A ROW over the leadership of the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has broken out after the designation of an officer-in-charge (OIC), according to a letter signed by SRA officials and members backing the OIC.

“For the record, the OIC-administrator is now Ignacio S. Santillana on the strength of the Joint Memorandum dated July 4 which we had jointly issued in compliance with the directive of the Office of the President under (its) Memorandum Circular No. 1,” according to the letter.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s first memorandum circular declared vacant certain positions in the executive department.

“The former administrator, Mr. (Hermenegildo R.) Serafica, is no exception. The memorandum provides that all presidential appointees whose appointment is classified as ‘co-terminous.’ Certainly this applies to him,” the officials added.

The letter, addressed to Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary for Operations Leocadio S. Sebastian, asserted that the administrator is a Presidential appointee.

“Therefore, the position is co-terminous with the tenure of the President. Being an appointee of the President, the tenure of Mr. Serafica ended the moment the tenure of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte being the appointing authority ended. The spring cannot rise above its source,” it added.

According to the SRA corporate governance manual, the administrator position is elected annually by members of the board from within its ranks.

“But no election annually was ever held to appoint him as administrator, much less as ‘appointive director,’ thus his original appointment as administrator of SRA that was co-terminous to the former President remains,” the officials said.

“We only acknowledge one leadership now at the SRA in the person of Mr. Santillana,” it added.

The DA has also issued its own memorandum, signed by Mr. Sebastian, stating that Mr. Serafica “shall continue to hold office until their respective successors are appointed.”

In an e-mail, Mr. Serafica said that Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 1 covers only certain positions, which do not include the SRA administrator.

Citing the circular, Mr. Serafica said these positions include all Presidential appointees whose appointments are classified as co-terminous; all Presidential appointees occupying positions created in excess of the authorized staffing pattern; all non-career executive service officials occupying career executive service positions; and contractual and/or casual employees.

With regard to the position being co-terminous, Mr. Serafica said that SRA administrator is an appointed director of the SRA Board.

“By provision of Republic Act No. 10149 Section 17, ‘the term of office of each appointive director shall be for one year, unless sooner removed for cause. Provided, however, that the appointive director shall continue to hold office until the successor is appointed.’  Thus, the administrator of SRA has a specific term of office and therefore not co-terminous,” he added.

Mr. Serafica said that the position was also not created in excess of the authorized staffing pattern as it is mandated by law and included in the approved plantilla positions of the SRA.

He also said it was not a career executive service position and not a contractual or casual employee.

With regard to Mr. Santillana’s designation as OIC-administrator, Mr. Serafica said that this was erroneous.

“The designation of Mr. Santillana by the three deputy administrators of SRA hinges solely on their erroneous interpretation that the SRA administrator is included among the positions declared vacant by MC No. 1,” he said.

“But the fact is, the SRA administrator position is not included and does not belong to the same category as any of the four positions enumerated by MC No. 1. Again, the SRA administrator is an appointive director, appointed by the President, with a fixed term and as specified in RA No. 10149 Sec. 17, appointive directors shall continue to hold office until their successors are appointed,” he added.

Mr. Serafica said that it is the duty of the SRA board members including the administrator to remain in office until the new board and administrator are appointed by the President to “prevent public convenience from suffering caused by the non-performance of SRA key functions that are dependent on the approval of the board.”

“As such the designation of Mr. Santillana as OIC-administrator by the three deputy administrators, is in fact null and void from the very beginning,” he said.

“In fact, because of the insistence of the deputies of SRA to not honor the holdover capacity of the SRA board, several matters have been left pending for the past weeks since they issued their joint memorandum designating their own OIC,” he added.

He also noted that the memorandums issued by the DA and SRA on the status quo of leadership were not circulated to all SRA employees, stakeholders, and the media. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson