The members of President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III’s cabinet include one of the big donors to his electoral campaign, as well as several executives of big corporations and a known advocate of neoliberal globalization.
Aquino announced the names of his cabinet members in a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the eve of his oath-taking as the country’s 15th president.
Cesar Purisima, who was among the 12 people who donated P10 million each to Aquino’s campaign kit, was chosen to head the Department of Finance (DoF), a post he had already held in 2005 after serving as trade secretary. He was among the so-called “Hyatt 10,” the Arroyo cabinet officials who defected to the opposition at the height of what is now known as the “Hello Garci” controversy. Before joining the government, Purisima held executive positions in the professional services firms Sycip Gorres Velayo & Co. and Ernst & Young, and the management firm Andersen Worldwide.
Meanwhile, Aquino appointed Rogelio “Babes” Singson, president and chief executive officer of Maynilad Water Services Inc., to the helm of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Singson had previously served as chairman of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA). He joined Maynilad in 2007 after its re-privatization under the DMCI-Metro Pacific Consortium.
Gregory Domingo, executive director of SM Investments Corporation, is the new chief of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). He was an undersecretary at the DTI and chairman of the Board of Investments (BoI) when former Sen. [[Manuel “Mar” Roxas II]] was trade secretary.
Manila Electric Company (Meralco) president Jose “Ping” de Jesus was appointed transportation and communication secretary. He was public works secretary during the presidency of Aquino’s mother, Corazon “Cory” Cojuangco-Aquino.
Cayetano Paderanga Jr. is the new director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). He was also a part of Cory’s cabinet. He is a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Economics and fellow of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF), a US government-funded “advocacy institution” that pushed for passage of the Oil Deregulation Law, the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA), and the Retail Trade Liberalization Law among other measures. Paderanga is known as an advocate of neoliberal policies.
The new labor secretary, Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz, is a career executive from the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE). As the administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Baldoz was criticized among other things for issuing Memorandum Circular No. 4, which imposed several restrictions on overseas employers seeking to directly hire Filipino workers.
Foreign Affairs Secretary [[Alberto Romulo]] was reappointed to his post. Romulo was a senator during the first Aquino presidency, and was one of those who voted in favor of retaining the US military bases in Subic and Clark – disregarding critics’ assertions that their presence violated Philippine sovereignty and had adverse effects on the environment and the dignity of women and children. He had served as both executive secretary and finance secretary under the Arroyo administration, and was appointed foreign affairs secretary in 2004. He has been an active defender of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which grants extraterritorial and extrajudicial “rights” to US servicemen “visiting” the Philippines.
Other appointees to Aquino’s cabinet include Paquito Ochoa (executive secretary), Florencio “Butch” Abad (budget and management), Julia Abad (chief, Presidential Management Staff), Proceso Alcala (agriculture), Ramon Paje (environment and natural resources), Enrique Ona (health), Alberto Lim (tourism), Gregory Domingo (trade and industry), Corazon “Dinky” Soliman (social welfare and development), Mario Montejo (science and technology), Virgilio delos Reyes (agrarian reform), Edwin Lacierda (presidential spokesman), Eduardo de Mesa (chief presidential legal counsel), Patricia Licuanan (chairwoman, Commission on Higher Education), Kim Henares (director, Bureau of Internal Revenue), Voltaire Gazmin (Department of National Defense), and Teresita “Ging” Deles (presidential adviser on the peace process).
Aquino will act as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as he has yet to decide on who will take the DILG portfolio. The DILG was not among the posts Aquino offered to Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. The issue created a controversy between Aquino and Binay after the latter declared he will not accept any cabinet position from the president.
According to the multi-sectoral cause-oriented group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), most of the cabinet appointments Aquino made raise more questions than hope.
“It remains to be seen how most of the cabinet appointees will perform or how they will prove to be any different from the previous administration,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. “The Aquino officials will be confronting the many problems left behind the outgoing Arroyo regime… Many of the appointees are either close associates of Aquino or (had) been active campaign supporters during the last elections.”
Meanwhile, the League of Filipino Students (LFS) criticized the appointment of De La Salle University (DLSU) president Bro. Armin Luistro as education secretary. LFS chairman Terry Ridon said there is a potential “conflict of interest” in Luistro’s appointment to the top post of the Department of Education (DepEd), considering he has no experience in running public schools.
One of Aquino’s appointments has received a positive reaction from another cause-oriented group, however. The human rights group Karapatan welcomed Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairwoman Leila de Lima’s appointment as secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ).
“Some of the previous heads of the DoJ became mouthpieces of the government and turned it into an agency which attempted to cover up the atrocities of the (incumbent) administration,” said Karapatan chairwoman Marie Hilao-Enriquez. “It even spearheaded the filing of trumped-up charges against activists and civil libertarians, earning it the moniker Department of Injustice.”
“We are certain that Attorney De Lima will make a difference in the DoJ and be a catalyst in resolving human rights violations in the country,” Enriquez also said.
As CHR chairwoman,
De Lima led the commission’s investigations into several high-profile cases of human rights violations, such as the abduction and torture of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas and the illegal arrest and detention of the health workers collectively known as the “Morong 43.”
Photo by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado, from Blogwatch.ph files. Some rights reserved.