Rating the outgoing Aquino Cabinet secretaries

SPYBITS - The Philippine Star

An informal survey conducted among businessmen disclosed the names of Cabinet secretaries perceived as the best performing, the most unpopular and the most incompetent. Although he is sure to leave the Cabinet by yearend – having already tendered his resignation last September, but prevailed upon by the President to stay on a little longer – Trade Secretary Greg Domingo emerged as number one among the best performing Cabinet officials in the Aquino administration.

He impressed people when early in his tenure, he introduced automation in the department which made life easier for those transacting business, for instance, making it possible to register a business name in as fast as 15 to 20 minutes instead of days. Greg has done a lot of cleaning up as far as record keeping in the DTI is concerned to eliminate tedious and redundant policy issuances as well as administrative orders and implementing rules and regulations, among many, to streamline procedures. 

It’s all these numerous rules and steps and procedures that have made transacting at the DTI such a drag – turnoff, actually – for many local and foreign businessmen. In fact, a Philippine think tank has noted that the difficulty in putting up businesses is one reason why investors have been turning to our neighbors in Asia. But in the words of those who have seen how the outgoing Secretary turned things around – “Greg is leaving the DTI in a much better shape than when he first found it.”

Next on the businessmen’s thumbs up list is Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario whose tireless effort to elevate the Philippine position with regard to our territorial dispute to China has gained so much ground. For a while there, it looked like Albert’s was a “lonely voice” – but now, more and more nations who were initially reluctant are adding their voice to the issue of China’s increasing aggression, realizing the daunting implications of our neighbor’s actions as far as free commerce and navigation is concerned.

Albert, of course, is well loved by overseas Filipino workers for his sincere concern about their plight, especially those who were stranded in conflict-affected areas. Morale at the DFA is also high because a lot of ambassadorial posts are being filled by career diplomats, with less political appointees – something that is very important especially at this time when we need seasoned and experienced men and women to navigate the tricky waters of international diplomacy.

We have yet to hear of any other official who does what Albert has been doing without fail for the last five years – he waives his salary for the entire year and distributes the accumulated total to all the employees of the DFA, from the undersecretaries down to the lowliest worker equally, as a cash “bonus.” The cash gift may not amount to much considering the DFA has over 1,600 employees – but the generous and sincere gesture is something that has kept the DFA employees so proud of their hardworking boss.  

Third on the list of businessmen as among the best performing is DPWH Secretary Babes Singson who is admired for turning the image of the DPWH around from one of the most corrupt in the past to one of the most transparent today. Many pending projects were completed during his watch, but what has gained a most favorable impression is the perception that biddings have become more transparent because Singson will not tolerate any hanky-panky. As a matter of fact, Babes had remarked during the PCCI business forum, which I moderated, that we are “running out of qualified contractors” especially in Mindanao. Just recently, the Public Works Secretary banned several contractors who have failed to deliver on projects for the rehabilitation of Zamboanga City.

Just as there are best performers, there are also the “worst” Cabinet secretaries, and the “top of mind” happens to be Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya. I know Jun to be a nice guy, but unfortunately the traffic mess plus the bumbling heads of DOTC-affiliated agencies such as the LTO and LTFRB have contributed to the very negative perception of people. For instance, the delays in the implementation of big-ticket PPP projects that businessmen lay squarely at the door of the DOTC chief, not to mention the arbitrary changing of rules and the reneging of contracts (the MRT-LRT common station for instance which has spawned a legal battle). But the worst is the decrepit conditions of the MRT trains and the malfunctioning railway system that is making life hell for millions of commuters.

Rounding up the informal survey are Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala whose name has been tied to many irregularities and smuggling accusations – earning for him the dubious distinction of being perceived as one of the “most corrupt” according to the survey. Last, but certainly not the least is BIR chief Kim Henares who came out as the “most unpopular” in the informal survey with businessmen complaining about her “arbitrary targeting” and the issuance of confusing memorandum circulars and guidelines that have given major headaches to businessmen.


Congratulations to Miss Philippines Pia Wurtzbach for winning the Miss Universe 2015 crown – making her the third Filipina to win the coveted title after 42 years. Credit must also go to Binibining Pilipinas Charities chair Stella Marquez Araneta – who must have felt uneasy when host Steve Harvey announced his blunder at initially naming Miss Colombia as pageant winner, because Stella is Colombian although the Philippines has been her home all these years. In the end, she is still the winner for being the guiding light of the Binibining Pilipinas franchise, tirelessly working to help Filipinas achieve their dream of winning in international pageants.


Spy Bits will take a break for the holidays and will be back on Jan. 5 next year. Merry Christmas to all!


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