From Cory to Noynoy: PMAers in the Cabinet

Michael Bueza
These are the PMA alumni who have been entrusted by presidents with Cabinet posts

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – From protecting the country against invaders to supporting non-violent protests against oppressive regimes, numerous graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) have played major roles in our country’s history.

Some were even entrusted by Presidents to head civilian posts in government and carry out national policies.

Since 1986, a total of 14 PMA alumni have been appointed as secretaries of executive departments, serving at the pleasure of the President.

Meanwhile, two PMAers have held Cabinet posts in an acting capacity, while at least one was appointed to a Cabinet-level position.

Below is a list of current and former Cabinet members who are proud graduates of the prestigious Philippine Military Academy.

Current Cabinet members

Voltaire Gazmin
Secretary of National Defense (since 2010)
PMA Class 1968
Gazmin was the commander of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) during the time of President Corazon Aquino. He later became the commanding general of the Philippine Army from 1999 to 2000, and ambassador to Cambodia from 2002 to 2004.
(READ: Voltaire Gazmin: The untouchable)
Joseph Emilio Abaya
Secretary of Transportation and Communications (since 2012)
PMA Class 1988, US Naval Academy Class 1988
Abaya is a great grandson of General Emilio Aguinaldo, the first Philippine president. Topping the PMA entrance exam, he was sent to the US Naval Academy, where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree major in Mathematics. He then took up law and passed the bar in 2007.

He was also the congressman of the second district of Cavite from 2004 until his appointment to the Cabinet in October 2012.
(READ: Jun Abaya: ‘A good soldier’)

 

Previous Cabinet members (in order of appointment)

Rafael Ileto
Secretary of National Defense (1986-88)
PMA Class 1943, US Military Academy Class 1943
He had a one-year stint in PMA before he was sent to the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. A distinguished World War II veteran, General Ileto also took up law in the 1950s.

From 1974 to 1978, he was vice chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Between 1975 and 1986, Ileto served as ambassador to Iran, Turkey, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. He was conferred a Philippine Legion of Honor award in 1994.
Manuel T. Yan
Acting Secretary of Foreign Affairs (1987)
PMA Class 1941
General Yan was AFP chief of staff from 1968 to 1972, and ambassador to Thailand (1972-81), Indonesia (1981-87), and the United Kingdom (1991-92). He became foreign affairs undersecretary from 1987 to 1991, and acting DFA secretary from September to October 1987.

He was the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Estrada from 1994 to 2001. During his term, in 1996, a peace agreement between the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) was signed.
Juanito N. Ferrer
Secretary of Public Works and Highways (1987-88)
PMA Class 1944
Colonel Ferrer was the city engineer of Baguio City in the 1950s. He later became chairman of the Philippine Veterans Investment and Development Corporation (PHIVIDEC) Industrial Authority from 1989 to 1998. He is among the incorporators of the PMA Alumni Association. 
Fidel V. Ramos
Secretary of National Defense (1988-91)
US Military Academy Class 1950, PMA Class 1951
Ramos was admitted to the PMA in 1946, but he obtained a US Military Academy scholarship shortly thereafter. In the field, he commanded a platoon during the Korean War, and led a non-combat civic action group during the Vietnam War.

Prior to his assignment in the Defense Department, he was chief of the defunct Philippine Constabulary from 1972 to 1986, and AFP chief of staff from 1986 to 1988. He was conferred the Philippine Legion of Honor award twice, in 1988 and in 1991.

He was elected president of the Philippines in 1992, serving until 1998. 
Renato de Villa
Secretary of National Defense (1991-97) and Executive Secretary (2001-02)
PMA Class 1957
A recipient of the Philippine Legion of Honor award, De Villa fought in various military campaigns, particulary against the Huks and secessionist forces in Mindanao. He was chief of the defunct Philippine Constabulary from 1986 to 1988. He then became the AFP chief of staff from 1988 to 1991.

