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The Executive Secretary

The origin of the position of Executive Secretary, as we know it today, can be traced back to the American period. The first Office of the Executive Secretary was created by virtue of Act No. 167 of the Philippine Commission on July 16, 1901, which established the Executive Bureau to assist the Civil Governor (later, Governor-General) in his executive duties. It was headed by an Executive Secretary with an Assistant Executive Secretary as his deputy. It was further consolidated by Act No. 609 of January 31, 1903. Upon the enactment of the Administrative code of 1917 on May 10, 1917, the title of the head of the Executive Bureau was changed from Executive Secretary to Chief of the Executive Bureau. Per Chapter 34, Article I, Section 820, of the Administrative Code of 1917, the Executive Bureau was tasked with the administrative supervision and control of the Secretary of the Interior over provinces, municipalities, chartered cities, and other local political divisions, not being in the territory under the administrative supervision of the Bureau of Non-Christian Tribes and a general administrative supervision over the offices of all provincial treasurers. Note that the Executive Secretaries were American, while, by this time, Secretaries of the Interior were Filipinos.

Act No. 4007, otherwise known as the Reorganization Law of December 5, 1932, abolished the Executive Bureau along with the positions attached to it. It devolved the functions and responsibilities of the Executive Bureau to different government agencies such as the Department of the Interior and the Department of Finance. By this time the Jones Law had been in force for 16 years, and American direct supervision over Cabinets was not as pressing a concern.

Both Acts No. 167 and 2711 also provided for private secretaries for the Governor-General of the Philippines. These private secretaries were eventually carried over to the Commonwealth of the Philippines in the person of the Secretary to the President, Jorge B. Vargas. On October 12, 1936, the Secretary to the President was given his own office along with his own staffing pattern as stated in the Appropriation Act of 1937, Commonwealth Act No. 38, enacted on October 12, 1936. It was to be headed by a Secretary to the President, with the rank of Secretary of Department, who was to assist the President in his duties and responsibilities.

Executive Order No. 137, s. 1937 gave the Secretary to the President the duty of attesting the signature of the President{{1}} on all executive orders, proclamations, and commissions, and of affixing the great seal of the Commonwealth of the Philippines to some documents. The position of Secretary to the President was maintained in the War Cabinet of the Commonwealth, including designating the Secretary to the President as first in the line succession should the President and Vice-President die while in office.

After World War II,{{2}} President Manuel Roxas reverted back to the pre-Commonwealth model, and named the Secretary to the President as the Chief of the Executive Office.

In October 4, 1947, the position of the Chief of the Executive Office was renamed to that of Executive Secretary by virtue of Executive Order No. 94. This would be in effect throughout the Third Republic and the early martial law period. However, President Marcos abolished the position of Executive Secretary and replaced it with the position of Presidential Assistant by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 831, s. 1975.

After the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986, President Corazon C. Aquino reverted back to the pre-martial law convention of having an Executive Secretary tasked with administrative matters. Including attesting to presidential issuances. The Office of the Executive Secretary was formally re-established by virtue of the Executive Order No. 292, s. 1987, the Administrative Code of 1987, and was given the mandate to directly assist the President in the management of affairs of the government as well as to direct the operations of the Executive Office.

As the Presidential Management Staff, in 1992, summarized in their report titled The Aquino Management of the Presidency:

“The Office of the Executive Secretary is unique, in the sense that it has both line and staff functions. Its staff function pertains to its duties to the President, while its line function pertains to its management of the OP and its attached agencies.”

In addition to its mandate in the Administrative Code of 1987, the Office of the Executive Secretary is tasked to perform various other duties upon the discretion of the President or as stated by law. A recent instance was the appointment of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa as Chairperson of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission by virtue of Executive Order No. 46. Since 1987, the Executive Secretary has been submitted for confirmation by Congress’ Commission on Appointments.

[[1]] Prior to this, the Secretary of the Interior was the government official who was authorized to attest the signature of the President, by virtue of Executive Order No. 4, s. 1935.[[1]]

[[2]] During the administration of President Jose P. Laurel, an Office of the Executive Secretary was created to assist the President. He was also tasked to attest to Presidential Issuances. The first Executive Secretary of President Laurel was Jose Gil and Emilio Abello who was the last Executive Secretary of President Laurel, was also the first Chief of the Executive Office of President Manuel Roxas.[[2]]

Basahin sa Filipino