As of yesterday morning as I started writing this, presumptive president Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has already named seven people to his Cabinet. That's about a fourth of the entire retinue he needs to gather as his team, there being 22 executive departments plus a number of agencies operating under the office of the president. I like the choices made so far, except one for whom I have reservations.
This early, the nominees appear to hew closely to an earlier promise BBM made that his official family can include even "non-political allies" provided they are fit for the job. Two names leap out at once: Bienvenido Laguesma to head labor, Arsenio Balisacan to head NEDA. Both already served previously in the same capacities, Laguesma under Joseph Estrada, Balisacan under Noynoy Aquino.
The other appointees are, without question, friends and allies. The president, after all, needs to surround himself with people he can trust. And so BBM's running mate and presumptive vice president Sara Duterte Carpio has been assigned to Education. His chief of staff and spokesman Vic Rodriguez will be executive secretary. Susan Ople whose father was in the Marcos Sr. Cabinet, will handle the migrant workers portfolio.
The next two nominees are Benhur Abalos to DILG and Crispin Remulla to Justice. I have no question about one but have reservations about the other. Abalos was former chairman of MMDA and so he should make a good interior and local government secretary. Remulla, however, is too much of a politico for something that ought to be as politically sterile as the Department of Justice.
I have nothing against Remulla as a person. I do not know him personally. And I am pretty sure that he is a good enough lawyer to otherwise qualify him for the job. Except that he is too identifiably a politician, his image might obscure the picture he needs to project as Justice secretary in a bad way. While undoubtedly highly competent and very qualified, Remulla at Justice will be a magnet for intrigues detrimental to Marcos.
Let's face it. Justice is not the same as DILG, or Foreign Affairs, or Labor, or any other department where a consummate politician might easily take to, like a duck to water. In the Justice department, there is a sense of political detachment that is required, a sense of political deodorization prior to entry in a highly-sensitive and sanitized environment. A durian in first class mid-flight might prove to be a difficult situation.
If not for his deep political immersion, Remulla no doubt might make a good Justice secretary. For it is neither his qualification nor his capability that can make things quite uneasy but the perception of his function. It is an uneasiness easily triggered by bad memories of a former Justice secretary defying a Supreme Court ruling for no more compelling reason than politics and political interests.
Only seven nominees have been named so far. There are still 20 or so more posts to fill, any of which Remulla certainly could have filled. But then again the presumptive president has apparently already made his choices. We who wish him all the success, considering that this is his last and only chance, can only hope that he not only looks at the qualifications but also at the consequences.
BBM has to remember that there is a very thin line that separates success from failure and that failure, as far as he is concerned, will likely come not because he fell short but because many are working to make him fail. A political capital of more than 31 million votes is a very strong foundation from which to launch his vision. It can also make one complacent enough not to care where the vision falls.