Enrique Ona

Survey says, 'it's the economy, stupid!'

The latest polling by Pulse Asia on the Performance Rating of the Top 5 Government Officials and Selected Cabinet Members and Other Government Officials shows the administration of PNoy still enjoying tremendous public support. The survey which was conducted from October 20-29, 2010 cemented the impression provided by the SWS national survey which was held from September 24-27, 2010 that PNoy’s ratings have almost returned to their previous highs right after the election.

It is perhaps worthwhile recalling why such trust ratings are important. Trust is a measure of social cohesion, which when it breaks down, makes the business of governing all the more difficult. It is important over the coming years for PNoy’s trust ratings to rub-off on the government itself. When people trust their government, they are more willing to pay their taxes correctly. There is a greater level of civic participation and involvement when trust and social cohesion are present. Without these, gridlock and polarization result as what we witnessed in the aftermath of the US mid-term elections. Read more

Purisima richest, Luistro poorest in Cabinet

Purisima richest, Luistro poorest in Cabinet
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Finance Secretary Cesar Purisma is the Aquino administration’s richest Cabinet member with a net worth of over P252 million while Education Secretary Armin Luistro is the least moneyed with only over P89,000.

The figures were based on the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) submitted by the two officials and 16 other Cabinet members to the Commission on Appointments. Luistro declared his annual gross salary at P989,496.

Purisima, one of the campaign contributors of President Aquino, listed business interests – in partnership with his wife Maria Corazon – in at least four corporations.

The Finance secretary owns Filhouse Gem Inc., which he acquired on Feb. 24, 1997.

Purisima’s wife listed 20 to 23.53 percent share in MHC Commercial Corp., Zurcaled Realty and Development, and Archimedes Realty and Development Corp.

Purisima’s real properties include a condominium in Wack Wack Tower in Mandaluyong City; a unit in Villa Milagrosa Townhouse in San Pedro, Laguna; a house and lot in Ayala Alabang which he co-owned with his father and two sisters, and a condominium in Pinecrest, Tagaytay.

The second richest in the Aquino Cabinet is Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo whose net worth for this year is more than P151 million. He listed his wife, Rowena, as being a shareholder in Rights Security.

Following Domingo was Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras with a net worth of over P129 million.

Almendras reported owning a BMW 520-I worth P3.7 million, which he acquired in 2005 in addition to three other cars.

In his SALN, Almendras also listed P3.58 million in club shares and P9.264 million in various shares of stocks, and bank deposits/placement/foreign current placements amounting to P57.825 million.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, former congressman of the second district of Quezon, has a total net worth of more than P87 million comprising 10 real properties, a number of vehicles and some investments.

Alcala has a real estate mortgage worth P11,447 million, three car loans with various banks as well as personal loan.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson listed net worth of more than P84 million.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona, former executive director of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, reported total net worth of over P77 million.

Ona included in his assets P74.441 million in stocks and investments, P2.596 million in motor vehicles, P1.317 million in cash and jewelry, and P500,000 in medical instruments.

Ona’s liabilities included P5.2 million in personal loans and income tax payables.

Science Secretary Mario Montejo reported more than P53 million net worth.

Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim listed close to P47 million net worth.

Lim reported being a shareholder in the Aldaba-Lim Foundation; Phil. Playhouse Inc; The Ancient Pergamom Holdings Inc., among other firms.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has a net worth of over P23 million listing among others investments in Tagaytay Highlands, Malarayat Golf and Country Club, and Great Cakes Inc, and a number of real estate properties.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. listed his net worth at P16.081 million with no liability.

Ochoa included in his assets a condominium unit in Quezon City, a house and lot in Ferndale Homes also in Quezon City and a lot in Pulilan, Bulacan.

National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia reported P15.6 million in net worth.

Agrarian Reform Virgilio de los Reyes has a net worth of P15.042 million. De los Reyes listed several real properties in Lian and Balayan, Batangas; Obando in Bulacan, and Malabon totaling P8.786 million.

Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo’s net worth totaled P5.7 million while Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has P3.2 million.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman has a total net worth of P2.125 million. Environment Secretary Ramon Jesus Paje’s SALN showed his net worth at P3.2 million, but he did not submit SALN documents to the CA because his name was not submitted for confirmation by the Palace. The CA received no SALN from Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo and Socioeconomic Secretary Cayetano Paderanga.

So far, the CA has only started the confirmation hearings on Luistro and Almendras. The CA has set a confirmation hearing for Lim on Dec. 8. – Aurea Calica


1. CESAR PURISIMA (finance) P252 M

2. GREGORY DOMINGO (trade) P151 M

3. JOSE ALMENDRAS (energy) P 129 M

4. PROCESO ALCALA (agriculture) P87 M

5. ROGELIO SINGSON (public works) P84.4 M

6. ENRIQUE ONA (health) P77.5 M

7. MARIO MONTEJO (science) P53.1 M

8. ALBERTO LIM (tourism) P46.9 M

9. VOLTAIRE GAZMIN (defense) P23.1 M

10. HERMINIO COLOMA (communications) P14.7

11. PAQUITO OCHOA (executive secretary) P16 M

12. CESAR GARCIA (national security) P15.6 M

13. VIRGILIO DELOS REYES (agrarian reform) P15 M

14. ALBERTO ROMULO (foreign affairs) P5.7 M

15. LEILA DE LIMA (justice) P3.29 M

16. RAMON PAJE (environment) P3.25 M

17. CORAZON SOLIMAN (social welfare) P2.1 M

18. ROSALINDA BALDOZ (labor) P1.7 M

19. ARMIN LUISTRO (education) P89,000

Noy lauded for remaining firm on RH Bill support

Noy lauded for remaining firm on RH Bill support
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star

House Minority Leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Mr. Aquino “needs to be complemented and supported for standing firm against the Catholic hierarchy in his advocacy for responsible parenthood and contraceptive use based on freedom of informed choice.”

Curiously though, a prominent member of the House minority bloc, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is against the RH Bill and has co-authored a pro-life measure to protect the rights of the unborn.

“The steadfast position of the President on voluntary family planning is an unequivocal endorsement for the enactment of a comprehensive and nationwide statute on reproductive health and population development,” Lagman said.

Aquino alliance rocked by factions, interests (Last of three parts)

(Series by VERA Files; first published in The Manila Times)

Another source also said that President Aquino was reluctant to sign the appointment papers of Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo that was causing complications in foreign relations. Although Romulo took his oath of office first week of July, his appointment was signed only on August 10. As a result, Romulo missed the 43rd meeting of foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi on July 20, since his lack of an official appointment prevented him from signing official international agreements for the Philippines.

Sources also cited the appointment of Education Secretary Armin Luistro, former president of De La Salle University, as another case of utang na loob [debt of gratitude]. The La Salle brothers had offered their Greenhills campus as the venue for the wake former President Corazon Aquino, who died August last year, when the Ateneo de Manila University and Santo Domingo Church were unavailable.

Luistro was appointed despite his lack of expertise in basic education, according to Aquino supporters, in the process shutting out former Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz who had helped craft President Aquino’s education agenda during the campaign.

In many cases, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. admits, the last word on appointments rests with him and the President. The two enjoy a friendship that dates back to when their fathers were Liberal Party members in the 1960s. Ochoa’s father was former mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan.

Classmates Inc.

In 1998, Ochoa became President Aquino’s legal counsel when the latter was elected to the House of Representatives. President Aquino’s first choice was Eulalio “Galland” Diaz 3rd, his classmate at Ateneo, but Diaz was not available.

Ochoa took pre-law studies at the University of Santo Tomas but enrolled at the Ateneo Law School where he had for classmates those who attended Ateneo undergrad with President Aquino, including Diaz and now Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona Jr.

