Department of Agriculture

Retirement of 2 officials sets off DA leadership reshuffle

Iya Gozum

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Retirement of 2 officials sets off DA leadership reshuffle
Further changes in leadership ranks are to be expected, as the department welcomes the year with a reshuffling under a new agriculture chief

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) welcomed the new year with a major leadership reshuffle, following the retirement of Undersecretaries Domingo Panganiban and Leocadio Sebastian.

In a radio interview on Thursday, January 4, assistant secretary and spokesperson Arnel de Mesa said Panganiban’s term ended on December 31.

Meanwhile, De Mesa said, Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian was also leaving by the end of January. Sebastian led the DA’s rice industry development.

Sebastian was appointed by DA chief Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. as a member of the secretary’s Technical Advisory Group through Special Order No. 1.

Panganiban, 84, was agriculture chief himself under former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He returned to the DA as senior undersecretary while President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was concurrent agriculture chief.

Marcos left the post in November last year, when he appointed fishing industry tycoon Francisco Tiu Laurel.

In a statement on Thursday, the DA said agriculture chief Tiu Laurel issued special orders for the changes in leadership “to better harness their talents and vast experience.”

De Mesa clarified in the interview that there were no controversies surrounding Panganiban and Sebastian’s retirement.

Sebastian told Rappler that it was a voluntary retirement for his part after 28 years of government service. Sebastian started working in government back in 1983 for the Philippine Tobacco Research and Training Center. From 1968 to 1988, he worked at the National Tobacco Administration, an attached corporation of the DA. He spent the next ten years at the Philippine Rice Research Institute before working abroad. Upon his return to the Philippines, Sebastian returned to government work in 2021.

In the past year, the two undersecretaries have been prominent in congressional hearings regarding issues in price hikes of agricultural products. Panganiban was one of the officials who signed the controversial Sugar Order No. 6 which authorized the importation of 440,000 metric tons of sugar back in February 2023.

“Sariling decision po nila, opoNa mag-retire na po,” De Mesa said. (It was their own decision, yes. To retire already.)

“Ano naman po ito mga– ‘yung iba po ay dahil may bago tayong administration so part po ‘yun ng mga kortesiya,” he added.

(These are– others were compelled because of the new administration so that’s part of the courtesies.)

In light of the retirements, Tiu Laurel appointed those in leadership in other positions, with some serving in concurrent capacity to their original roles. Here is a list of the changes:

  1. Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla: assigned to oversee operations of DA bureaus
  2. Undersecretary Agnes Catherine Miranda: assigned to oversee operations of DA’s attached agencies and corporations
  3. Undersecretary Drusila Esther Bayate: named undersecretary for policy, planning, and regulations, while concurrently serving as undersecretary for fisheries
  4. Officer-in-charge undersecretary Roger Navarro: assigned as officer-in-charge undersecretary for Rice Industry Development, officer-in-charge national project director of the Philippine Rural Development Project, and officer-in-charge assistant secretary for operations
  5. Officer-in-charge director for financial and management service Telma Tolentino: appointed as concurrent undersecretary-designate for finance
  6. U-Nichols Manalo: named director of the national rice program, while concurrently serving as officer-in-charge director of field operations service and director of the national corn program
  7. Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa: designated as full-time spokesperson

The changes are already reflected in the DA’s online directory of officials as of Thursday.

“Further changes in the DA leadership are likely given the temporary nature of certain appointments and the additional work load placed on the shoulder of certain officials,” the statement read. –

1 comment

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  1. ET

    The decision to retire is good and practical for both officials. On the part of USEC Domingo Panganiban, he had been DA Secretary himself under two previous Presidents; hence, he could not ask for more. But on the part of USEC Leocadio Sebastian, it is a different matter. While he has the education, experience, competence, and dedication (with I believe – a CESO eligibility), he was still deprived of the highest position in the agency. This is a lesson to other officials in the Government – perhaps it is not good to give 100% of yourself to Government Service – it may not be worth it all in the end.

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Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum covers the environment, agriculture, and science beats for Rappler.