MANILA, Philippines – Is Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Joel Villanueva joining the Palace communications group?
Villanueva admitted to Rappler on Wednesday, April 8, that the idea has been floated around but said he has not yet talked to President Benigno Aquino III about it.
In a phone conversation, Villanueva said, “I’ve not received any official notice or anything."
He added, however: “At the end of the day we work at the pleasure of the President. Wherever he thinks I’ll be needed, it would be hard to say no.”
“I am here for him.”
The TESDA chief said he had heard that he was being considered for the team even before the news broke out.
“If it will be offered seriously I would like to sit down and share my views about it," he said.
Villanueva, who just returned from a trip abroad, said he would aim to speak to Aquino on Monday, April 13, when TESDA will be awarded for being only the second government agency in the executive branch to get International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification, after the Department of Health.
“The President knows very well if I’m going to take it, we would have to sit down and talk about it and hear my views. I’m sure he knows I’m around,” he said.
If Villanueva were to join the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO), he may replace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr who Aquino himself confirmed is being considered for the Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairmanship.
When he speaks to Aquino, Villanueva said he would like to clarify expectations of the job.
Aquino had often publicly praised Villanueva such as when he credited him for the increased employment rate of TESDA scholars at the 30th Biennial Convention of the Federation of the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry Inc on March 27.
“Due to Secretary Joel Villanueva’s active engagement with the relevant sectors, there has likewise been a very significant improvement in terms of employment rates,” Aquino said then.
Villanueva in turn, told Rappler he would have no problem defending Aquino’s character if need be, vouching for his integrity.
The TESDA chief has been a close friend of Aquino since their lawmaker days at the House of Representatives.
Talks of reorganizing the Palace communications group comes amid criticism of how Malacañang handled the aftermath of Oplan Exodus, a government operation targetting top terrorists that led to the death of 44 elite cops.
The incident triggered the lowest satisfaction and trust ratings of Aquino in his presidency. (READ: Aquino's trust, approval rating hit all time low – poll and Satisfaction with Aquino lowest after Mamasapano – SWS)