(From left) Former Labor secretary Benny Laguesma, former Trade and Finance chief and now Philippine Stock Exchange chair Titoy Pardo, former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno and Agriculture Secretary William Dar with the author.
MIKE ABOUT TOWN - Atty. Mike Toledo (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2020 - 12:00am

Back in May 2016, when Rodrigo Roa Duterte had just claimed victory in the national elections as the country’s chief executive, a noted political analyst in a TV interview said that he was confident that the then-presumptive President would appoint the right individuals to his Cabinet, “following the example of former President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada.”

The known political scientist said that Estrada recognized that a president “cannot run the country on charisma alone” and that he needed highly competent individuals in top positions in the executive department.

He said that the Estrada Cabinet was “top-notch” because the former President recognized the value of having the best and the brightest as Cabinet members. He also mentioned that Duterte is a veteran politician who “recognized the need for able aides.” Sure enough, President Duterte appointed top-notch individuals to his Cabinet, and some of them were former Estrada officials.

Why let good talent go to waste, right? So long as these women and men were still willing to serve the government and the public, then why deny them and the Filipino people of this opportunity.

(Seated, from left) Former senator and first lady Dr. Loi Ejercito, former President Erap, Titoy Pardo and Ben Diokno; (standing, from left) former presidential chief of staff secretary Ramon ‘Eki’ Cardenas, former presidential management staff head secretary Lenny de Jesus, former national security adviser Alex Aguirre, Secretary William Dar, former NEDA director general and socio-economic planning secretary Philip Medalla, former Transport secretary Jun Rivera and former Labor secretary Benny Laguesma. (Not in photo is former PLLO secretary Jimmy Policarpio.)

Surely, then-President Erap had the charisma, no doubt, but when it came to operationalizing his dreams and aspirations for the Filipino people, then he had to rely on a few good men (and women) to carry these through.

I served as Press secretary and presidential spokesperson.

The Duterte Cabinet members who were once Erap Cabinet members are Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, who served as Erap’s presidential assistant for political affairs and administrator of the National Livelihood Development Corp; Lito Banayo, current chairman of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan, who was Erap’s presidential adviser on political affairs and general manager of the Philippine Tourism Authority; Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who was also Agriculture secretary during Erap’s time; Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin Diokno, who also served as Budget secretary for President Duterte and President Erap; and Education Secretary Leonor Briones, who was then the National Treasurer during the Erap administration.

Former President and mayor Erap and  members of his cabinet do get together regularly. And when we get together, ahh, a mini-concert often ensues, as we all love music and we do love to sing.

In fact, when Ben Diokno recently hosted at the Philippine International Convention Center, you could have sworn, if you happen to be in the vicinity, that there was a concert with the range of singers and their respective repertoire.

There is an English catchphrase that goes that “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” Well, in this case, old (with reference to being of the past and not of age) Cabinet officials never die nor fade away, they just soldier on, in song and in service.

Speaking of soldiering on in service, the times we find ourselves in now have been quite challenging, to say the least.

During this season of Lent, and at this time of strict home quarantine, we do well to pause and to reflect, to come closer to our faith, to always cling to hope, and salvation, and, above all, love.

As a popular saying goes, “Life is good when you are happy, but much better when others are happy because of you.”

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