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INCOMING OFFICIALS President-elect Benigno Noynoy Aquino III announces the members of his Cabinet during a press conference in Quezon City on Tuesday. RAFFY LERMA





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Aquino names Cabinet

Old, new faces in official family

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:40:00 06/30/2010

Filed Under: Benigno Aquino III, Government

MANILA, Philippines?The new Cabinet is made up of ?old and new faces? brought together with the help of the personal and political allies of the incoming President, Benigno ?Noynoy? Aquino III.

?You will see old and new faces. You will see the young and also young. But the bottom line is: These are the people who I believe have committed to the philosophy that the problems in this country are solvable, and have the energy and commitment to sacrifice and do the necessary things to effect the changes the people are aspiring for,? Aquino said Tuesday in an hour-long press conference at his campaign headquarters on Samar Avenue, Quezon City.

He admitted that a significant number of his appointees were from the Cabinet of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; he said he chose them because they were still the best men and women for the job.

?A lot of them were from the ?Hyatt 10.? They got out of government based on their principles,? Aquino said of the 10 officials who quit their posts in 2005, at the height of the ?Hello Garci? election fraud scandal, and called on Ms Arroyo to do the same.

?Just like them, I was one of those who were convinced that after the 2004 elections, she (Ms Arroyo) would have the clear mandate to implement the promises she made at the Edsa II inaugural,? he said.

?In the environment that they were in, they were not able to do what they [should have done]. So I think it will be liberating for them to do what they have always wanted [to do].?

He added that if he listened to those who did not want him to appoint the Hyatt 10 members, he would have been forced to fire everyone in the entire bureaucracy because they all worked under the Arroyo administration.

Who?s who

The new faces in Aquino?s Cabinet are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Secretaries Voltaire Gazmin (defense), Br. Armin Luistro (education), Proceso Alcala (agriculture), Enrique Ona (health), Alberto Lim (tourism), Mario Montejo (science and technology), Jose Rene Almendras (energy), and Virgilio delos Reyes (agrarian reform).

Also new are Julia Andrea Abad, Presidential Management Staff chief; Edwin Lacierda and Eduardo de Mesa, Aquino?s spokesperson and chief legal counsel, respectively; and Patricia Licuanan, Commission on Higher Education chair.

The others who have served in previous administrations are Secretaries Alberto Romulo (foreign affairs), Cesar Purisima (finance), Leila de Lima (justice), Florencio ?Butch? Abad (budget), Cayetano Paderanga (socioeconomic planning), Jose de Jesus (transportation and communication), Gregorio Domingo (trade and industry), Corazon ?Dinky? Soliman (social welfare), and Rogelio Singson (public works), and Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita ?Ging? Deles.

Aquino also chose two career officers to head their departments?Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

Aquino also announced that Maj. Gen. Ricardo David would succeed Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Bangit, and that Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Versoza would stay on until his retirement in December.

He was adamant about not appointing any of his relatives to posts in his administration, although he has a father-and-daughter team?the Abads?in his Cabinet.

Who?s what

Ochoa, Almendras and Henares are Aquino?s close friends. Romulo, De Jesus and Paderanga served in the administration of his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino. Gazmin served as his mother?s top security aide during her term.

Abad, Purisima, Deles and Soliman are members of the Hyatt 10; Luistro is from the Black and White Movement.

According to an insider, nearly a third of the 26 appointees announced by Aquino (Purisima, Paderanga, Domingo, Abad, Lim, Soliman, Lacierda and Deles) were backed by the Liberal Party and his defeated running mate, Manuel ?Mar? Roxas II, its president.

The insider said this showed the strong influence of Roxas, who purportedly had control of the economic team and had sacrificed his presidential ambition and given way to Aquino.

But while his sisters, relatives, friends, political allies and supporters have influenced his choices, Aquino said the final list was ultimately his decision.

?At the end of the day, these are all my choices. And if they will not perform, they will blame me,? he said.

Extensive interviews

Aquino said he made his choices for the Cabinet because he felt he could work with them and they shared his viewpoints.

