Philippines President Taps Manicurist for Cabinet Role

This story was filed by CBS News' Barnaby Lo in Manila. Barely three weeks before a national election, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has appointed two of her personal staff to key government posts, including her manicurist.

Anita Carpon, previously in charge of the president's cuticles, has been named a member of the board of trustees of the Home Development Mutual Fund, a government body that loans millions of dollars for housing.

Arroyo's gardener, Armando Macapagal, was earlier named as deputy of the Luneta Park Administration, the country's national park.

A columnist for a popular national daily newspaper exposed the appointments -- on the same day the Supreme Court ruled the president can appoint the next chief justice before the end of her term - claiming that some presidential aides are very unhappy about the promotions.

Carpon will allegedly receive about $2,900 per month for her duties, twice the salary of the president herself. According to the column, she missed her own oath-taking, and the first board meeting, as she was busy traveling with the president to the United States and Spain last week.

Above: Spain's King Juan Carlos, unseen, awards the Don Quijote de la Mancha International Prize to Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the Zarzuela Palace, on the outskirts of Madrid, April 15, 2010.

The appointments have drawn sharp criticism from the opposition. Butch Abad, the campaign manager of leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Aquino III, accused Arroyo of acting without considering the public welfare.

"She further deepened the culture of political patronage in this country by putting people who are loyal to her in positions which are delicate without any regard to the qualifications of these people," Abad told Agence France Press.

But Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar defended the president.

"What prompted the President to give or to consider giving them this kind of appointment is her interest in having ordinary people represented in government offices and agencies whose activities impinge on the lives of ordinary people," Olivar told the ABS-CBN News Channel.

The appointments come amid public opposition to some highly controversial appointments Arroyo has made in the judiciary branch and the military just three months before her term ends.

"These appointments are meant to put people in positions of influence in the hope that if she is out of power, she will still be able to exercise some degree of influence," Abad said.

Arroyo has led the Philippines government for nearly a decade, and has the worst approval ratings ever for a Philippine president. She is now running for a seat in the House of Representatives.