Government News Analysis

Sweep of a broad new broom

President Rodrigo Duterte’s key ministers, department heads and advisers are an eclectic mix drawn from both left and right of the political spectrum. But they are, he stresses, people he can trust. A number of Davaoeños (from Duterte’s region in Mindanao) are in the ranks.

The president’s campaign message for law and order is very much front and centre and is sealed by these appointments. High ranking Philippines Army and National Police personnel along with lawyers are well represented. Handing over the Customs and Immigration portfolios to top military brass is intended to send a very strong signal to those departments which are mired in corrupt and inefficient practices that most Filipinos regard as a national scandal.

And his appointment of left-leaning ideologues – three ministries go to Communist Party of the Philippines members, Agrarian Reform; Labor and Employment, and Social Welfare – and former incumbents of the Arroyo and Estrada administrations, is a bold attempt at unifying the country and dealing with the long-neglected plight of the country’s poor.

Duterte has created a new broom, with some familiar faces, designed to sweep away the stubborn stain of corruption that has perpetuated poverty and hobbled the economy for generations.

Here are the appointments [updated 13 July 2016].

Foreign Affairs: Perfecto Yasay Jr. – possibly a caretaker position. Duterte’s first choice for the post is his Vice-Presidential running mate, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, who for legal reasons is unable to take up a cabinet appointment for one year. Ysay was a Securities and Exchange Commission chairman in the Fidel V. Ramos administration.

Justice: Vitaliano Aguirre II – a private prosecutor during the impeachment trial of the late Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. He served as Duterte’s chief legal counsel during the presidential campaign.

Solicitor General: Jose Calida – a lawyer from Davao del Sur, is a former justice undersecretary and executive director of the Dangerous Drugs Board in the Arroyo administration and a Duterte campaign manager.

National Defense: Delfin Lorenzana – a retired army major-general and a former special presidential representative and military attaché to Washington under president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Duterte’s first choice Gilbert Teodoro, defense secretary under Arroyo, but he declined.

National Security Council: Hermogenes Esperon Jr. – retired Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines and a Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to Arroyo.

Interior and Local Government: Ismael “Mike” Sueño – former South Cotabato governor and national chairman of Duterte’s PDP-Laban party. Undersecretary: Catalino Cuy – former Davao City police chief.

Armed Forces of the Philippines: Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya – current head of the Southern Luzon Command and a Philippine Military Academy Matikas Class of 1983 alumnus. He has been cited by left-wing groups for human rights violations under the military’s “Bantay Laya” counter-insurgency operations. A recipient of four Distinguished Service Stars, Visaya will be charged with keeping the peace in troubled southern Mindanao.

National Bureau of Investigation (NBI): Dante Gierran – currently, NBI regional director for the Davao region.

National Intelligence Coordinating Council: Alex Monteagudo – Police Director in Benigno Aquino’s administration.

Philippine National Police (PNP): Chief Supt. Ronald Dela Rosa – a former director of the Davao City Police Office. He is credited with reducing illegal drugs in Davao City by some 60%. Duterte was principal sponsor at his wedding. A new salary scale for the police – increasing their monthly pay by up to five times – will be one of the first items on his order of business. Tackling the spiraling crime wave and the drugs trade will be front and centre of his work.

Drug Enforcement Agency: Gen. Isidro Lapeña – a former head of the Davao City Public Safety Command Center. With 5% of barangays nationwide and 92% of them in Manila exhibiting drug problems, President Elect, Rodrigo Duterte, will be fully backing a military-style assault to crack the multi-million dollar illegal trade. The country’s drug lords are aware of this and have raised the bounty to PHP50 million (US$1.09 million) each for Duterte and new PNP chief, Dela Rosa.

Finance: Carlos Dominguez III – see article.

Trade and Industry: Ramon Lopez, Head of Corporate Planning, Vice President, Executive Director of Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship, has first-hand experience of the public sector, formerly working with the Trade and Industry department as well as with the National Economic Development Agency. He also has strong private-sector credentials: Lopez is Executive Assistant to the President & Chief Executive Officer of RFM Corporation – one of the country’s largest food and beverage operations – having joined RFM’s Corporate Planning Department in 1994. He also sits on the directorial board of the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers.

Budget and Management: Benjamin Diokno – a professor at the University of the Philippines School of Economics who held the portfolio in the administration of Joseph Estrada and was undersecretary in the Corazon Aquino administration.

Internal Revenue: Cesar Dulay – lawyer. Dulay will be concentrating on improving tax collection, closing tax-avoidance loopholes and going after tax cheats. He will also likely be looking at tax rates – the Philippines has the highest income tax rate in Asia – and ways of streamlining the payments system: a 2015 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers ranked the Philippines 127th from 189 economies in terms of ease of paying business taxes.

