The Dream Team

The 22 nominee cabinet members so far combine the wisdom of their age, the experience of decades in public and corporate life, and the technocracy and expertise of having studied in the best schools in the Philippines and abroad.

By Antonio Lopez

Doubtless, any president will  be exuberantly proud of the cabinet team of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr. (BBM).

The 22 nominee cabinet members so far combine the wisdom of their age, the experience of decades in public and corporate life, and the technocracy and expertise of having studied in the best schools in the Philippines and abroad.

Law graduates outnumber the economists in the cabinet by a ratio of two to one.  The preponderance of lawyers and economists in the cabinet is an indication of how BBM sees the two major challenges of his presidency—enforcement of laws and reviving an economy battered by all kinds of crises.

The lawyers

The law graduates are: Executive Secretary Victor D. Rodriguez, 48; Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile, 98; Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, 71; Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla, 61 (the Jesus was because he was born on a Good Friday in 1961); Solicitor General Menardo Guevarra, 68; Interior and Local Government Secretary BenHur Abalos, 60; Education Secretary Sara Duterte Carpio, 44; Information and Technology Secretary Ivan John Enrile Uy, 58; and Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles, 57.  The tourism chief, Christina Frasco, 40, is also a lawyer.

 The average age of the cabinet lawyers is 63, largely because five, Rodriguez, Carpio, Uy, Frasco, and Angeles are all below 60.

The economists are led by Incoming Secretary of Finance Benjamin E. Diokno, 74; Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, 65; Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman, 45; Bangko Sentral Governor Felipe Medalla, 72, and Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo Jr., 62. The average age of the economists is 64, because Amenah is young. Without her, the senior economists average 70 in age.

One may therefore quip that when BBM, 64, holds a cabinet meeting, it will appear like it’s Senior Citizens or Grandparents Day.

In his time, from Dec, 30, 1965 to Feb. 25, 1986, the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos had for a cabinet whose average age was less than 40.   Marcos Sr. had a deep bench.  The tier second cabinet members were equally qualified, if not more so, than the first tier.   That is how powerful his official family was, in terms of dynamism, expertise, and capacity for disruption.

UP alumni

Half of BBM’s cabinet studied at the University of the Philippines—Diokno (BAPA 1968, MPA 1970 and MA Economics 1974); Remulla (AB PolSci 1983, LLB 1987); Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual (BSChem 1969, MBA 1972); Pangandaman (DipDEco 1998, MDEco 1998); Uy (LLB 1988); Balisacan (MS-AgrclEco Los Baños, 1982); Angeles-Cruz (AB-Linguistics 1982, Law 1997); National Security Adviser Clarita Reyes-Carlos (BS Foreign Service 1966, MA PolSci 1976 PhD 1982); and Medalla (MA 1976).  Enrile was bachelor laws, cum laude, 1953.

Meanwhile, Rodriguez has a Law degree 2002 and Legal Management degree 1995, both from the University of Santo Tomas.  Abalos is Ateneo Law 1987.

Additionally, Diokno has a Master of Arts in Political Economy (1976) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, and a PhD in Economics (1981) from Syracuse University, New York.

Balisacan has a PhD Economics (1985) from the University of Hawaii.  He has a BS in Agriculture (1979), magna cum laude, from the Mariano Marcos State University in BBM’s home province.

Medalla has a PhD in Economics from Northwestern University Evanston, Illinois.  Lagdameo has a Bachelor of Business Administration (1989) from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and a Master in Economics, 1998, from the University of Asia and the Pacific.

Enrile has an Associate in Arts degree, cum laude, from Ateneo de Manila, 1949.  He was a scholar at Harvard Law School with a Master of Laws.

Zenaida Angping

Other cabinet members also have their special skills—Presidential Management Staff Chief Zenaida Angping is a first-rate experienced foreign service officer (FSO), having served since the days of Ambassador Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, father of the incoming House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez.   Unknown to many Kokoy was topnotch diplomat.  He was responsible for paving the way for diplomatic relations with China in 1975 and with the Soviet Union in 1976, and in seeking the Tripoli Agreement with Libya in 1976.

Manuel Bonoan, 76, is a structural engineer and an old-timer at the Department of Public Works and Highways, where he is again at helm.

Clarita Carlos, of course, is a political scientist of long standing.   Retired Gen. Jose Faustino, the incoming Defense secretary, and retired Gen. Ricardo de Leon, the chief of National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), are the military types.

Law and economics are skills that should come in handy as BBM grapples with four major crises gripping the Philippines today—food crisis, energy crisis, jobs crisis, and an education crisis. Filipino teenagers have the lowest scores in the world in international tests for reading comprehension, science and math.  In other words, our young, what Rizal called the Hope of the Fatherland, are incompetent and stupid, not having the skills of their generation in other countries to live a modicum of the productive and prosperous life. 

The three crises–food, energy, and education may explain why today, 30 million Filipinos are jobless and why a quarter of families in the country are victims of mindless poverty.

Poverty gnaws at the very fabric of society, which in turn could explain why the Philippines has the world’s longest-running communist insurgency (53 years old), and the world’s longest running Muslim separatist insurgency (50 years old).  The issues of security and peace and order thus rear their ugly head.  Which may explain the need for so many lawyers in Marcos Jr.’s official family.

The shortages and high cost of food explain rampant malnutrition which in turn may explain why the average Filipino teenager is stupid by world standards. 

High energy cost and the insurgencies explain why the Philippines has been considered the last choice of foreign investors during waves of foreign investments in three decades, into Southeast Asia, the world’s most dynamic and fastest-growing emerging economy region.

With the gravitas of age, wisdom, experience and purposeful action, Marcos Jr.’s cabinet hopefully can grapple with and somehow solve the problems debilitating the people and the country.  There is no other option.