Villar rejects leadership change at PhilMech: ‘Why should we rock the boat now?’

Senator Cynthia Villar on Sunday questioned the sudden change in leadership happening at the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech), the key agency leading the implementation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) program of the government, saying the move is impractical and could be tantamount to a “midnight appointment.”

Villar said RCEF, under the leadership of PhilMech Director Dr. Baldwin Jallorina, has consistently enabled the government to provide farmers with modern machineries that helped them significantly increase their yields and sustained the growth in agricultural production.

The senator said a change in leadership in PhilMech now does not appear to be practical due to its sterling performance in implementing the RCEP, a law enacted to improve Filipino rice farmers’ competitiveness and income amid the liberalization of the Philippine rice trade policy.

Villar emphasized that while she recognizes and respects the prerogative of President Duterte to appoint officials in government, she said she is of humble opinion that “replacing the leadership of Jallorina disregards all that has been achieved by PhilMech, which he led passionately, within a short span of time.”

“The implementation of RCEF has been doing well because of all the agencies and people especially Dr. Jallorina, comprising the components,” said Villar, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, in a statement.

Furthermore, Villar said removing Jallorina at PhilMech comes at a crucial time when the ban on midnight appointments is about to take effect.

The Constitution prohibits the President or Acting President to make appointments two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.

But while the prohibition period has not begun, Villar said she believes "any form of appointment or transfers at this closing hour of the administration is prone to be interpreted by the public as ‘midnight appointment’.”

“On a grand scale, it is commonly interpreted as a prohibition against the outgoing President. But to a lesser degree, it is to be interpreted as that the Department head is prevented from continuing his control over a department or agency of the government after the end of his term,” she said.

Villar also pointed out that before any changes in appointment should take place, the Courts have held that an appointment can be made only to a vacant office; an appointment cannot be made to an occupied office.

An incumbent, she said, must first be legally removed, or his appointment validly terminated, or resigned, before one could be validly installed to succeed him.

“In the absence of due process and judgment that an incumbent, such as Dr. Jallorina, is removed from his position, there is no valid reason in fact and in law to appoint a successor,” Villar said.

Villar, however, clarified that Jallorina “has not been removed, nor his appointment validly terminated.”

“Neither has he resigned. We are unaware of any complaint or issues presently lodged against him," she pointed out.

A staff of the senator, nevertheless, confirmed that the senator has already received documents confirming Jallorina’s replacement.

She has also been informed by PhilMech since Villar’s agriculture panel has been closely monitoring developments in the RCEF mechanization program.