MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – A week after he declared his plans to run for senator, Francis Tolentino has offered his resignation as chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
Tolentino signed his resignation letter in front of his agency’s personnel on Wednesday, October 7. He is set to deliver the letter to President Benigno Aquino III.
“Dumating na ang panahon na ako ay umalis na para lumahok sa mas mataas na antas ng paglilingkod sa bayan ngayong 2016,” Tolentino said. (This is the time for me to leave to join a higher level of public service in 2016.)
“Samahan po ninyo ako sa 2016,” he added. (Please join me in 2016.)
He has been serving as head of the agency since 2010.
Tolentino earlier said he would resign his post to prepare for a senatorial run under the Liberal Party (LP).
But he has now asked the LP to exclude him from its senatorial lineup after he drew the ire of women’s groups and fellow LP members over a controversial dance performance at a congressman’s birthday party in Laguna last week.
Just two days after he announced his Senate plans, Tolentino was criticized for allegedly hiring female dancers from the group “Playgirls” to perform for Laguna Representative Benjamin Agarao.
The dancers’ sexually suggestive dance moves, and reports that Tolentino brought them as a “gift,” drew the ire of women’s groups, even after the MMDA chief denied that he had hired the dancers.
A post on the Playgirls’ Facebook account, however, said that Tolentino had hired the dancers for his brother’s 2013 political campaign.
Earlier Wednesday, Tolentino apologized over the incident, saying his mistake was failing to stop the dancers’ performance.
“Muli sinasabi ko, hindi ko nakontrol, hindi ko napigilan ang naturang insidente na sa aking paniniwala at sa paniniwala din ng iba ay ginagawa rin naman araw-araw sa harap ng milyon milyon sa telebisyon araw-araw,” he said.
(I was unable to control and to stop the incident because of my belief, that others also share, that performances like that are done every day, in front of millions of people, on television.)
In his speech before MMDA personnel, Tolentino enumerated the benefits received by the agency’s employees under his term.
While praising the performance of his personnel, he also said the controversial incident in Laguna should not mar the agency’s reputation.
“The incident should not mar the sacrifices of our personnel to further the best interests of the people of Metro Manila,” he said.
The MMDA chief also faces a complaint before the Ombudsman over the incident.
Labor groups accused Tolentino of violating the code of conduct for public officials and the Magna Carta for Women.
Five years in MMDA
In his resignation letter, Tolentino thanked Aquino for trusting him with the role of heading the agency for 5 years.
“Sa loob ng mahigit limang taon ay binuhos ko ang aking sariling kaalaman at kakayahan sa tinuturing na pinakamahirap na trabaho sa gabinete, ang MMDA. Saksi po ang lahat at batid po ninyo ang halos 24/7 na paglilingkod na ginawa ko sa MMDA,” he said.
(For more than 5 years, I have given my skills to what is considered the hardest job in the Cabinet, the MMDA. You know that I have been of service almost 24/7 in the MMDA.)
“Ako po ay taos-pusong nagpapasalamat at habambuhay kong tatanawin ang mga ginintuang alaala na nakasama kayo bilang aking pangulo sa paglilingkod sa sambayanan,” he added.
(I extend my heartfelt gratitude, and I will cherish the memories that I have worked with you as my president in serving the public.)
In 2010, Aquino appointed Tolentino to head the agency tasked to oversee the planning and development of the Philippine capital region.
Among other things, the MMDA is tasked to oversee traffic management, flood control projects, urban renewal and land use planning, and public safety.
But it is in the area of traffic management that Tolentino gets the most attention – primarily because of the worsening congestion problem of Metro Manila. Experts say the massive traffic jams cost the Philippines P2.4 billion a day in productivity losses.
Under Tolentino’s term, the MMDA has attempted various solutions, such as the relaunch of the Pasig River Ferry, and using social media to provide real-time updates on the traffic situation.
Tolentino, however, has drawn flak for failing to ease the metro’s paralyzing traffic jams, especially during sudden downpours and flashfloods.
Metro Manila’s traffic woes have prompted Aquino to step in, deploying highway police personnel to help direct traffic. – Rappler.com