Bare Truth by Rose de la Cruz
Bare Truth

The ambiguity of rightsizing

Jul 26, 2022, 11:59 PM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

Rightsizing is the buzz word that Marcos used in abolishing the Presidential Anti- Corruption Commission and the Office of the Cabinet Secretary. His reason their functions can be done by the Office of Executive Secretary and by the office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs.

Executive Order No. 1 of June 30 explained that the Office of the President and the various attached agencies and offices are being reorganized “by abolishing duplicated and overlapping official functions.”

“The Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs shall make recommendations on matters requiring its action, to the Executive Secretary for approval, adoption or modification by the President,” it also states.

PACC, created under EO 43 of 2017 and its amendment Executive Order No. 73, s. 2018, is tasked to

“directly assist the President in investigating and/or hearing administrative cases primarily involving graft and corruption against all presidential appointees…thereof, and to perform such other similar duties as the President may direct.”

Likewise, PACC is also authorized to “conduct lifestyle checks and fact-finding inquiries on acts and omissions of all covered presidential employees, inside and outside of the executive branch of the government, which may be violative of the Constitution, or contrary to law, rules and regulations, and/or constitute serious misconduct tantamount to betrayal of public trust.”

EO No. 1 also abolishes the Office of the Cabinet Secretary, saying the existing Cabinet Secretariat should be placed under the direct control and supervision of the Presidential Management Staff.

The dictionary defines rightsizing as reducing the size of (a company or organization) by eliminating staff positions, specifically when business conditions necessitate such a reduction.

The President in his first State of the Nation Address emphasized that “the National Government Rightsizing Program seeks to enhance the government’s institutional capacity to perform its mandate and provide better services, while ensuring optimal and efficient use of resources.”

Contained in Item No. 1 of his 19-point legislative priorities,

Marcos said “compared to previous government reorganization efforts, the NGRP will entail a comprehensive strategic review of the functions, operations, organization, systems and processes of the different agencies, and massive and transformational initiatives in agencies concerned, such as mergers, consolidation, splitting, transfer, and even the abolition of some offices. The rightsizing efforts will also involve the conduct of a comprehensive strategic review of functions, programs and projects that will cut across various agencies.”

And yet in Items No. 11 of the legislative priorities, Marcos called for the creation of the Department of Water Resources and adopt the Integrated Water Resource Management as the strategic framework for national water management, policymaking and planning.

Of course, the twin priorities as he spelled out were met gleefully by the lawmakers, many of whom are thinking of how (before their terms expire as congressmen) they can be accommodated in the new department so they won’t lose their relevance and significance politically.

As we have seen in years past, congressmen and senators are always on the lookout for possible executive positions they can fill up once their terms as lawmakers are over.

They have been passing laws that create bureaus, agencies, departments and even new legislative districts and spin offs of existing LGUs so they can run for mayor or congressman or any elective post in the new district.

It has always been a case of self-preservation or continuing relevance in society which is why they amend and come up with new laws and new positions that they could lobby for and fit in.

Interestingly, before the president’s SONA, the Senate was asking for a clearer policy definition of the Marcos administration to “rightsize” the bureaucracy, as expounded by then Senate presidential bet Miguel Zubiri.

“The government rightsizing as well as other matters that the Marcos administration deems priority legislation should be clarified as soon as possible when the President calls the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac), Zubiri recently told reporters. This, after several colleagues raised issues on initial pronouncements by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), which is finalizing a rightsizing blueprint for Marcos to approve.”

Among those who have raised issues and concerns about how rightsizing will be done are Senators Koko Pimentel—expected to be the new minority leader—and Joel Villanueva, the incoming majority leader, as well as Risa Hontiveros and Chiz Escudero, Butch Fernandez of Business Mirror wrote.

Abolishing agencies

The biggest alliance of government workers had also warned officials against rushing to abolish agencies or lay off people at a time when unemployment is high and most households are still reeling from the economic impact of the pandemic.

Zubiri said the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council is the best forum where lawmakers can seek clarity on Malacañang’s plans for rightsizing the government or dismantling certain agencies and laying off workers doing redundant functions.

