Dissent from an executive order | Inquirer Business
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Dissent from an executive order

/ 02:05 AM September 12, 2023

What is it about the Department of Finance (DOF) that the resignation of an undersecretary would create buzz in the business community and make headlines?

Last week, Finance Undersecretary Cielo Magno was relieved from her post for, according to Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, being unsupportive of the policies of the administration.


Her relief stemmed from her earlier Facebook post criticizing the order of President Marcos imposing a nationwide price cap on rice. She is expected to return to her teaching duties at the University of the Philippines’ (UP) School of Economics where she used to work prior to her secondment to the DOF.

Her dismissal became fodder for intense social media chatter and was reported in print, broadcast and digital media. It was big news despite the fact that she was “just” an undersecretary or one of many undersecretaries in the government.


Noticeably, she got equal, if not more, attention that former Cabinet-level officials Vic Rodriquez, Tricia Cruz-Angeles and Clarita Carlos drew when they quit as executive secretary, press secretary and national security adviser, respectively, within the first 100 days of the Marcos administration.

This showed the public’s, in particular, the business community’s, esteem for the DOF whose actions play a significant role in the country’s economy.

The hype over Magno’s exit may be traced to the fact that it had something to do with the affordability of rice, which is the principal staple food of Filipinos, at this time when inflation rate remains high in spite of efforts by the economic managers to bring it down to a more reasonable level.

What’s more, her transition was done by way of a directive from Bersamin that said that “the termination of her tenure shall take effect immediately,” which is a sharp departure from the traditional practice of government officials who no longer are in the good graces of the appointing power resigning supposedly for health, personal or other face-saving reasons.

In speaking out against the price cap in spite of the President’s order to that effect, Magno was being true to form to her persona as a former student activist in the Diliman Republic, as UP is fondly called by its community.

She was the chair of the UP Student Council from 1999 to 2000. Those who are familiar with UP campus politics know that the students elected to that position are often firebrands or the type who speak their mind if they believe it’s the right thing to do.

Looking back, Magno could have kept quiet about her misgivings on the price cap and that would ensure her continued enjoyment of the perks and privileges of a DOF undersecretary.


But apparently that is not the kind of stuff she is made of. Undoubtedly, she was aware of the consequences of her “insubordination,” but she was willing to accept them.

Although Magno, as a Filipino, was perfectly within her rights to air her disagreement with the President’s order, Bersamin cannot be faulted for giving her her walking papers.

As the Little President, it was his duty and responsibility to make sure that the men and women in the executive branch toe the President’s line. And if they have any reservations about it, they should keep it to themselves.

In the boardroom, after the directors had given their comments, for or against, on an item in the agenda and the majority had voted on it, the result of the vote has to be respected by everybody, including those who may not like it.

It would be highly inappropriate for a director who feels aggrieved by or is dissatisfied with the voting result to air in public his or her opposition to it. In case he or she cannot live with it, the only logical or reasonable thing for him or her to do is to resign.

Magno’s case brings to mind the quotation, “If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault—resign your position, and when you are outside, damn to your heart’s content—but as long as you are part of the institution, do not condemn it.”

Only time will tell if the concerns raised by Magno about the rice price cap are valid. INQ

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