Bernardo M. Villegas
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My Nominees for Next Cabinet (Part 1)

           It is easy to set selection criteria for the next President.  He or she should be both honest and competent as an executive.  Realistically, however, it is highly probable that the majority of the voters who will elect the President may make their decisions on the basis of other sets of criteria. We may actually end up with a President who is honest but may lack experience as a decisive executive. Or we may get a leader whose track record in good governance may leave a lot to be desired but who is decisive and results-oriented.  The next best thing I can do if my candidate is not chosen is to help whoever will be the next President to choose the best people for his Cabinet.  Having been around for at least the last forty years participating in development efforts of the nation, I have met countless people in the different areas of expertise in running the Government.  A good number of them are both honest and competent.

          To increase the chances that the next President will chose members of his Cabinet  on a meritocratic basis rather than  personal friendships or blood relations,  I will risk being presumptuous by presenting a list of individuals I would choose in my Cabinet if I were to be the President of the Philippines.  I am coming out with this enumeration of names to encourage other groups and individuals to submit their own lists so that the next Administration will have many choices of honest and competent people to head the various executive departments of Government.  Whatever personal weaknesses the next President may have can be partly compensated by the strengths of honest and competent members of his Cabinet.

          Let me be blunt in illustrating this point.  President Benigno Aquino III will be remembered as having laid a more solid foundation for good governance in the future.  Most objective observers, especially from abroad, do not question his sincerity in fighting corruption during his term.   That is why we have gotten numerous investment upgrades from credit rating agencies and international financial institutions.  He, however, was lacking in executive ability.  Even his strongest supporters admit that he has never been a good manager.  To compensate for this weakness, there are at least three members of his Cabinet who have done wonders in improving the running of departments that had been notorious either for corruption or lack of results.  I am referring to Secretary Rogelio Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways; Secretary Armin Luistro of the Department of Education; and Secretary Ramon Jimenez of the Department of Tourism.  In my opinion, these departments saw the greatest improvement in good governance and positive results.  Subject to their acceptance, the next President would do well to retain these three for at least the first two to three years of the next Administration so that they can consolidate the reforms they have introduced into their respective departments.  I know for a fact, for example, that Secretary Singson is still addressing the problem at the lower ranks of his department in which DPWH employees may be conniving  with small contractors in perpetuating corrupt practices.  Secretary Luistro still has to consolidate the transition to the K to 12 in the high school curriculum.  In fact, there are already vociferous groups asking for the repeal of the K to 12!

          For some of the other key departments that will be crucial for the attainment of sustainable and inclusive growth, the following are my recommendations.  These are individuals whom I have either personally known or have been recommended by people whose judgement I highly trust.  I will provide only the barest information about the individuals I recommend so that the search committee of the next President can do their own thorough due diligence.  Beside the dual criteria of integrity and competence, I also considered their relative youth and good health.  In principle, I have not included anyone who is much above 70.  For Secretary of Finance, I would recommend Mr. Omar Cruz, former National Treasurer; Mr. Jojo Dispo, former President of the First Metro Investment Corporation,  Dr. Vaughn Montes, present member of the Board of Directors of the Development Bank of the Philippines; and Mr. Anton Periquet, a prominent financial analyst and industrial  economist.    Ideally, a good Secretary of Finance must have had some experience running a financial institution and must also be very knowledgeable about the ins and outs of macroeconomic policy. 

          For Secretary of Agriculture, I recommend Dr. Rolando Dy, Executive Director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific; former Saranggani Governor Miguel Dominguez;  Mr. Jet Parma, CEO of an agribusiness multinational company; and Ms. Gina Bautista Martin, present Administrator of the Sugar Regulatory Commission.     All these four not only have integrity.  They have a track record in managing organizations and are knowledgeable about at least some sectors of Philippine agriculture.  It is about time we stop appointing politicians to this most important position for both economic growth and poverty eradication.  (To be continued).