What Duterte’s Cabinet meetings are like

Jee Y. Geronimo
What Duterte’s Cabinet meetings are like
Since the Duterte Cabinet is composed of people from different political backgrounds, debates are inevitable. How do they make policy decisions?

MANILA, Philippines – Some outsiders look at President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet and see a “perfect balance” of people coming from different political backgrounds.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones describes it as a “multisectoral” Cabinet with a “wide variety of perspectives, views, and thoughts on national policy”. 

“You go to foreign policy, you go to education, even to transport, you see a great deal of change coming in. And then notions of what social development is all about, and people participation. These are all changes that have come with the change in administration,” Briones said during a Rappler Talk interview on Wednesday, July 27.

But the different views of Cabinet members result in very long debates during their meetings, Briones revealed. How then, does the Cabinet make policy decisions?

“I’ve noticed that it’s the President,” she answered. “If we engage in very, very long debates – and there have been very long debates on particular issues – then he interrupts and makes a declaration.”

Take for example discussions on the environment. On her first day on the job, Environment Secretary Gina Lopez did not directly answer a question from reporters about a supposed debate on mining among Cabinet members.

Briones only said there were lengthy exchanges concerning the environment.

“After a while…[there are] differences in view, then President Duterte says ‘Enough. This is what we’ll do.’ So then everybody stops,” she told Rappler.

Education policies

On other issues that are not as contentious, Briones said Duterte listens.

“I was saying about senior high school and also about the funding of schools, school buildings, because I have very well­-established views on where funds should come from and not from a particular government corporation because of the conflict in values. So he made a decision, and he said these corporations’ contributions should all go to hell,” she explained.

The first month of the Duterte administration has already seen many changes in policies across government, but for Briones, Filipinos’ expectations from their leaders have become much simpler.

“I think there has been a buildup towards this kind of change in what the expectations are….People just want to put a stop to the drug menace because it is so pervasive. It’s now what the President considers a crisis. People want to put a stop to graft and corruption. So much simpler expectations because they have to start with the basics,” she added.

On education, the secretary said it’s also simple: People want education which will allow young Filipinos to be competitive “not only in Asia or the rest of the world, but in our own country as well”.

Duterte has already decided to support the K to 12 program, which promises to produce employable Filipino high school graduates with its additional two years of senior high school.

Briones said she has committed not only to continue one of the Aquino administration’s legacies, but also to enrich it. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.