MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Cesar Montano’s most trusted man in the Tourism Promotions Board (TBP) is not new to national government, having started out two decades ago as an executive assistant in the office of then-Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Ranulfo “Ronnie” Albao, sources in the agency told Rappler, has a P1-consultancy contract with TPB, but practically runs the government agency, attending meetings on behalf of Montano, approving agency-funded deals, and giving orders to employees.
His contract says he was hired as a “general support and technical services consultant.”
In a text message to Rappler, Albao on Monday, May 21, denied the claims. “[I]f am acting as the COS at the office of the COO, my answer is “NO,” he said.
Rejected by Civil Service Commission
Albao was first appointed Executive Assistant IV under the Office of the Vice President In September 1998.
The Civil Service Commission (CSC), however, did not approve his appointment as he was accused of dishonesty and was found to have falsified documents that he passed the engineering board exams.
The case reached the Supreme Court when the CSC questioned the decision released by the Court of Appeals that favored Albao. The SC, in 2005, ruled in favor of the commission, stating that it has the “power to institute the administrative proceedings” against Albao.
Besides the controversy over his false credentials, Albao had also been accused of misusing his position under Arroyo.
In 2003, staff of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) called out Albao’s alleged “questionable interference” in appointments and decisions made within the agency.
According to a report by the Philippine Star then, he allegedly used his Malacañang connections to sell raffle tickets to different DPWH offices. The money was supposed to finance a church construction that allegedly never materialized.
Relationship with the Arroyo family
There are indications on social media of his connections with the Arroyo family. A photo on his Facebook page shows him with the former president, together with Montano’s brother, Rommel, another staff at the TPB.
A much older photo was also posted showing Albao with members of the former presidential family.
Another photo also shows a visibly younger Albao with the former first couple in a foreign country. The timestamp on the photo shows it was taken in 1995.
He also posted an old photo of him with the presidential portrait of Arroyo’s father, former president Diosdado Macapagal, seemingly taken during a memorial service as indicated by Albao’s black armband.
Albao is among government employees under the Duterte administration who worked with Arroyo. The others are Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr, Chief Presidential Counsel Salvador Panelo, Solicitor General Jose Calida, and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu.
Rappler has been trying to reach Albao since Friday, May 19, to clarify his role in the TPB and his ties to the Arroyos. As of posting, messages and calls to his mobile numbers and Facebook account have gone unanswered.
Montano’s political plans?
Informed sources told Rappler that Albao’s interference may be related to Montano’s plans to run for office in 2019, adding that his connections with Arroyo may help propel the actor’s political career after at least 3 failed attempts in the past.
Montano first ran for senator under Lakas-CMD, Arroyo’s political party, in 2007 but lost. He aimed for a gubernatorial position in Bohol under the Liberal Party but lost again.
In 2016, he was the 2nd nominee of Aangat Tayo in the party-list elections. The organization won, but got only one seat in the House of Representatives.
Montano eventually became part of government when he was appointed Tourism Promotions Board in December 2016.