Science and Technology: Fortunato Dela Peña – undersecretary at the department since 2001 and a former president of the National Research Council of the Philippines.

National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA):  Ernesto Pernia – a former lead economist at the Asian Development Bank and University of the Philippines professor, to be NEDA director general.

Energy: Alfonso Cusi – former head of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Manila International Airport Authority, and the Philippine Ports Authority.

Health: Dr Paulyn Jean Rosell Ubial moves into the top position at the Department of Health (DOH) from her current role as Assistant Health Secretary with special responsibilities for technical support. Dr Ubial will likely have full implementation of the 2012 Responsible Parenthood & Reproductive Health Act high on her agenda. Roll out of the provisions of this legislation – among them, free distribution of condoms and sex education for the poor – which marked a milestone in Philippine social history, remains blocked through lack of government funds resulting from cutbacks and an element of opposition to the measures which still exist within the DOH itself.

Education: Leonor Magtolis-Briones – national treasurer in the Estrada administration and former Presidential Adviser for Social Development. She is Professor Emeritus of Public Administration at the National College of Public Administration & Governance, University of the Philippines Diliman. Presently, she is lead convener of Social Watch Philippines Inc.

Tourism: Wanda Corazon Tulfo Teo who comes from within the tourism industry. She is the owner of Mt Apo Travel and Tours, a travel agency based in President Duterte’s home town of Davao City, and is president of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS). With a membership of 400 and 13 chapters nationwide, NAITAS claims to be the biggest travel association in the Philippines. Tao’s brother is TV host and Philippine Daily Inquirer  columnist, Ramon Tulfo, who is a close friend of Duterte.

Labour and Employment: Silvestre Bello – a former Cabinet Secretary, Presidential Adviser for New Government Centers, and peace negotiator with communist rebels in the Arroyo government. Hovering between 6% and 7% — which doesn’t take into account the estimated 4 million unpaid workers – the Philippines has one of the highest unemployment rate in Asia. Reducing the number of jobless Filipinos will be Bello’s top priority.

Information and Communications Technology: Rodolfo A. Salalima – has the distinction of becoming the first secretary of the DICT. This is a new department which replaces a number of agencies previously under the Department of Transport and Communications. A former chief counsel for Globe Telecom, Salalima is a member of the executive committee of the National ICT Advisory Council and President of the Philippine Chamber of Telecommunications Operators Inc. He is also a former board director and corporate and chief counsel of Radio Communications of the Philippines, the country’s oldest radio network.

Social Welfare and Development:  Judy Taguiwalo – co-organiser of the feminist organisation,  Malayang Kilusan ng Kababaihan and  Chair of the Committee on Women of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers – Philippines. This is another department with a full case load. Taguiwalo faces a plethora of issues in tackling the burdens of poverty including street children and beggars, human trafficking and illegal recruitment, prostitution and the porn-den trade, disaster-relief efforts, exploitation of part-time workers, social-protection measures and many more.

Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) — Vice President Leonor “Leni” Robredo is the Council’s new chairman. This post has been held by two previous vice-presidents: Jejomar Binay, VP in the last administration and Noli de Castro, VP in the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government. Housing issues were a focus of Leni Robredo’s late husband, former Interior Secretary, Jesse Robredo.

Public Works and Highways (DPWH):  Mark Villar – at 37, the youngest cabinet appointment, he is the son of 2010 presidential contender and former Senate President, billionaire real-estate tycoon, Manny Villar, and Senator Cynthia Villar. A House Rep. of Las Piñas City, his appointment forges a political alliance between Duterte’s PDP-Laban and Villar’s Nacionalista parties.  After the Bureau of Customs, the DPWH is the most corruption-prone department in the entire public sector and Villar will have his work cut out to clean out these particular stables. Juggling the plethora of road-maintainance projects, particularly in Metro Manila, also falls within his brief.

Transportation and Communications:  Arthur Tugade – a former CEO and president of Clark Development Corporation. His corporate c.v. includes: founder of Perry’s Holding Corporation; president, COO and Chief Resource Office, Transnational Diversified Group Inc. and Transnational Diversified Corp.; president, TDG Asia Corp., YAS Brokerage Inc., Phil. Organic Plantation Corporation, Kamraz Agriculture Inc., Pizzavest Transnational Corp., Transnational Food Services Corporation, Transnational Aero Corp., and Emery Transnational Air Cargo Corporation.

