By Karl Angelo N. Vidal, Reporter

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has “verbally” appointed Officer-in-Charge Janet B. Abuel as acting secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), amid the ongoing appointments ban ahead of the May 13 midterm elections.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador B. Panelo said on Tuesday the Cabinet meeting on Monday night “began with the President’s announcement of the appointment of the Department of Budget and Management Officer-in-Charge/Undersecretary Janet Abuel as Acting Secretary.”

Mr. Panelo said the designation was only “verbal,” amid the 45-day appointment ban.

“Wala naman siyang formal appointment. Parang sinabi niya lang na ikaw na lang diyan (There is no formal appointment. It’s like he just said verbally that she will be taking the role),” Mr. Panelo told reporters on Tuesday.

Ms. Abuel rose from the ranks in the DBM, starting as a budget and management analyst in 1996 to director IV in 1999. She was promoted to assistant secretary in 2012 and eventually as undersecretary in 2018.

She holds a master’s degree in public administration from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore and was the Bar Examinations topnotcher in 1998.

Ms. Abuel was named as the DBM’s officer-in-charge last month following the appointment of then Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno as governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Mr. Diokno replaced Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. who passed away in February after battling tongue cancer for more than a year.

The Budget department is awaiting the enactment of the 2019 national budget, pending Mr. Duterte’s signature. The country is currently operating under a reenacted 2018 budget, which leaves new programs and even big-ticket infrastructure projects unfunded.