Duterte tasks 17 Cabinet members to oversee dev't, security in regions

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has assigned 17 Cabinet members to oversee development and security in the country's regions.

The secretaries are referred to as Cabinet Officers for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) – patterned after the Cabinet Officers for Regional Development (CORD) system initiated by then-president Corazon Aquino and continued by some of her successors.

New Information and Communications Technology Secretary Gregorio Honasan II has been assigned to Region V or the Bicol region, completing the assignments, National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr said on Tuesday, July 23.

"He will be among 17 Cabinet members who are CORDS for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict," Esperon said in an interview with reporters.

"As CORDS, you have other functions. You have to look at the problems in the area, make reports to the President," he added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had previously said the CORDS was nothing new.

"This was done already during Cory's time. We are just reviving it so that there will be more focus on the Build, Build, Build program and the task force to end communist insurgency," he told Rappler last May 8.

Fidel Ramos had a similar system in place, but this was scrapped by Joseph Estrada in line with the reorganization of offices under the Executive in 1998. Gloria Arroyo revived the CORD system and rationalized the functions of the CORD officers during her watch.

Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez Jr had described CORDS as a system that will "assist the President in the speedy, efficient, and orderly resolution of problems in government operations."

The assigned Cabinet members are supposed to serve as a link to regional and sub-regional government units to better harmonize peace, development, and security efforts. One specific goal of CORDS is to "resolve the nation's decades-long insurgency problem."

Below are the regional assignments of the Cabinet members:

As Duterte's "alter egos" in the regions, the assigned Cabinet members are ordered to preside over joint meetings of the Regional Development Councils and Regional Peace and Order Councils.

They are also supposed to help Duterte address regional concerns and fix problems encountered in implementing government programs.

One of the times the CORDS system kicked into action was in June after a Chinese vessel hit, sank, and abandoned a Filipino fishing boat with 22 fishermen near Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea.

More than a week after the incident, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, CORDS for Mimaropa, went to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, home of the fishermen, to speak with them.

The concept of assigning Cabinet members to oversee aspects of governance in regions was also done in past administrations. 

During the Ramos administration, Cabinet members were also tasked to coordinate government programs and facilitate budgets to help regions in their development and economic growth.

Duterte's model is more focused on both economic growth and ensuring peace and order. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.