Land Transportation Office (LTO): Edgar Galvante – a retired deputy director-general, formerly Philippine National Police deputy chief for operations, and director of the National Capital Regional Police Office. He is as a permanent member at the Dangerous Drugs Board. Among his first tasks will be to sort out the year-long backlog issuing driving licences and vehicle-registration plates, as well as tackling entrenched corruption at the LTO – not least, the flourishing under-the-counter “sales” of documents and plates.

Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB): Martin Delgra – a Davao City lawyer who was part of Duterte’s legal team during the election campaign. As the enforcement agency for the LTO, the new LTFRB Secretary faces much the same corruption problems as his counterpart at the LTO.

National Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Council: Ricardo Jalad – a retired army general; former acting commander, 5th Infantry Division, (northeast Luzon) and former commander 2nd Merchandized Infantry Brigade (Iligan City and Lanao del Norte). Jalad’s brief will be to deal with Acts of God in one of the most natural-disaster, risk-prone countries in the world – ranked 3rd out of 173 countries in the World Risk Index. Eradicating corruption in disaster relief will also feature strongly in his work there.

Bureau of Customs: Nicanor Faeldon – a former marine captain who was involved in the 27 July 2003 Oakwood Mutiny in which a group of junior officers, including 2016 vice-presidential contender, Antonio Trillanes, stormed the serviced-apartment block, Oakwood Premier Ayala Center (now Ascott Makati) in Manila’s central business district, to highlight the alleged corruption of the Arroyo’s administration. His strong commitment to dealing with corruption will stand him in good stead when tackling a department that is riddled with malfeasance. Enforcing the recently approved Modernization and Tariff Act which increases the value of goods sent back to the Philippines by Overseas Foreign Workers (OFWs). This has been a major bone of contention between OFWs and the Customs Department with regular claims of exploitation and racketeering by Customs staff.

Immigration: Jaime Morente – a former head of the Philippine National Police Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Eastern Mindanao based in Davao City, and a Philippine Military Academy Batch 191 alumnus. He was part of Duterte’s security team during the election campaign. Another department with many problems, Morente will investigate the constant barrage of complaints against Department of Immigration (DOI) staff that flood social media – not least, that DOI personnel are involved with extortion rackets, targetting Overseas Foreign Works, particularly those returning from the Middle East.

Agriculture:  Manny Piñol – former governor of North Cotabato. The Department of Agriculture’s underperformance and how to make it a productive economic sector will be concentrating his mind. Re-gearing the sector with new agricultural technology and rural infrastructure – and encouraging investment to the sector – will be high on his agenda.

Agrarian Reform: Rafael Mariano – veteran Mindanao politician and journalist and a former Representative of the trade union part list group, Anakpawis.

Environment and Natural Resources (DENR): Regina Paz “Gina” L. Lopez – trustee of the Lopez Group Foundation and chairman of the ABS-CBN Lingkod Kapamilya Foundation, the corporate social-responsibility arm of media giant ABS-CBN Corp. She is an anti-mining advocate. President Duterte is also strongly against opening up the mining sector which DENR oversees.

Special Assistant to the President: Christopher “Bong” Go – effectively the president’s chief-of-staff, he was chief aide-de-camp to Duterte during his time in Congress, 1998-2000 and has been at his side through four of Duterte’s Davoa City mayoral and one vice-mayoral race.

Cabinet Secretary: Leoncio “Jun” Evasco – Duterte’s campaign manager and outgoing three-term mayor of Maribojoc, Bohol. In Davoa City he was Duterte’s chief of staff from 1998 to 2004 and Officer-in-Charge of the Davao City Engineer’s Office from 2004 to 2007.

Presidential Security Group: Col. Rolando Bautista – current head of Task Group Basilan.

Executive Secretary to the President: Salvador Medialdea – a member of the Duterte’s transition team and his personal lawyer who filed Duterte’s certificate of candidacy for the presidential election. He was an assistant for political affairs for president Estrada.

Peace Process Presidential Adviser: Jesus Dureza who held the post in the Arroyo administration whom he also served as Press Secretary. He is a classmate of Duterte.

Presidential Communications and Operations Office: Martin Andanar – TV5 news anchor.

Presidential spokesperson: Sal Panelo – high-profile lawyer who served as counsel for the Ampatuan family in the Maguindanao massacre case, and for model, Deniece Cornejo, in the mauling of actor-TV host Vhong Navarro.

Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation – Andrea Domingo, an ex-Congresswoman and a former immigration commissioner.

Heads for the following departments and commissions are yet to be appointed: Climate Change Commission; Commission on Filipinos Overseas (a new Duterte department initiative); Commission on Higher Education; Governance Commission for Government Owned and Controlled Corporations; National Commission on Muslim Filipinos; Metro Manila Development Authority; National Anti-Poverty Commission; Presidential Management Staff; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

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