top leadership post at the agency that registers investments of export-oriented enterprises and administers their tax and fiscal incentives.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual, PEZA Chairman, issued Department Order No. 2022-88 on Tuesday, August 2, affirming the term extension of Deputy Director General Tereso O. Panga as officer-in-charge of PEZA to put an end to the leadership claim.

Pascual clearly stated that his order is pursuant to the Memorandum Circular No. 3 issued by Office of the President on July 27, 2022.

“In accordance with MC No. 3, we affirm that the term of Deputy Director General Tereso O. Panga as OIC of the PEZA as extended until December 31, 2022, or until his replacement has been appointed or designated, whichever comes first,” said Pascual.

Pascual’s order further explained that pursuant to the Office of the President’s Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 1 on June 30, 2022, former Director General Charito B. Plaza of the PEZA was deemed separated from service effective on the same date. MC 1 declares all government positions held by political appointees, co-terminus with the former President Duterte vacant.

Since Panga is the next most senior official, Pascual said, the Deputy Director General assumed the duties and functions as OIC of the PEZA until Dec. 31, 2022 or until a replacement has been appointed, whichever comes first.

To ensure continuous and effective delivery of government services, Pascual said that the Office of the President subsequently issued MC No. 3, which extended the term of the OIC covered by MC No. 1 until December 31, 2022 or until a replaced has been appointed. MC 3 was meant to reinforce MC 1.

Plaza, however, interpreted the MC 3 to refer to her earlier request for clarification on MC 1 and for her to stay on holdover capacity because she believes PEZA is exempted from the first circular being a government instrumentality distinct from being a government owned and controlled corporation. With that, Plaza went back to PEZA on Friday, July 29, saying she was just on sick leave.

As confusion sets in among PEZA employees and their registered business enterprises, Pascual issued the DO on Tuesday, August 2, confirming that Panga is the PEZA OIC.

On the same day, August 2, Plaza sent another clarificatory letter to Malacanang, asking Executive Secretary Victor E. Rodriguez to issue an order “clarifying that my position as Director-General was never vacated pursuant to MC No. 1 and MC No. 3.”