He resigned as secretary of national defense in 1997 to run for the presidency, but he placed 6th in the polls. He would return to the Cabinet in 2001, as President Gloria Arroyo’s executive secretary.
Arturo Enrile
Secretary of Transportation and Communications (1996-98)
PMA Class 1962
In 1990, General Enrile was conferred the Philippine Legion of Honor award. He was the AFP chief of staff from 1994 to 1996. He died in office in January 1998 due to multiple organ failure.
Fortunato Abat
Secretary of National Defense (1997-98)
PMA Class 1951
Major General Abat fought during the Korean War in the 1950s. He was commanding general of the Philippine Army from 1976 to 1981. He then joined the Ministry of Human Settlements during the Marcos administration. Shortly after, he was appointed ambassador to China until 1986.

Prior to his appoinment to the Department of National Defense, Abat was chairman of the government peace panel, which was able to reach a ceasefire agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in 1997.
Alexander P. Aguirre
Executive Secretary (1998)
PMA Class 1961
Aguirre was the last executive secretary of President Fidel Ramos, serving from January to June 1998. He was conferred the Philippine Legion of Honor award in May 1998. He later became National Security Adviser for President Joseph Estrada from 1998 to 2001.
Gregorio Vigilar
Secretary of Public Works & Highways (1998-2001)
PMA Class 1952, USMA Class 1953
Originally a member of PMA Class 1952, Colonel Vigilar was sent to the US Military Academy. He graduated there in 1953. He was among the members of the Philippine contingent during the Korean War. He was a recipient of the Philippine Legion of Honor award in 1998.
Anselmo Avenido Jr.
Acting Secretary of the Interior and Local Government (2001)
PMA Batch 1967
Interior undersecretary Avenido held the top post at the Department of the Interior and Local Government in acting capacity when Secretary Alfredo Lim resigned during EDSA II in 2001. He later became director general of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) from 2002 to 2006, and chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) from 2006 to 2008.
Angelo Reyes
Secretary of National Defense (2001-03), Interior and Local Government (2004-06), Environment and Natural Resources (2006-07), and Energy (2007-10)
PMA Class 1966
In 2001, during EDSA II, Gen. Reyes, who was AFP Chief of Staff, withdrew his support from Pres. Joseph Estrada. In the following Arroyo administration, he was appointed to four Cabinet posts. He was also appointed as the Presidential Adviser on Anti-Kidnapping and on Anti-Smuggling. He died on February 8, 2011 in an apparent suicide.

He received a Philippine Legion of Honor award from Pres. Arroyo in 2001.
Leandro Mendoza
Secretary of Transportation and Communications (2002-10) and Executive Secretary (2010)
PMA Class 1969
Prior to his Cabinet appointment, Mendoza served as director general of the Philippine National Police (PNP) from 2001 to 2002. (READ: Ex-PNP, DOTC chief Leandro Mendoza dies)
Eduardo Ermita
Secretary of National Defense (2003-04) and Executive Secretary (2004-10)
PMA Class 1957
After the People Power Revolution in 1986, Ermita became the AFP deputy chief of staff, and later vice chief of staff, until 1988. He received a Philippine Legion of Honor award in 1988. Before his inclusion in the Cabinet, he was the representative of the third district of Batangas from 1992 to 2001.
Hermogenes Ebdane Jr.
Secretary of Public Works and Highways (2005-07, 2007-09) and Secretary of National Defense (2007)
PMA Class 1970
Ebdane was director general of the PNP from 2002 until 2004, the same year he was conferred a Philippine Legion of Honor award. Afterwards, he served as National Security Adviser from 2004 to 2005. He was elected governor of Zambales in 2010, and reelected in 2013.
Panfilo Lacson
Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (2013-15)
PMA Class 1971
Lacson was director general of the PNP from 1999 to 2001. He was then elected senator in 2001, serving until 2013. Later that year, he was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III to a Cabinet-level position to oversee rehabilitation efforts, following the onslaught of Super Typhoon Yolanda.


– Rappler.com

References: We Were Soldiers: Military Men in Politics and the Bureaucracy by Glenda M. Gloria; Department of National Defense; gov.ph; Wikipedia; pmaclass40.8m.comrpdev.org; Philippine Mensans – Open Discussion List; various news reports

Editor’s Note: The US Military Academy is located in West Point, New York, not West Point, Virginia, as mentioned in a previous version of this article. We have made the correction.

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.