Many of President Aquino’s classmates who went to the Ateneo Law School belong to Class of 1985 whose class valedictorian was Edward Serapio, who was once former President Joseph Estrada’s lawyer and was jailed along with him on charges of plunder. Serapio was subsequently acquitted.

In fact, President Aquino has fallen back on his classmates at the Ateneo in his search for appointees, leading critics to dub them as “Kaklase [Classmates] Incorporated.”

Among those who have been named to the Aquino government are Kim Jacinto-Henares, Diaz as administrator of the Land Registration Authority, Rene Almendras as Energy Secretary, Cristino Naguiat as chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., and Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado.

Other Atenean lawyers in Aquino’s government are Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Juan Andres Bautista as chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government, Pio Lorenzo Batino as defense undersecretary, Michael Frederick Musngi as deputy executive secretary, and Francis Tolentino as chairman of the Metro Manila Development Authority. A number of them were part of the group called Pinoy Lawyers that served as the legal arm of the Aquino campaign in the elections on May.

Ochoa said he and President Aquino act like they are still members of a barkada and are often the only two officials at Malacañang’s Premier Guesthouse. “Ang lungkot sa Premier Guesthouse. Kami lang dalawa ni Noynoy [It’s lonely at the Premier Guesthouse; it’s just the two of us],” he said.

Barkada-style relationship

The barkada-style relationship prevails to this day and Ochoa said he often forgets he is dealing with the President. During a meeting with World Bank, Ochoa said, he answered Aquino with a “Sige, pare [Okay, dude].”

“Then I corrected myself. ‘Mr. Pre-sident,’” he said.

This relationship and his position as executive secretary, often considered the “little president,” have practically given him a monopoly on the President’s attention. When President Aquino didn’t like the names recommended by the search committee to head the Department of Science and Technology, he turned to Ochoa for help.

“He [Aquino] said he didn’t know anyone on the list. So I offered to consult my brother-in-law,” Ochoa recalled, referring to Mario Montejo, a mechanical engineer.

But Ochoa said that the President instead replied, “Bakit hindi siya [Why not him]?”

Ochoa also said he recommended Enrique Ona as Health secretary after hearing about his work at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute. “I know him only by reputation,” he added.

Critics have slammed Ona’s appointment, especially his promotion of the sale of organs for transplant. “He is for Filipinos to sell their organs. That’s against medical ethics. It’s exploitation of the poor. One donates organ to save another life, not for pay,” said a leading doctor.

Ona and Romulo are said to be among five individuals recommended by the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC), a two-million-strong church group whose support the LP reportedly courted during the campaign. The INC also recommended the appointments of Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and National Bureau of Investigation chief Magtanggol Gatdula.

Paje, however, was named in an acting capacity to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources portfolio that would reportedly be given to former Rep. Nereus Acosta of Bukidnon, the President’s fellow Liberal Party member, who lost in the senatorial race. Acosta is covered by the one-year appointment ban on losing candidates.

Ochoa acknowledges that “everyone tries to influence” the President in the appointments. In cases when his advisers clash, the executive secretary said he and Aquino end up having the last say.

But he also said, “At the end of the day, it’s P-Noy [President Aquino] who decides. It’s the personal choice of the President. It’s his personal judgment.”

(Read the first part here and the second part here.)

In his own words: Why they’re Aquino’s Chosen

In his own words: Why they’re Aquino’s Chosen
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHO IS THE CABINET member whose “first assignment” is to get at least “three hours of sleep” daily? Who did President Aquino have to “beg” to join his official family? And who “possesses 80 percent” of his brain?

Backed by an overwhelming electoral mandate, Mr. Aquino has assembled a team of new faces and old hands—a number of them from the Cabinet of his mother, the late former President Corazon Aquino—to help him take on the huge task of running the country.

