Marcos campaign manager Abalos to head DILG

MMDA chair Benhur Abalos packs his things at his office moments after he declared his resignation during his pressconference on Feb. 7, 2022.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 2:34 p.m.) — Former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin "Benhur" Abalos Jr., campaign manager for Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., has accepted an offer to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Marcos' spokesperson said.

Lawyer Vic Rodriguez made the announcement in a press briefing on Friday. Abalos is a former mayor of Mandaluyong City.

"For the transition team, I would also like to announce that chairman Benhur Abalos has been nominated to lead the Department of the Interior and Local Government and he has accepted the challenged to lead the DILG," he said.

The DILG is tasked with assisting the president in exercising general supervision over local governments. The Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and the Bureau of Fire Protection are among the agencies attached to the department.

So far, only Abalos’ appointment to the DILG and that of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, presumptive vice president-elect, to the Department of Education have been confirmed by the Marcos team.

Rodriguez also disowned a supposed list of propsective Cabinet members that has been circulating on social media. Among the rumored appointments are Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list) for justice secretary and retired professor Clarita Carlos for foreign affairs chief.

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"There’s no truth to that apparent list. There is no list," Rodriguez said, adding that the only two announced nominations are true.

Abalos resigned from his post at the MMDA to serve as Marcos' campaign manager on February 7, a day before the proclamation rally for the UniTeam.

As MMDA chair, Abalos was instrumental in urging unity among Metro Manila's local chief executives in their pandemic response initiatives. The capital region's mayors collaborated in pushing for vaccination and for movement restrictions on the unvaccinated, among others. 

His father, Benjamin Sr., was appointed OIC of Mandaluyong by then President Corazon Aquino after the 1986 EDSA Revolution that ousted the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr., the leading presidential candidate's father. 

Transition team

Rodriguez said he, Abalos, former Rep. Anton Lagdameo (Davao del Norte), South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. and former Rep. Nadia Angping (Manila) are among the people in Marcos' transition team.

The Palace has formed a counterpart transition team but earlier said talks on the actual transition from President Rodrigo Duterte's administration to that of a likely Marcos one will wait until a winner in the May 9 elections is named. 

Marcos earlier said he would pick Cabinet members based on competence and willingness to work with the next administration, no matter the "political leaning."

Will officials from the past administration be appointed to the Marcos Cabinet?

Rodriguez said they will look into their qualifications and competence first.

"But I think it will be safe [to say], there will be new faces that will comprise the incoming elect BBM cabinet," he added. — a with report from Franco Luna

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