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Duterte’s Cabinet choices ruffling feathers in his own circle

CHOICES, CHOICES. Duterte witnesses the signing of the 'Coalition for Change' agreement between Nacionalista Party and PDP-Laban.

Photo by Manman Dejeto/Rappler

There seems to be discord in Davao City.

Rody Duterte’s choices for his Cabinet have been generating mixed reactions from the public for the past few days. But it seems even members of his own circle are not too happy about his choices. (LIST: Who's who in the incoming Duterte Cabinet)

The first to speak out in public is Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, Duterte’s friend for 3 decades, who seems disappointed that he has not been invited to help select Cabinet members.

Quiboloy’s spokesman Mike Abe called Duterte’s selection process “turo-turo” (point-point).

Turo-turo lang. O, ikaw ang secretary dito, ikaw ang may hawak dito. Nawala na 'yung proseso. 'Yun ang ikinagugulat ng mismong malalapit kay Mayor,” Abe told Rappler.

(It’s just point-point. You be secretary here, you be in charge of this. There is no process. That’s what shocked those close to Mayor.) 

One such surprising appointment was that of lawyer and Duterte fraternity brother Vitaliano Aguirre II for the post of justice secretary.

Aguirre himself said he didn’t expect the appointment when he came over to Matina Enclaves to congratulate Duterte for his victory.

Michael Dino, Duterte’s chosen presidential assistant for the Visayas, also said he was offered his position on the spot when he had just visited to congratulate the President-elect.

Mark Villar's appointment

But the most controversial appointment of all was that of Mark Villar to lead the Department of Public Works and Highways. It stank of conflict of interest because of the Villars’ real estate and public utility businesses.

A source says Villar was indeed expected to be in Duterte’s Cabinet by members of his transition committee, but as trade and industry secretary. It would have been a better fit because Villar chairs the House committee on trade. 

Villar made his appearance at Matina Enclaves with his parents, Manny and Cynthia, and Duterte’s running mate Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. (READ: Inside the clubhouse where Duterte holds court)

That day, the Nacionalista Party, of which Manny Villar is president, agreed to enter into a coalition with Duterte’s PDP-Laban. 

Later that night, Mark Villar released a statement saying he had accepted Duterte’s “offer” of the DPWH post. No such announcement of the offer was made to media at Matina Enclaves, however, even as Duterte’s spokespersons were announcing other appointments. 

Assuming the rumors are true, who convinced Duterte to appoint Villar as DPWH head instead of DTI? Word is the whisperer was Cayetano, who perhaps wanted to do something for the president of his party. 

So what happened to Duterte’s public declaration that he would automatically reject candidates suggested by politicians?

Cayetano has not responded to Rappler's request for comment as of writing.

Where is Trudeau-like Cabinet?

But one doesn’t have to look far to see there are differences between Duterte and his transition committee composed of his campaign manager, campaign spokesman, lawyer friends, and executive assistant.

For one thing, where is the Justin Trudeau-inspired Cabinet promised by campaign spokesman Peter Laviña during the days the transition team had been meeting to form a list of candidates? 

Duterte was not present in these meetings, choosing to recuperate “in the mountains.” 

But the team claimed to have the blessing of Duterte to go ahead and vet candidates for him.

Instead of the gender-balanced and youthful Trudeau-like Cabinet, most of the appointees are former Cabinet secretaries or else “buddies” of Duterte. 

So far, there is only one woman out of the list of official appointees, even if the transition team announced outgoing Senator Pia Cayetano would be their adviser on appointing more women. How involved is Cayetano now that Duterte is in the picture? 

Cayetano's staff says she has yet to discuss women appointees with Duterte since she had to fly out of the country immediately after the transition committee asked for her help.

While some members of the transition team have received positions (Bingbong Medialdea as executive secretary and Sonny Dominguez as finance secretary), others appear to have been passed over.

Take Peter Laviña, Duterte’s campaign spokesman who, some say, would have been a logical choice for presidential spokesman given his background in journalism. Instead, the post went to Ampatuan lawyer Salvador Panelo.

Laviña and Panelo chose not to respond to Rappler's request for comment.

Duterte's campaign manager, Jun Evasco, has said he is not keen on joining Duterte’s Cabinet. He declined the post of interior and local government secretary, saying he wants to help the Duterte administration in other ways.

There are appeals to the public to give Duterte's Cabinet appointees a chance to prove their worth.

And, after all, the appointments are not final until June 30 when Cabinet members take their oath.

Will Duterte still change his mind? – 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.

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