Here, in his own words, are the key men and women who will help bring about the “real change” that he promised during the campaign.

PAQUITO “JOJO” OCHOA JR. (executive secretary). I’m not a lawyer; Jojo has helped me understand the intricacies of the law ever since I started in public office. Our relationship is on a second-generation basis already.

Our parents were allies in the Liberal Party, and we have been consistent allies throughout our lives. He has given me the most sound advice on so many matters pertaining to my work as legislator. Therefore, I’m very confident of his role as the guardian of my back. He’s more than qualified.

ALBERTO ROMULO (foreign secretary). He has graciously consented to retain his position. And we are very fortunate to have him as a senior member of the Cabinet.

CESAR PURISIMA (finance secretary). I think his credentials speak for himself. But for most of these people, their credentials speak for themselves.

LEILA DE LIMA (justice secretary). I am very sure you are familiar with the quality of her work. The judicial branch is a very important portion of our platform, and again we are very fortunate to get her to consent to carrying the burden primarily for judicial reform.

VOLTAIRE GAZMIN (defense secretary). Perhaps he is one of the key people who gave me the opportunity to be present before you because he took good care of us [throughout] the numerous coup attempts during my mom’s incumbency. And then there is his continuous dedication to the Filipino people in this very abnormal situation we find our country in.

BR. ARMIN LUISTRO FSC (education secretary). I think his coming from the Ateneo de Manila University already speaks highly of his qualifications, that I begged him to join the Cabinet.”

FLORENCIO ABAD (budget secretary). The Department of Budget and Management will have as its head my mentor, who is obviously older than me. He has been a five-time congressman.

The budget is the enabler of all our policy decisions. We believe he is the best person at the present time to assist us in judiciously spending the people’s funds.

CAYETANO PADERANGA JR. (socioeconomic planning secretary). We will have a National Economic and Development Authority that will give us sound advice based on economic, and not political, considerations.

PROCESO ALCALA (agriculture secretary). One of his innovations was to enable farmers in his district to have a centralized market where buyers and farmers deal with each other directly, bereft of middlemen. This increased profits of farmers and dropped prices for consumers.

He has been heavily involved in environmental concerns in and outside Quezon. Organic farming and so many aspects of agriculture have been his advocacies.

RAMON PAJE (environment secretary). He graciously agreed to serve as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

JOSE DE JESUS (transportation and communications secretary). He served in my mother’s Cabinet, both as secretary to the Cabinet and as public works secretary. He was one of the most, if not the most, hardworking members of my mother’s Cabinet.

As public works secretary, he slept three hours a day to make sure government projects were done in a timely and correct manner. His only luxury was a five-hour rest period on Sundays.

His first assignment is to make sure he sleeps more than three hours a day because he is a work-driven individual who will oversee the transformation of the Department of Transportation and Communications, which was characterized by the NBN-ZTE deal, into an agency that truly serves the interests of the people.

ROSALINDA BALDOZ (labor secretary). She used to head the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, among other agencies. Her concentration also is on the workings of the National Labor Relations Commission, which, we believe, is in need of very strong reforms. We find in her the capability to make the labor department truly responsive to the needs of the working man.

ENRIQUE ONA (health secretary). In our interview, we saw in him the potential to become a complete alter-ego, especially given the fact that the health agenda is No. 3 on our platform. And he has been given instructions specifically to expedite universal coverage of PhilHealth, which is one of our campaign promises.

ALBERTO LIM (tourism secretary). He has been involved in various business endeavors including the setting up of [the world-class resorts of] El Nido and Amanpulo.

The bottom line is that tourism is seen as one of the key venues for increasing jobs. We need someone who has proven competence in this field. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will have as aggressive and successful a campaign as Thailand’s with regard to visits by Filipinos there.

GREGORY DOMINGO (trade and industry secretary). He served as undersecretary for the Board of Investments, and also was executive director of SM Investments Corp. and international trade law and business law lecturer of De La Salle University’s MBA program.

