GMA confirms revamp

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — President Arroyo announced a Cabinet revamp in the next few days but declined to say who would be affected by the reshuffle.

Mrs. Arroyo confirmed speculation that there would be changes in the official family next month in an interview at the Malacañang Sa Sugbu.

“Secret,” the President said when asked who would be replaced in the coming days.

“No more, no more. That’s it.”

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is reportedly being eyed to replace outgoing Ambassador to the United States Willy Gaa, who is in a holdover capacity after his term expired in February.

Palace sources said Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno would replace Ermita, who recently went to the United States to attend meetings of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

Outgoing Armed Forces Chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., who will retire on May 9, is touted as a replacement for Puno or as the next boss at the Department of National Defense.

Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro will reportedly take over the Department of Justice to replace Raul Gonzalez, one of the President’s most loyal Cabinet members.

Gonzalez took a prolonged leave of absence after a kidney transplant last year, but Mrs. Arroyo denied Gonzalez would retire.

“All speculation,” she said.

In Manila, Gonzalez said he was not affected by the news of an impending Cabinet revamp, and that he was willing to go if the President told him to do so.

“I am a soldier. Wherever the President thinks I am qualified for, I will go,” Gonzalez said.

Ermita said the losing administration candidates in last year’s senatorial polls could also be invited to join the Cabinet.

The one-year period during which they may not be appointed after the elections ends next month.

“All of them are qualified, but whether there is something concrete for them, only the President can decide on that. She has the sole prerogative to appoint,” Ermita said even as he again denied being offered the Washington post.

Earlier this year, Batangas Gov. Vilma Santos confirmed that an offer was made to her husband, Team Unity senatorial bet Ralph Recto, to handle the finance portfolio.

Incumbent Finance chief Margarito Teves was reportedly dismayed after being bypassed four times by the bicameral Commission on Appointments.

The last time there was a major reshuffle was in July 2007, with the appointment of former Manila Mayor Joselito Atienza as environment secretary to replace Angelo Reyes, who took over the Department of Energy.

Teodoro was also appointed defense chief, replacing Hermogenes Ebdane who was returned to the Department of Public Works and Highways.