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Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Getting To Know The Marcos Jr. Cabinet

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The cabinet serves as the alter ego of the president in various departments; thus, the persons appointed to each position are either an ally of the chief executive or a technocrat who has honed their expertise for years.

With less than a week before Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. seats at the pinnacle of power on June 30, he has yet to complete his cabinet, and he would lead the Department of Agriculture temporarily to resolve the pressing issues hounding farmers and try to fulfill a too-good-to-be-true campaign promise: dropping the price of rice to just 20 pesos.

In a show of unity, he has nominated officials even those who served under the administration of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Inheriting a mountain of problems, such as a floundering economy, analysts see that these technocrats would run the show amid questions of Marcos Jr.’s capability to lead the country. He appears to be taking a cue from his father’s presidency.

“Fantastical claims may have helped Marcos Jr. win the presidency. But now he needs to let adults run the show on the economic front. Taking a page from his father’s playbook, Marcos Jr. has assembled an A-list cluster of technocrats, almost all exclusively affiliated with the University of the Philippines’ prestigious School of Economics,” Richard Heydarian, a political analyst, wrote for the Inquirer.

“All these professionals have served in the bureaucracy previously, in various capacities. Moreover, there is very little doubt as to their expertise in their respective fields as well as their professionalism. They all have impeccable and unquestionable academic and professional credentials and have remained untainted by political or personal scandals,” Marvin Tort, former chairman of the Philippine Press Council, wrote for BusinessWorld.

Here are the nominees for the cabinet positions under the Marcos Jr. presidency:

Agrarian Reform: Conrado Estrella III

Estrella III is currently a deputy speaker who represents Abono Party list in the House of Representatives. His grandfather, Conrado Estrella Sr., was the agrarian minister under Ferdinand Marcos Sr.’s term. Estrella III will be tasked with distributing land for farmers as mandated by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program and amid a tug-of-war with powerful landowners.

Budget and Management: Amenah Pangandaman

Currently the assistant governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Pangandaman has been exposed to the tedious process of forming the nation’s budget, serving as undersecretary at this department during the term of Benjamin Diokno. She earned her economics degrees at the Far Eastern University (FEU) and the University of the Philippines (UP).

Bureau of Internal Revenue: Lilia Guillermo

Guillermo, currently an assistant governor at the BSP and formerly a deputy commissioner at the BIR, was named the next lead tax collector for her “strong background in IT (information technology) and her almost four decades of service at the BIR,” the Marcos camp said in a statement. Guillermo is in a tricky position because her principal has unpaid estate taxes that he contests, even though the Supreme Court ruled otherwise.

Defense: Jose Faustino Jr.

The tenth chief of the Armed Forces under President Rodrigo Duterte will be assigned to a new role: Defense Secretary under Marcos Jr. Faustino Jr., who retired in November 2021, will first serve as officer-in-charge until November 2022, where he will assume the secretarial post, as retired generals have a one-year ban on appointments under Republic Act 6975.

Education: Sara Duterte

The vice president-elect was handed the education portfolio after expressing interest in leading the Defense Department. Duterte is faced with an education crisis as the entire studentry has yet to return to schools and their proficiency skills are dismal. She vowed to review the K-12 program that added two years to high school to keep up with global standards.

Executive Secretary: Vic Rodriguez

After serving as Marcos Jr.’s spokesman during the campaign, in which he vigorously defended his boss from the controversies hounding his character and history, Atty. Vic Rodriguez is moving to a new position once the incoming administration kicks off, that of Executive Secretary. Rodriguez will be the Salvador Medialdea of the Marcos Jr. presidency, the primus inter pares of the cabinet, so to speak.

Finance: Benjamin Diokno

Diokno succeeds Carlos Dominguez to be the next Finance secretary. He has served as Budget secretary under the administrations of Joseph Estrada and Aquino III. In 2019, he was appointed governor of BSP. He has advocated for a “whole-of-government approach” to address the economic problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Information and Communications Technology: Ivan John Uy

Uy, an expert in information technology and a former cabinet member of Aquino III, was selected as the next DICT chief, ordered to ramp up the country’s digital infrastructure and economy to help resolve issues like poverty and unemployment. He served as corporate secretary of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and was a fellow at the University of Minnesota.

Interior and Local Government: Benjamin Abalos Jr.

Abalos Jr., the campaign manager of Marcos Jr., will oversee local government units and the police force as DILG chief. He was a former councilor, representative and mayor of Mandaluyong City and former chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).  

Justice: Jesus Crispin Remulla

Remulla is the representative from Cavite’s seventh district and senior deputy majority leader. Part of a powerful political clan in a historical province, Remulla has gained prominence for speaking against the ABS-CBN franchise. An ardent supporter of Marcos Jr., Remulla vows to uphold a “justice for all” mandate and honor the commitments made to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Labor: Bienvenido Laguesma

The 71-year-old Laguesma returns as DOLE Secretary after serving at the helm from 1998 to 2001 under the administration of Joseph Estrada. He was undersecretary from 1990 to 1996, under the Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos presidencies. He is tasked with resolving issues gripping employees and employers, particularly contractualization.

