Charito B. Plaza, now deemed as former Director-General of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), has blamed its Chairman and Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual for his alleged “inaction” or “too late action” on the agency’s leadership issue that she said is now causing “tension and division” at the agency that handles the registration of export-oriented investors and administration of their tax incentives.
“The timeliness of your directive is very late,” pointed out Plaza at the press conference as she stressed that had Pascual designated somebody as officer in charge of PEZA from the very beginning, like what other department secretaries did, the “tension and division” at the agency could have been prevented.
“I will respect whatever are your decisions, but because your directive came out very late when all these chaos, anxieties, uncertainties, division already ongoing, my decision sir is to wait for the Office of the President’s (OP) opinion. I will only follow the Office of the President, which we are seeking and waiting now. I hope they will put a stop to this now. I am willing to abide to whatever is the decision,” said Plaza addressing Pascual.
Plaza and Pascual differed in their respective interpretation of the MC 3 issued by the OP on June 27, 2022. Pascual interpreted the Memo 3 that Plaza as already separated from PEZA and affirmed PEZA Deputy Director General Tereso O. Panga as officer-in-charge of the agency. With that, Pascual said he confirmed Panga as the OIC of PEZA in Department Order 2268 that he issued Tuesday, August 2, 2022 in an attempt to settle the issue.
But to Plaza, the OP Memo 3 is an affirmation that PEZA is exempted from Memo 1, which declares all positions held by political appointees in government owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) and those co-terminus with the Former President Duterte vacant. Plaza contended that PEZA is not a GOCC but a government instrumentality and therefore not covered by the first memo. She interpreted it as an affirmation that she is on holdover capacity as PEZA DG until Dec. 31, 2022 or until a new DG has been appointed or an OIC has been designated, whichever comes first.
Plaza further questioned Pascual’s Department of Order 2268, confirming Panga as PEZA when the DTI Secretary he did not designate the Deputy DG as OIC of the agency.
“What confirmation, confirmation of what when he has not designated anyone in the very beginning. We could have avoided this issue which some department secretaries did by designating OICs or holdover officials,” she added.
In her formal reply letter to Pascual’s DO, Plaza said “I therefore respectfully urge the Honorable Secretary to refrain from further interfering in this matter and, in due deference, allow the Secretary to resolve this issue.”
In between tears, Plaza alleged of having been a victim of cyber bullying because of the leadership issue at PEZA and that the Malacanang Hotline number 888 has been barraged with unfounded complaints against her and abusive trolls in social media.
Plaza, a Commissioned Officer in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) holding the rank Brigadier General, threatened to file cyber libel case and would register for a police blotter against PEZA personnel who allegedly padlocked the office of the DG at PEZA building and for refusing their entry for the press conference. The press conference was later transferred to the Conrad Hotel.
“I cannot be General for nothing,” she said adding that those involved in maligning her reputation were former employees of PEZA, whom she fired for corruption issues.
Plaza vowed to continue dispensing the functions of a DG PEZA until such time that OP comes up with a definitive answer to the issue. Plaza, who said she campaigned hard for the election of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., expressed hope the president will reappoint her to the position.
Meanwhile, Pascual did not respond to media’s question taking his side on Plaza’s defiance to his order.
For his part, Panga issued a message urging all PEZA employees to focus on their work and not be distracted as he vowed to continue to maintain his leadership stressing that the law is on their side.
“I am just an OIC. I would be glad to turn over the reins to whoever will be appointed PEZA DG by the President,” added Panga as he expressed hope that the “crisis” be resolved as soon as possible in a “peaceful, decent and honorable manner.”