Palace ‘big buzz’: Teehankee may be next DOJ chief
By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The country’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), Manuel Teehankee, is being considered a replacement for outgoing Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera.
The possible appointment of Teehankee, who served as a justice undersecretary under Ombudsman Mereditas Gutierrez during the latter’s stint as justice secretary, is the “big buzz” at the justice department, according to Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raul Gonzalez.
“(Teehankee) has the inside track,” said Gonzalez, who preceded Devanadera as head of the justice department.
Teehankee, 51, a son of the late Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee Sr., has been the country’s permanent representative to the WTO since May 2004.
Gonzalez and Devandera are the Cabinet members who are required to resign by a recent Supreme Court ruling because they are running for elective office in the May polls.
Job offered before
According to Gonzalez, Teehankee was offered the justice department position by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the past.
He recalled a conversation he had with the President and the then House Speaker Jose de Venecia before the 2004 elections during which De Venecia recommended Teehankee for the position.
Gonzalez said the President then turned to him and asked him if he was interested in becoming justice secretary and he said “yes.”
It was then that Ms Arroyo told Gonzalez she had earlier offered the post to Teehankee but that the latter wanted a foreign assignment.
The President eventually appointed Gonzalez to the position after the 2004 elections.
Malacañang on Friday would not confirm whether the President had appointed replacements for the six Cabinet members who are deemed resigned because they are candidates in the election.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperon Charito Planas said there was no word yet on the new appointments.
Aside from Gonzalez and Devanadera, Cabinet members who are running in May are Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and Director General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. of the Presidential Management Staff
Ermita, Andaya, Yap and Esperon have already submitted their letters of resignation to the President.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Ricardo Saludo said Malacañang was “working to ensure a proper transition” with the expected departure of these officials, all key allies of the President holding key positions in government.
Saludo said it was “understandable” that the President’s concern was that “public service and the national interest do not suffer from the sudden departure of her key people.”
“The Palace will announce the new appointments when it’s appropriate,” Saludo said.
There is talk that Ermita may be succeeded by Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza.
Mendoza or Favila?
Press Secretary Crispulo Icban has told reporters that he had heard that Mendoza was being eyed as Ermita’s replacement.
But a high-ranking official, who did not want to be quoted for lack of authority to speak on the matter, said he had heard that Mendoza wanted to stay on at the transportation department until June 30.
The same official said that what he had heard was that Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila, who is close to the President, was in line to succeed Ermita.
But Favila could also be offered the position of budget secretary, the same official said.
Teehankee chairs the working group on trade and transfer of technology in the WTO, and serves as coordinator of the core group of developing countries in the negotiating group on trade facilitation.
2 master of laws degrees
He graduated from Ateneo de Manila University with a degree in Economics in 1979, and obtained his law degree from the same university in 1983. He topped the bar exams the following year. He went to the University of Michigan in 1986 and the University of London’s School of Economics and Political Science in 1987, obtaining two master of laws degrees.
He spent 10 years in New York doing international litigation work at the Baker & Mackenzie and LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae firm.
In 1998, Teehankee returned to Manila as international counsel of the Romulo Law Office, while also rejoining the Ateneo Law Faculty.
While serving as undersecretary in the justice department, he was concurrently assigned to head the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.
As OGCC chief, he represented the government in the case over the disputed contract awarded to the Piatco consortium to build the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3.
Teehankee also headed a panel that advised the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System regarding the rehabilitation of the Maynilad Water Services concessionaire in 2004. With Inquirer Research