He said each of his choices hurdled extensive interviews by his search committee during the last month.

There are key posts still unfilled?those at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Bureau of Customs. He also has yet to name his chief of staff.

Aquino said he would head the DILG until he had decided on who to pick from among three persons including Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo.

?Each has a particular set of pluses and minuses. Some of them can [perform] multiple roles,? he said. ?And it?s my fault. I still have to make a decision; I didn?t talk to them until after I got proclaimed. We?re still not that confident of choosing which of the three.?

Aquino reiterated that he had not offered the interior portfolio to Vice President-elect Jejomar ?Jojo? Binay, who appeared to be lobbying for it early on.

That Binay is not part of the Cabinet is entirely his decision, Aquino said.

?He didn?t accept any of the positions I offered him. And I [told] him at the end of the conversation, ?Please think about it.? He has not gotten back to me, so I assume he has not changed his position,? Aquino said. ?I have no quarrel with Jojo.?

Mar?s key role

Aquino said he had made no offer to any of the losing candidates because of the yearlong ban on such appointments.

But he added: ?I am still in contact with our party president, and I do believe we were able to deliver our message and mount a best platform decided by the people because of my partnership with him. I believe it does the country good to continue working with Senator Roxas now in a private capacity. But down the line maybe, we envision getting him a position in the Cabinet.?

Aquino also said that at least three of his Cabinet men, whom he did not name, were recommended by Roxas, and that the latter played a key role in the vetting process.

?He told me the processes of mind of each individual, especially if I don?t know the person. He told me particular instances that will demonstrate the capabilities, or lack thereof, of a particular candidate,? Aquino said, adding:

?I think we are part and parcel of the same vision, the same ideology and the same platform. I don?t see why I shouldn?t consult him, especially in areas where he has knowledge that I don?t.

?And by the same token, he has consulted me on several instances where I possess knowledge and he doesn?t. So I don?t think that should be an issue.?

Sacrifices

Aquino said many of his appointees had to make personal sacrifices, such as a substantial cut in their paychecks. He said this was why a number of them had asked that they be allowed to stay only for one or two years.

?I cannot ask them to commit six years. The bottom line is, I don?t think they will leave the Cabinet if they have to leave it without attending to the major concerns or putting the necessary corrective actions in place,? he said.

Aquino said he was sticking with his campaign promise not to raise new taxes until his officials had exhausted all efforts to improve tax collection.

But he has not ruled out imposing new taxes or undertaking more borrowings if that was what the situation required.

Aquino said that after finalizing his Cabinet, he would proceed to fill up the second-line positions. (He visited the Iglesia Ni Cristo Tuesday morning, where the religious group?s leaders were reportedly lobbying for the appointment of retired military official Magtanggol Gatdula.)

He doused speculation that some of his Cabinet choices were only keeping their seats warm for the losing Liberal Party candidates.

?There could be a lot of changes in one year. Some of those who are interested might change their minds. ... We can cross the bridge later on,? he said.

Quick reactions

But the Kalikasan-People?s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) quickly denounced the appointment of Paje, executive director of the Minerals Development Council (MDC), as environment secretary.

?Paje, like [outgoing] Environment Secretary Horacio Ramos, is one of the mining czars of the Arroyo administration in promoting and implementing mining liberalization in the country. The MDC, which he heads, facilitates the selling and privatization of mineral facilities and lands,? Kalikasan-PNE?s Clemente Bautista Jr. said in a statement.

?A mining bureaucrat as head of the [environment department] dims our hope that there will be positive changes and major reforms in [it]. President Aquino?s appointment of Paje indicates that the mining liberalization policy and mining ?revitalization? program of the previous Arroyo administration will continue,? Bautista said.

On the other hand, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a nongovernment organization helping distressed overseas workers, said it was pleased with Undersecretary Baldoz?s appointment as labor secretary.

?[Baldoz] is well-versed in both overseas and local employment and a fine addition to the roster of career officials tapped to serve as [labor] chiefs,? the center?s president Susan Ople, herself a former labor undersecretary, said in a statement. With reports from Alcuin Papa and Jerome Aning



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