Almost all employees came to report for work as usual on Thursday. But they were all in black; and none of them were willing to talk about it. “It’s a silent protest. We are fed up,” one employee told the BusinessMirror through a text message.
The protest was to express indignation over Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez’s decisions to bring in her own team, replacing career officials in the process.
This shows that, while Lopez is being attacked left and right over her hard-line stance against miners, her toughest challenge could actually be coming from within her own department’s ranks.
Members of the employees’ union of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) held a meeting on Thursday to discuss plans on how to call the attention of Lopez, and issue a stern warning about their discontent.
Another employee said they are careful not to be identified by Lopez’s staff, who started investigating as soon as they learned about the silent protest.
The protesters later held a press conference and said the protest was to demand for the retention of Miriam M. Marcelo as chief of the personnel division and Rolando R. Castro, a staff in the same unit, who were both placed on floating status by Lopez.
Lopez earlier met with employees’ union leaders behind closed doors, where she promised to withdraw her orders affecting the two employees.
But the silent protest was not just about the two officials. Sources said it was triggered by arbitrary suspension orders and putting on floating status other career DENR officials and employees without due process.
Some employees want to bring up the issue to President Duterte.
Lopez could not be reached for comment and did not respond to text messages requesting for interview to get her side.
Duterte, who said he trusts Lopez, has yet to reappoint the embattled DENR chief. The CA, it was learned, has also not received any document pertaining to Lopez’s reappointment as DENR secretary as of this writing.
Twice bypassed by the CA, the feisty Lopez has brought in with her several individuals, designating them to take over key positions in the DENR.
The displacement of DENR career officials and employees is causing a lot of emotional “silent outbursts” in DENR offices, until last Thursday’s silent protest.
“We are demoralized,” one employee quipped. Marcelo and Castro were being blamed by Lopez for the Civil Service Commission’s rejection of Undersecretary Philipp Camara’s temporary appointment to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer position.
The alleged demoralization sweeping the DENR has already reached the knowledge of lawmakers, and was brought up by some members of the CA during last month’s public hearing on Lopez’s interim appointment, to which Lopez responded with conviction the need to bring her own trusted people, including former Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Director Leo Jasareno and Camara.
Jasareno acts as Lopez’s consultant, even after his employment was officially terminated in September.
Duterte has ordered Jasareno’s replacement as MGB chief by virtue of Presidential Directive 002 issued on July 26, 2016. Jasareno relinquished his position on August 1, 2016, and
was later replaced by Regional Director Wilfredo Moncano.
On March 30 a notice was posted in the official website of the DENR-MGB warning the public against transacting business with Jasareno.
As the silent protest went on, members of the union were eventually told Lopez
has decided to withdraw the transfer order of the two officials.
As early as January this year the discontent among employees is already brewing with the revamp affecting DENR Regional Offices. In announcing the revamp, Lopez said the restructuring of 17 regional offices of the DENR aims to ensure the success of environmental programs and projects designed to help local communities protect their environment and improve their living conditions, and is an integral part of her five-year development plan for the DENR, which is anchored on sustainable integrated area development (SIAD).
According to Lopez, the restructuring will allow more efficient implementation of the SIAD approach in environmental programs and projects, especially those that directly impact the marginalized sector, such as the Enhanced National Greening Program, a massive reforestation initiative that doubles as a poverty alleviation measure.