No more Trudeau-like Cabinet for Duterte?

TAKING FORM. President-elect Rodrigo Duterte holds a meeting with his chosen Cabinet members.

Photo by King Rodriguez

The announcement that the Cabinet of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte will be patterned after that of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was enough to excite Filipinos.

After all, the Trudeau Cabinet has one of the most progressive rosters in the world. The prospect of having something similar in the Philippines was seen as  a silver lining.

A few days after the polls, Duterte’s transition committee spokesperson Peter Laviña announced that the Duterte camp “ideally” wants to pattern the incoming Cabinet after Trudeau’s as “sectors are properly represented.”

With an equal number of men and women aged mostly under 50, the Trudeau Cabinet has been described as gender-balanced and youthful. It includes an Afghan refugee and a Paralympian.

When asked why he decided to have such a mix in his Cabinet, the 44-year-old Prime Minister said, “Because it’s 2015.”

The Davao city mayor himself has said throughout the campaign trail that he wanted “young and brilliant” people in his Cabinet. Laviña had said the president-elect also wanted to appoint people from various ethnic groups and social sectors. (READ: Duterte bares details about his wish list Cabinet)

What happened?

Less than a month before the new administration takes over, the Duterte Cabinet has slowly veered away from the supposed original plan.

Based on the individuals named, the composition of the president-elect’s closest circle in Malacañang is male-dominated and far from youthful.

So far, only two women have been named to the Duterte Cabinet: UP professor Judy Taguiwalo for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and former national treasurer Leonor Briones for the Department of Education. Duterte is eyeing a "lady from the Left" for the National Anti-Poverty Commission.

Former immigration chief Andrea Domingo will be the new Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chief, a non-Cabinet position.

The current number of prospective women appointees in the incoming Cabinet is not what one would expect, considering that Senator Pia Cayetano was tasked to advise the transition committee on recruiting women leaders to the incoming administration. She was supposed to help "identify, vet, and select more women leaders to join government." (READ: Duterte presidency to have more women leaders)

Once finalized, the incoming Cabinet might also be nothing like the Davao City government which Irene Santiago of the Mindanao Commission on Women described as “almost all women. His chief of staff is a woman, more than half of the city councilors are women."

She added that because of this, Duterte is "very comfortable having women in positions of leadership.”

Meanwhile, also unlike Trudeau’s, the only named Cabinet member under the age of 50 – so far – is incoming Public Works Secretary Mark Villar. The Las Piñas Representative and son of former Senate president Manny Villar is 38 years old. He may be the youngest, but he is also one of the more controversial appointments, given his family's business. (READ: DPWH post: Can Mark Villar rise above business interests?)

The others selected to be part of the Duterte administration are in their late 50s to early 70s. In fact, with the current roster, the average age of the incoming Cabinet is 66 years old – 16 years older than the Trudeau threshold.

According to President-elect Duterte, “bright and young” people who initially wanted to join his government declined because of the low government salary. The young ones he approached reportedly “want to be patriotic but the problem is the necessity.” (READ: Duterte: Young Cabinet nominees turned off by low salary)


Among the members of the incoming administration are people who served past presidents, many from the Arroyo administration. While Trudeau said the composition of his Cabinet reflects current times, the emerging Duterte Cabinet appears to be a throwback to past administrations.

One significant difference, though, is the presence of individuals considered to be progressive since Duterte asked for nominees from the Left – a move that no president in recent years had dared to do.

Will Duterte’s Cabinet deliver better than Aquino’s? We have the next 6 years to find out. –

Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.