Azucena Esleta

CSC bares seemingly contradictory views on NCCA Exec. Dir. post

Former National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) Executive Director Malou Jacob was removed from her post and replaced by an Officer-in-Charge while she was out of the country on official business, following a Civil Service Commission (CSC) notice that it was disapproving the renewal of her temporary appointment.

Upon being queried via e-mail about this decision, Director Azucena Perez-Esleta of the CSC Personnel Policies and Standards Office explained that the post of NCCA Executive Director is a career service, or tenured, position that requires, among others, a bachelor’s degree, three years of supervisory experience, and eligibility as a career service professional, the last of which Jacob did not have. Her lack of eligibility was the main reason for the disapproval.

When asked why the Executive Director did not have a fixed term, per Section 10 of Republic Act No. 7356, the NCCA charter, which states that “non-ex-officio members of the Commission shall serve for a term of three (3) years, and shall not serve for more than two (2) successive terms”, Perez-Esleta said that “the NCCA Executive Director is an ex-officio member of the Commission” and therefore “does not have a fixed term”.

These responses would seem to indicate contradictory views about the nature of the Executive Director position.

The Supreme Court has defined the meaning of “ex-officio” in the 1991 case Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary: “The term ex-officio means ‘from office; by virtue of office.’ It refers to an ‘authority derived from official character merely, not expressly conferred upon the individual character, but rather annexed to the official position.’ Ex-officio likewise denotes an ‘act done in an official character, or as a consequence of office, and without any other appointment or authority than that conferred by the office.’ An ex-officio member of a board is one who is a member by virtue of his title to a certain office, and without further warrant or appointment.”

Given, however, that the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the NCCA provide that the Executive Director is “appointed  by the Commission based on open nominations”, and that any interested party does not appear to be required to hold a different, principal office in order to become Executive Director in the first place, it is not clear how the position has come to be classified as ex-officio.

Civil Service Commission (CSC) Strategy Map. Courtesy of the CSC web site.
Civil Service Commission (CSC) Strategy Map. Courtesy of the CSC web site.

The NCCA had appointed Jacob, a multi-awarded writer and director and veteran administrator, as Executive Director on March 12, 2010 for the period of one year, and had initially sought the renewal of her appointment for another year in spite of her ineligibility. It received notice of the CSC disapproval on September 22, 2011.

Perez-Esleta stated that, as a general rule, “the services of appointees with the disapproved appointment shall be terminated upon disapproval by the [CSC]”, but the appointing authority has a period of 15 days within which to file an appeal. The records of the CSC show that the the NCCA did not submit any appeal regarding Jacob’s case.

Based on materials obtained by The Pro Pinoy Project, the NCCA does not appear to have acted until a special meeting of the Board of Commissioners on October 4, during which the Board dismissed Jacob and designated Adelina Suemith as Officer-in-Charge for the Executive Director post.

Jacob had received her travel kit for the 5th World Summit on Arts and Culture in Australia, which included official travel authority documents signed by Malacañang and NCCA Chairman Felipe de Leon, Jr., on September 30.

Regarding the timing of Jacob’s removal, Suemith said that, “It may appear that there was not enough time given to her since she was abroad, but she was aware of what could possibly happen after the CSC letter [and] was verbally cautioned that her trip abroad might no longer be ‘official’.” Jacob later disputed these claims, and stated that while she respects the decision of the Commissioners, she has “no idea” why they acted the way they did.

Jacob also circulated a statement addressed to her fellow artists online, asserting that the qualifications for Executive Director should not be based on civil service eligibility, but rather on a set of equivalency criteria, and on whether one was an artist and cultural worker respected by one’s peers and rooted in the artistic community.

Perez-Esleta said that, so far, the CSC has received no request for approval from the NCCA regarding their list of equivalency criteria. Suemith said that perhaps the NCCA could begin to attend to this “in the near future, when the new [Executive Director] is in place”.