MANILA, Philippines – A week after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. ordered a reshuffle in the country’s top defense posts, he was all praises for Carlito Galvez Jr., who would have been his first full-time defense chief.
“Very, very experienced and in fact, as soon as he took his oath…he knew already what to do. He called for a command conference. So I think he’ll slide into that position really easily. Yeah, no problem,” said Marcos on January 15, in a chance interview on board PR001 en route to Davos, Switzerland, where he was to attend the World Economic
Galvez, a former general who has handled a wide range of roles in government – from peace talks liaison to military chief, and even vaccine czar – had been brought in after Jose Faustino Jr., appointed officer-in-charge of the Department of National Defense (DND), stepped down because he was out of the loop when Marcos appointed a new military chief.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, a close ally of the President, imagined “no difficulties in hurdling Commission on Appointments (CA),” a bicameral body that vets key presidential appointments. A handful of Marcos appointees had found themselves in CA limbo in the past, after all – Vic Rodriguez did not get so much as an appointment and then quit; Trixie Cruz-Angeles found herself bypassed before she quit; while Erwin Tulfo was bypassed twice, the second time on account of citizenship issues.
But it turns out, the CA chairperson’s assurances wouldn’t really matter to Galvez.
As of February 23, his appointment papers have not reached the CA, based on the commission’s latest report because, it turns out, Galvez isn’t a full time secretary after all.
At the recent alumni homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), Marcos addressed Galvez as “senior undersecretary.” The event’s emcee had also earlier addressed him as senior undersecretary and DND officer-in-charge.
What is it, really?
When Malacañang, through the Presidential Communications Office (PCO), announced Faustino’s exit and Galvez’s move from peace adviser to defense chief, it was clear that Galvez was going to be Marcos’ first defense secretary.
“It is with deep regret that the President has accepted the resignation of DND OIC Sr. Usec. Jose Faustino Jr. The President has offered the position of DND Secretary to Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation, and Unity Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr. and he has accepted,” said the PCO in a release via its chief, Secretary Cheloy Garafil.
Even before helming the DND, Galvez already held the rank of secretary as Marcos’ presidential adviser.
During a visit to evacuees in Misamis Occidental, Galvez’s first public event with Marcos as defense chief, Marcos introduced him as the “namumuno ng DND at siya ang head ng NDRRMC (leader of the DND and head of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council), Secretary Charlie Galvez.”
So what rank and position does Galvez hold, really?
Repeated attempts to seek a clear answer from both Malacañang and the DND remained unanswered, as of posting time. There have also been no response to requests made to Malacañang and Camp Aguinaldo for Galvez’s appointment papers.
The confusion seems to come from Malacañang itself. After his appointment was announced, he had been referred to several times by both Marcos and the PCO as defense secretary. Even after the PMA homecoming, in a February 22 news release on Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Richard Marles’ call on Marcos, the PCO again referred to Galvez as “defense secretary.”
The DND itself is also inconsistent. On its official page, Galvez is senior undersecretary and OIC but in the DND homepage, he is “Secretary of National Defense.” Recent releases referred to Galvez as OIC or Senior Undersecretary, but releases from early February 2023 addressed him as secretary.
When Faustino was at the helm, he was almost always consistently referred to as senior undersecretary, OIC, or acting secretary, both by the DND and the Palace. An exception was during a briefing in quake-hit Abra when the then-Office of the Press Secretary referred to Faustino as “Sec. Faustino” in the official transcript.
Galvez, as the apparent second OIC of the DND, is part of a long list of interim heads of agencies in the Marcos administration. Another major agency headed by a interim head? The health department.
In December 2022, when asked for updates on the lack of full-time heads in at least three departments, Marcos said he was just going through the process. On Faustino, Marcos said then that he was “happy with the situation.”
There is, too, the matter of the agriculture department which Marcos himself heads. He’s downplayed the need for a full-time agriculture secretary, despite calls from critics and allies alike – including his own sister, Senator Imee Marcos.
The second interim defense chief occupies the post amid rising tensions in the region, most notably Beijing’s “daily” acts of aggression in the West Philippine Sea.
As head of the defense sector, it’s Galvez who speaks to ministers and secretaries of defense from all over the world. At least two have touched base with him, following news that a Chinese Coast Guard vessel pointed a military-grade laser at a Philippine Coast Guard ship – Marles for an in-person visit, and US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin through a phone call.
The Administrative Code of 1987 is scant on its discussion of OICs, except to say that it’s the president who has the power to “issue temporary designation” and that these temporary heads may only hold the post for not more than a year.
A 2017 Civil Service Commission (CSC) Memorandum Circular states that an OIC only has “limited powers which are confined to functions of administration and ensuring that the office continues its usual activities.”
The OIC’s main role is for the agency or the department to continue running until a full-time official is appointed.
In contrast, an acting official is “deemed to be the incumbent of the position” and is accorded more powers.
OICs only have discretionary powers – to make appointments, for instance – if their appointing authority makes it explicit that they’re allowed to.
In October 2022, Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin – Marcos’ second “little president” who came less than three months into the new administration – issued a Memorandum Circular allowing OICs to enter into new contracts or projects, or disburse extraordinary funds. That October Memorandum Circular revoked part of a July circular earlier issued by his predecessor, Rodriguez.
So if, on paper, Galvez – like the other OICs in the Marcos administration – have most powers of a Cabinet chief save for its title, what’s holding Marcos back?
Come May 9, 2023, the ban on appointing losing 2022 candidates is over.
Marcos himself hinted at changes in 2023. “These things are revisited especially every year at the end of the first year. I don’t think…that’s a secret to anyone that at the end of the first year, ‘yung mga ibang kandidato (the other candidates), they will now join the mix of possible nominees,” he said in December 2022. – Rappler.com
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