We see the trade and industry portfolio as very essential, to be headed by a very competent individual who will foster the necessary trade and investments that will lead to the fulfillment of the first part of our platform, job generation.

CORAZON SOLIMAN (social welfare secretary). She needs no introduction.

MARIO MONTEJO (science and technology secretary). He is a man of numerous titles, meaning many degrees, and a person I have known for decades. He is among a group of academicians who set up a corporation to translate their scientific studies into practical and applied technology for their countrymen.

Among their inventions were deep-well filters which were previously imported from Australia to the tune of 80 percent. They designed the filters and also invented the machinery to produce all these filters.

Are you familiar with the amusement park Water Fun, the first that featured slides, waves, etc.? That was Filipino technology—Dr. Montejo and his team’s effort.

None of it was licensed from abroad. It was Filipino-designed, -enhanced, and -experimented.

We expect him at the helm of the Department of Science and Technology to provide the backup for any agency that would propose projects involving technical considerations—be it the creation of a dam or the provision of IT services—to include the capability of Phivolcs and Pagasa.

We want an agency that can completely evaluate the proposals presented to us.

The current practice is to ask the proponent to evaluate and justify his proposal, which I think is counterproductive. The DOST under Dr. Montejo will be a real partner as an agent of change.

JOSE RENE ALMENDRAS (energy secretary). I’ve known him since our college days. He is a very good friend of mine and [was] with Manila Water. His main training is in finance.

For the energy portfolio, obviously we want somebody who is not part of the industry inasmuch as there will be a lot of dealings with the industry. We do not want to fall into a trap of regulatory capture.

He has proven competence in the various firms he has headed and worked for. This enables him to handle the Department of Energy, which is primarily a finance-heavy component of our Cabinet.

ROGELIO SINGSON (public works secretary). He has a very extensive CV and is not a stranger to most of us. It is coincidental that he [was] with Maynilad.

Hopefully, our water utility sector will not suffer with his and Almendras’ absence.

VIRGILIO DELOS REYES (agrarian reform secretary). I met him for the first time at the interview and I was very impressed with his knowledge of the problems pertaining to agrarian reform… which unfortunately are not covered by the Carper law.

Hopefully he will help us craft amendments to make sure the Department of Agrarian Reform is able to fulfill its primary mandate of empowering farmer beneficiaries throughout the country.

TERESITA QUINTOS-DELES (presidential adviser on the peace process). She is the second most closely guarded secret among the Cabinet appointees.

JULIA ABAD (Presidential Management Staff chief). I have been served faithfully by her ever since I became a senator three years ago. She has undergone extensive schooling. But more than that, she has my absolute trust, having run my office. If I have been able to do anything in the Senate, it is because of her. I think she possesses 80 percent of the brain I am holding. (See story on Page A1).

EDWIN LACIERDA (presidential spokesperson). He has been, will be, and hopefully will always be [my spokesperson].

EDUARDO DE MESA (presidential legal counsel). He is one of the first lawyers who helped when I took on public service in 1998.

PATRICIA LICUANAN (Commission on Higher Education chair). She will, as her primary mission, rectify the current situation where the agency tasked to oversee higher educational institutions seems to be sleeping on the job. For example, we have over 40 nursing schools who have not had a single board passer for quite a long time.

She will refocus CHEd so that it will serve the interest of the people rather than institutions that have no right to set up courses they are not competent in teaching.

KIM JACINTO HENARES (Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner). She has been functioning in effect as secretary to the Cabinet in all the policy briefings that I have been subjected to. She has been very effective in answering a lot of questions in my rushed preparations for the presidential campaign.

More importantly, it is through her and the customs commissioner (whom we have yet to designate) that we hope to recover the tax collection efficiency first demonstrated by the Ramos administration, and, together with the finance secretary, give us the needed revenues without unnecessarily resorting to new taxes.