Migrant Workers: Susan Ople

Susan Ople is the daughter of former Senate President Blas Ople, who served as Minister of Labor under the administration of Marcos Sr. Susan Ople founded the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute to aid Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) suffering domestic abuse at the hands of their foreign employers. She will be the second secretary to serve the newly-created department, established in February 2022.

National Intelligence Coordinating Agency: Ricardo De Leon

Retired General De Leon, a former deputy director of the Philippine National Police (PNP), was named NICA chief, leading intelligence-gathering activities for the government. He is the president of the Philippine Public Safety College (PPSC) and was the president of the Mindanao State University in 2005. Then, he served as executive vice president of the Centro Escolar University (CEU).

National Security Adviser: Clarita Carlos

Carlos will have the distinction of being the first female National Security Adviser. Her decades-long stay in academia, particularly at the University of the Philippines, has honed her views on geopolitical and sociopolitical matters that sometimes are perceived as pro-Marcos. As NSA, she will advise the president on matters involving counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, maritime affairs and everything in between.

Presidential Communications and Operations Office: Trixie Cruz-Angeles

Angeles, a lawyer-turned-blogger who is an ardent Marcos Jr. supporter, will head the PCOO, the department overseeing the government’s media operations. She was suspended from practicing law for three years in 2016 by the Supreme Court for dishonest practices. During that time, she became a social media strategist for the Duterte administration.

Presidential Legal Counsel: Juan Ponce Enrile

At 98 years old, Enrile is back at Malacañang, this time as Presidential Legal Counsel. He served as Defense Minister under Marcos Sr.’s administration, who implemented the harsh and repressive policies of Martial Law. Despite breaking away from Marcos Sr. in the waning days of his administration that led to the People Power Revolution, he had long reconciled with the family. Enrile supported Marcos Jr.’s candidacy.

Presidential Management Staff: Zenaida Angping

Angping is a three-term representative who will head the Presidential Management Staff, a department dedicated to determining the course of action of the president. She was one of the disbursing officers of Marcos Jr.’s campaign and a member of the transition team.

Public Works and Highways: Manuel Bonoan

After a brief stint as acting head of Public Works and Highways in 2007, Bonoan is set to become its full-fledged secretary in the incoming Marcos Jr. administration. He was president of the O&M Corporation that oversaw some of the major tollways, including Skyway and NAIA Expressway. He would then serve as president of SMC Tollways.

Special Assistant to the President: Anton Lagdameo

Lagdameo, the husband of actress Dawn Zulueta, was a representative of Davao Del Norte’s second district and is a close friend of Marcos Jr. He will fill the role once held by Bong Go. A special assistant to the president is entrusted to the president’s close confidant.

Social Welfare and Development: Erwin Tulfo

Tulfo, a broadcast journalist who has supported Marcos Jr.’s presidential candidacy, has been selected as chief of the social welfare and development department. He started his career on ABS-CBN before moving to TV5 and then to government-controlled stations. Tulfo hosts a public service program and is known for his fiery remarks on the nation’s pressing issues.

Socioeconomic Planning: Arsenio Balisacan

Balisacan returns as secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), after serving four years from 2012 to 2016. Balisacan is currently chair of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC). “In returning to a post I have previously held, we rely on experience and judicious reckoning of socioeconomic issues to build stronger foundations for a more robust, more inclusive, and more resilient Philippine economy,” he said upon accepting the offer from Marcos Jr., whom he has worked with in the past.

Solicitor General: Menardo Guevarra

After serving under the Aquino and Duterte presidencies, Guevarra will not yet retire as he is set to be the government’s lawyer for the next six years, succeeding Jose Calida. He was behind the team that made the arbitral ruling against China possible. And after Vitaliano Aguirre III was marred in controversies, Duterte appointed him for the top post, which he held until this year.

Tourism: Christina Frasco

Frasco, daughter of Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and the mayor of Liloan, Cebu, will head the Tourism department, gaining experience as a local chief executive of a municipality in a province that relies on tourism as a major driver of the economy. She was the spokesperson for Vice President-Elect Duterte.

Trade and Industry: Alfredo Pascual

Pascual, the former president of UP from 2011 to 2017, has been tapped to handle DTI. He has a rich background as a development banker and finance expert. He was named independent director of Megawide Construction and SM Investments Corporation. He was also president of the Management Association of the Philippines.

Transportation: Jaime Bautista

Bautista is heading towards the helm of the Transportation Department after over a decade of being president of Philippine Airlines, from 2004 to 2012 and 2014 to 2019. He will replace Arthur Tugade.

Six positions have yet to be filled as of writing: Secretary of Health, Secretary of Science and Technology, Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Secretary of Energy.

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