Zubiri expects other priority matters for legislation to be pitched by the Executive at their Ledac meeting.

The President chairs Ledac and is the one who convenes its members, including the Vice President, the Senate President and three senators he or she will choose; the Speaker of the House and three members he or she will choose; and seven Cabinet members to be chosen by the President. Key representatives of local governments, the youth and private sector comprise the rest of the membership.

The Sunday before SONA, Pimentel reiterated in a radio interview his concern over the direction of the rightsizing initiative as undertaken by DBM. He reminded Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman that “rightsizing” is not simply cutting off units or people but looking for ways to make workers in redundant units more productive by, among others, moving them where their expertise might be put to good use. This, given the fact that the government has had thousands of vacancies the past several years—a fact that Villanueva, the Labor committee chairman, had flagged earlier.

He noted that some agencies have overlapping jurisdictions, which should be redressed. Those doing redundant jobs, however, should be given a chance to work in other units or agencies where their expertise may be needed.

Congress has power to abolish agencies

Pimentel also frowned on plans to delegate to the President the power to abolish certain agencies. “Only legislation can repeal a law that created an agency,” he said.

Finally, he suggested that government researchers identify agencies, bureaus, offices, councils doing redundant work; as well as some agencies that continue to exist even after completing their mandate. The staff in these agencies may find room in other agencies that have plenty of vacancies, he added. The lawmaker had reminded the DBM that current efforts to finalize plans for the bureaucratic rightsizing must follow existing laws on the abolition or reorganization of government agencies.

Pimentel, a bar topnotcher, said since an agency was created by law, it would require Congress to pass another law to abolish it. He added that it will also require an enabling legislation to grant compensation and benefits to the employees of the agency being abolished.

The same is true in disposing of other assets of the agency.

According to Pimentel, the Executive identifies the agencies to be dismantled or reorganized but Congress makes the final decision.

For his part, Escudero said it was only right to implement rightsizing to generate savings for the government and force agencies to be more efficient and provide better services. But this would require thorough study on what positions or agencies are to be abolished and clear determination of the proper compensation for those who will lose their jobs. The process is long, Escudero said, and he expects many parties will oppose it but he expressed the hope that Pangandaman will stand her ground.

Pressing issues

Earlier, Villanueva said he supports moves of the national government to improve its efficiency and institutional capacity to deliver public service.

“Before we start discussing the issue of rightsizing of the government bureaucracy, we need to discuss two pressing questions,” he said.

“First, why is it that roughly 1 out of 10 [or 178,128 out of 1,899,925] authorized positions in the national government remain unfilled? We want to know how these unfilled positions will be filled up. There should also be a comprehensive study of the staffing pattern of government agencies to determine whether some existing plantilla positions are already obsolete, redundant or unnecessary.”

Villanueva noted that the Senate has been calling the attention of the Executive on this issue since 2016, but it has remained unaddressed.

“Second, why is there a significant number of government workers under Job Order [JO] or Contract of Service [COS] positions in the government, when there are a lot of unfilled positions?”

Citing data from the Civil Service Commission as of August 2021, the lawmaker noted that there are 100,895 JO and COS positions in the national government and more than 40,000 additional JO/COS positions are in government-owned and -controlled corporations and state universities and colleges.

My take

overnment service is and has always been public service. But recent years have seen past presidents placing their own campaign people, staff in previous employments, relatives, classmates and fraternity brothers/sisters being assigned in posts they have no skills or experience to speak of.

Government positions have become a reward for loyalty to the appointing power, instead of public service which is why often when people seek help or complain to officials, their pleas end up unheard and unheeded because they are their for the pay and not for genuine service. They owe their position to the appointing power, not to the public that pay (through their taxes) their fat and undeserved salaries and allowances.

I am in favor of rightsizing. But eliminating people from their positions just to accommodate friends, kith and kin of those in power now, will be a total dishonor to those loyally and seriously serving the people just to accommodate new ones. It also makes a mockery of the principles of rightsizing.

So watch out who you are firing, removing, rendering into oblivion and abolishing agencies, just to create new positions, titles and agencies. The Department of Water Resources is actually going to a white elephant of an agency, should it be created.


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