A good start

In a few days, the Aquino administration will turn a month old, with old and new faces in the Cabinet. The President’s State of the Nation Address will mark the tone of the next 100 days. Given the state of public finances, it would be somber yet hopeful, with stress on transparency, truth and justice – a government more accessible and accountable to the common man.

Obviously, much thought has been given to the new set of Cabinet officials. Many cheered upon learning that the Department of Interior and Local Governments would be headed by the distinguished Magsaysay awardee, former Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo. Robredo is known as a true reformist, one who does not settle for “puwede na” when clearly the bar of public service can be raised. The labor and employment sectors were pleased to see a familiar and respected face at the helm of the labor department. Atty. Rosalinda Baldoz, a career official at DoLE, has done remarkable work wherever nook and corner of the department she was assigned.

Advocates against human trafficking are excited about engaging the feisty and courageous Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in a serious conversation about cases stalled or forgotten. Cesar Purisima at the Department of Finance with Kim Henares at the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Lito Alvarez at the Bureau of Customs is a triumvirate of tough revenue hounds – patriotism to them is a well-funded government.

Some are queasy about having too many Abads in power. I’m not. Julia Abad has always been a quiet and elegant presence in the Senate, faithfully serving then Senator Noynoy Aquino as his chief of staff. I recall seeking Julia’s help for a distressed OFW who had a relative in dire need of medical assistance. Julia responded quickly and gallantly. Why shouldn’t she be given a chance to shine on her own as head of the Presidential Management Staff? Butch Abad was campaign manager during the senatorial bid of Noynoy when his mother, former president Corazon C. Aquino was still alive. Luis Abad, a hardworking and dependable young man, has been tapped by Secretary Purisima to be his chief of staff. Both Julia and Luis share the same family names but have given enough of themselves during the presidential campaign to be noticed and trusted by their respective bosses.

Friends and fellow bloggers Manolo Quezon and Ricky Carandang have decided to craft messages and create the necessary feedback mechanisms for P.Noy. These two are giving up a lot because as journalists, they now embrace the velvety cloak of partisanship, as official members of P.Noy’s communications team. Innovation and transparency in government would be their just rewards. P.Noy can be our first Twitter-ing president. These two young guys would have to make sure that substance reigns over showbiz under a P.Noy-style of governance.

Ging Deles knows the ins and outs of the peace process. She can be expected to lead the way with a steady hand. Fellow Hyatt 10 member Dinky Soliman is back to her sunflower-filled room at the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Fate and political fortunes gave both yet another chance to reboot old programs and come up with new ones, without the drama of the distant past.

Undoubtedly, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo would be listened to in Cabinet meetings as the most senior Cabinet official there. The international community yearns to hear more about Philippine foreign policy directions under the new administration. Secretary Romulo will serve as a trusted bridge between P.Noy and the diplomatic community and moreover to our OFWs who have high expectations of better onsite services from our embassies and consulates.

I have never met Atty. Jojo Ochoa, but I heard good things about him and his father from friends in Pulilan. It is correct for him to keep a low profile as executive secretary. One would have a difficult time watching someone else’s back if his own back needs to be covered, too. I only hope that the new executive secretary is getting good advice. The first memorandum circular that his office issued would have rendered so many bureaucrats jobless, though his second “refined” copy still needs to be reviewed. As a labor advocate, I believe that discretion over which assistant secretary should go and which director should stay, is best left to every Cabinet and/or agency head.

The P.Noy administration may have a few glitches since its assumption but over-all, it has had a good start. Still, the people are waiting for much, much more than just uneventful appointments and a “wang-wang” –free metropolis. As he gears up for his first SONA, here’s wishing President Noynoy not just a good start, but an even greater journey, in advancing our country’s best interests. (Send comments to toots.ople@yahoo.com)

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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