Ex-Subic freeport zone chairman in limbo

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Rodrigo Duterte and Martin Diño (file photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 28) — Malacañang said on Thursday that the former chairman of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has yet to be offered a position.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said no offer has been made to ex-SBMA chair Martin Diño to join the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

"I cannot speculate on anything, except that he has not been offered any at this stage," Abella said in a media briefing.

"As far as I am privy to, the offer was made much earlier," he added, referring to the offer at the DILG. "However, that was apparently before this situation occurred, where he was replaced."

On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order No. 42 that saw Diño replaced by lawyer Wilma Eisma, the current SBMA Administrator.

The EO was promulgated in a bid to end a row over leadership of the sprawling freeport zone, which was a former U.S. naval base. Eisma now holds both the position of administrator and chair.

Read: Duterte appoints Eisma as SBMA chair and administrator

The day after the executive order, Diño held a separate press conference and announced that he accepted Malacañang's offer for him to become DILG Undersecretary for Barangay Affairs.

"Pinatawag po ako ni (Special Assistant to the President) Bong Go at Executive Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea," said Diño, referring to the DILG offer. "Good soldier ako. Kung doon ako magiging epektibo ay tatanggapin ko po. Actually, tinanggap ko na 'yan," he added.

[Translation: Special Assistant to the President Bong Go and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea called me. I'm a good soldier. If I will be effective there, I will accept it. I have actually accepted the post.]

But this was discounted by Abella on Thursday.

"I don't know if it's withdrawn, but it has been superseded, as far as we can see," he said.

EO 42 repealed EO 340 — issued in 2004 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — which allowed the President to separately appoint the SBMA chair and the SBMA administrator.

Under the previous setup, Duterte appointed Martin Diño as chair in September 2016 and Eisma as the administrator in December 2016.

Diño and Eisma have been at odds since May 2017, when Diño issued Administrative Order 01-2017 that created a task force to implement the SBMA's policies.

Diño is a former official of the anti-crime watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.

In the 2016 election, he filed a certificate of candidacy for the presidency, which he withdrew so that then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte could substitute and run instead.

Read: Diño withdraws from presidential race, asks Duterte to run in his place