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Aquino retains Romulo at DFA

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 14:43:00 06/27/2010

Filed Under: Politics, Government

MANILA, Philippines ? (UPDATE) President-elect Benigno ``Noynoy?? Aquino III is holding on to one of President Macapagal-Arroyo?s most trusted and longest-serving Cabinet members, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, despite fierce opposition from a bloc in his coalition.

Romulo, who also served as executive secretary and finance secretary under Arroyo, revealed that he accepted Aquino?s offer shortly after the two had a brief meeting at 1 p.m. at the President?s Times Street residence on Sunday

``He asked me to remain in the Cabinet. I am honored and I have accepted,?? said Romulo. `` I?d like to think that he?s retaining me because I can help the President. I?d like to believe that that is the reason.??

Romulo said Aquino did not give a time limit to his tenure at the DFA contrary to speculation that he was only being given a one-year extension until the one-year ban on losing candidates, such as Senator Manuel ``Mar?? Roxas II, shall have lapsed.

``There is no period, of course. You know all of us serve at the pleasure of the president,?? said Romulo.

Romulo was the first among Arroyo?s Cabinet members who openly expressed his support for Aquino?s presidential bid in September.

``I have known the Aquino family not only since the time of President Cory but since the time of Senator Ninoy. I remember I used to come here since Ninoy was alive. I am close to the family,?? said Romulo who served as a budget secretary in the Aquino administration.

Romulo declined to make a comparison between the mother and the son as chief executives of the country as he chose instead to extol the virtues of the incoming President.

``President Noynoy has a program that we all believe in. He is a man of integrity, he is a man for good government. You can see that from the overwhelming mandate that he got from the people. This is what the people are clamoring for. W are all prepared to support him,?? said Romulo.

Aquino has not made any formal declarations on the members of his official family. He said he would announce his complete Cabinet line-up on June 29 or a day before his inauguration.

Among those who have visited Times Street supposedly to get a briefing from Aquino on their appointments are Commission on Human Rights chair Leila de Lima (for theDepartment of Justice), Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo (Department of Interior and Local Government), Quezon City administrator Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Executive Secretary), Bro. Armin Luistro, president of De La Salle University (Department of Education), Aquino?s senate chief of staff Julie Abad (Presidential Management Staff), Makati Business Club president Alberto Lim (Department of Tourism), President Corazon Aquino?s security chief Voltaire Gazmin (Department of Defense), former finance and trade secretary Cesar Purisima (Department of Finance), and Bureau of Internal Revenue executive Kim Henares (BIR chair).

During the campaign, Aquino said he would bring back former Social Welfare Secretary Corazon ``Dinky?? Soliman and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita ``Ging?? Deles to their old posts.

Aquino has also had his share of rejections such as TV host and talent manager Boy Abunda rejected the offer of the tourism portfolio, and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, the justice portfolio. He has also offered Vice President ?elect Jejomar Binay the Metro Manila Development Authority, Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, and the Department of Agrarian Reform, but he said no to all of that. Aquino is currently trying to convince Binay to head an anti-corruption body to probe the anomalies of President Arroyo.

In previous media interviews, Aquino declared that he held no bias against executives who served under Arroyo. ``There should be no automatic disqualification because we have to find the best fit for the particular function. We cannot have a blanket policy that since he or she is part of that group, he or she can?t be chosen. There should always be a balance between old and new. The old has experience in running the government while the new has yet to learn; combining them could lead to a better output of the Cabinet,?? said Aquino.

As of Thursday last week, Aquino admitted that the Department of Foreign Affairs post was among three Cabinet positions that he had not yet filled up although Romulo had been rumored to be his number one candidate as early as the campaign period.

The delay on his decision on the foreign affairs portfolio was attributed by sources from the Aquino camp to an aggressive lobbying from a faction in the Liberal Party-led coalition to appoint former Arroyo trade secretary Juan Santos , a member of the Hyatt 10 group of Arroyo Cabinet secretaries and executives who resigned in 2005 due to loss of confidence in their boss (after the ``Hello Garci?? election cheating scandal erupted). But Aquino?s sisters, specifically Maria Elena ?Ballsy? Cruz, who has been helping out in his search committee, stood up for Romulo.

In a press conference last June 17, after he met with ambassadors from Asean nations in his Times Street residence, Aquino said that he has taken hold of a white paper on the country?s foreign affairs department. ``There is a white paper that says it?s not clear exactly what the foreign position of this country is. We want to redefine it better. We want to make our foreign affairs responsive to the close to 10 percent of our population who are outside the country trying to find ways and means to earn a living. Will I continue that practice? I don?t think so. I will improve what is happening there,?? said Aquino in the interview.

Aquino was also critical of Arroyo?s foreign trade policy and tourism development.

``Why is it that the issue of changeable policies has been here close to a decade, in a government led by supposedly my professor in economics? That has to be a very, very simple question to answer,? he said in the same press conference.

?In the issues of tourism for instance, why do we have numbers of visitors that are equivalent to only one portion of Indonesia? How can our member Asean countries advertise tourism in the Philippines ... when we don?t even have brochures in most of our consulates and embassies worldwide??? he added.



Copyright 2014 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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