MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay does not mind not being designated by President Aquino as caretaker during the latter’s trip to attend the United Nations General Assembly and other meetings in New York this week.
In a statement, Binay’s media relations head Joey Salgado said appointing a caretaker would be unnecessary since the President can constantly keep in touch with the Cabinet and key government officials with all the available communications technology.
“For the Vice President, what is important is that the day-to-day business of government remains uninterrupted. The President has instructed Vice President Binay to perform certain duties and the Vice President will perform these duties,” Salgado said.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda earlier said Aquino will remain the country’s head of state during his weeklong trip to the US this week, but Binay was designated as his representative in social functions.
Aquino made this clear in a memorandum he issued to Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr., who will preside over Cabinet meetings in his absence.
Lacierda said the memorandum was addressed to Ochoa with copies furnished to all heads of agencies under the executive department, which means all members of the Cabinet, including second and third level officials.
The President stated in his directive that Ochoa will have to sign the papers that he usually signs, and papers that he will have to sign might have to wait awhile.
Lacierda stressed that Aquino would still have to decide on “matters that require his approval,” as this will be done by the “fastest and most convenient” way available, citing available technology.
The President is also scheduled to witness the signing of the $434-million Millennium Challenge Compact Agreement between the Philippines and the US government’s Millennium Challenge Corp. The funding assistance will be used to support the government’s programs on poverty reduction, revenue generation and infrastructure development.
He will be accompanied by a 56-man delegation that includes Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo and Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.
The President is scheduled to return to Manila on Sept. 28.
PNP, AFP on red alert
Meanwhile, the 15,000-strong National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) was placed on full red alert status yesterday hours before President Aquino left for the United States.
The National Capital Region Command (NCRCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), on the other hand, was placed on red alert midnight Monday.
NCRCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Armand Rico said the declaration of red alert is part of their standard operating procedures (SOP) when the President leaves the country.
Rico said they have not determined when the alert level would be downgraded. He said the declaration would not be lifted as long as Mr. Aquino is out of the country.
Rico said the NCRCOM has not received security threats but is continuously monitoring the situation on the ground.
“The situation is normal and our troops are continuously coordinating with the PNP (Philippine National Police),” he said.
Rico said they do not see the need to deploy additional troops for now but are ready to do so if necessary.
NCRPO chief Director Leocadio Santiago directed his five district directors to heighten security measures in their respective jurisdictions and ordered the strict implementation of checkpoints to prevent the spillover of fighting in Metro Manila following the killing over the weekend of a ranking Abu Sayyaf leader in an encounter with military forces in Mindanao.
During a full red alert, leaves of police forces in Metro Manila are cancelled.
“We should be confined at our respective offices and ready to respond to any eventuality,” said Santiago in an interview.
Pia Lee Brago, Philippine Star