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During the martial law years, passage through JP Laurel National Road in front of Malacañang Palace was a complicated experience. One had to go through a series of checkpoints and barbed wire barricades set up around the JP Laurel-Arlegui complex and depending on the security situation of the times, you could be stopped and made to take a detour elsewhere. There were also civil disturbance control units positioned all over the place in the event of emergency situations developing.

One distinguishing feature of the Cory administration, at least during its early months, was the free and unimpeded passage of vehicles through JP Laurel Road, particularly the portion alongside the Palace. Perhaps, this was a way of indicating change in terms of open and easy access to the seat of power.

Unfortunately, this change did not last very long. When rumors of coup attempts started to proliferate, we were soon faced with barricades and roadblocks that virtually placed JP Laurel Road off-limits to public and private transportation. Of course, the government spokesman at the time, Press Secretary Teodoro Benigno, would dismiss the coup rumors as “just so much sound and fury.” The New Armed Forces of the Philippines (NAFP) would deny any unusual troop movements, saying that precautionary measures were aimed at “forestalling violence that may be initiated by MILF elements in Metro Manila.”

What was the ordinary citizen supposed to make of all these rumors and conflicting government pronouncements?

After a while, I came up with an accurate gauge of how serious the coup rumors were. Approaching from Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard (old Sta. Mesa), if you could get through JP Laurel all the way to the San Miguel Pro Cathedral, things were pretty normal; if you were met by roadblocks and checkpoints manned by troopers who nevertheless waved you on, things were not too bad; however, if those soldiers ordered you away, you were in trouble; and finally, if you were faced with roadblocks and checkpoints manned by  troopers on tanks and armored personnel carriers, it meant you were in deep trouble.

* * *

Last week, my good friend Jesli Lapus organized a dinner to welcome the new president of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), Dr. Steven J. DeKrey, with his wife Veronica. Jing Lapus, aside from the many activities he is involved in, is currently the chairman of the Triple A Club, Philippines, an association of Filipino AIM graduates who have been awarded the AIM Alumni Achievement Award, the Triple A, given by the Institute to its outstanding alumni. Since AIM produced its first products in 1970, a total of 121 alumni out of over 39,000 degree holders have so far been recognized for outstanding achievements in various fields of professional, entrepreneurial and developmental endeavors. Of this number,  49 Filipinos have been honored with the Triple A Award.

The venue for the dinner hosted by Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma was Casa Roces located along JP Laurel National Road. I hadn’t been to Malacañang Palace in ages and passing through Laurel Road brought back memories of the changes that were part of historical events. This time, there were no barbed wires, no container vans to block passage, and troopers manning the checkpoints waved us on quickly as we slowed down for identification. I said to myself, No coup rumors floating around these days. The Presidential Security Group commander under Cory was Col. Voltaire Gazmin. Some 25 years later, Gazmin is secretary of national defense under a second Aquino presidency.

Aside from Sonny Coloma who pointed out his offices just across from our dining room, the other Triple A awardees present were Arthur Aguilar, president of Power Generating Group of MetroBank; Freddie Xeres-Burgos of Landco, easily the most famous barangay captain of the country (Ayala Alabang); Boy de Claro, formerly of Wyeth Pharmaceutical; Chito Francisco, president of MIESCOR; Francis Estrada, seventh president of AIM and, if I may add, chairman, Philippine Military Academy Board of Visitors; Philip Juico, president of Wack Wack Golf & Country Club; Ed Limon, of telecom services fame; Chichos Luciano, president of Clark International Airport Corporation; and Rene Valencia of Roxas and Company (First Captain, PMA Class 1963)—virtually a Who’s Who in Philippine business.

The ladies present were Christina Estrada, Mariel Francisco, Nanette Luciano, Sandy Ocampo, Marlene Valencia and my wife Penny. A special guest was Dennis Valdes, an alumnus of Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management and a diving friend of Steve DeKrey. Greg Atienza, executive managing director, Alumni Relations Office, was also with us.

* * *

The new president of AIM is the ninth head of the Institute. He succeeds Edilberto de Jesus, a former secretary of education who also served as president of Far Eastern University and the University of the Cordilleras in Baguio City.

Steve DeKrey attended Bemidji State for his BS, the University of Wisconsin for his MS, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University for his MBA and the University of Iowa for his PhD.

He has over 30 years experience in education and leadership development. For 16 years he helped build Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) Business School into one of Asia’s leading management institutions. From a new and unknown entity, HKUST is now a school of international prominence with its full-time MBA program and the Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA Program consistently ranking among the world’s Top 10, according to the Financial Times. The EMBA program has held the No. 1 position for the past three years.

Four decades ago, AIM was the only one of its kind in Southeast Asia offering a full-time post-graduate management degree for an international group of students. Our neighbors have since come up with their own programs, some in partnership with other institutions around the world. We may have fallen under the radar screen in recent years and there is work to be done if we are to regain our former position among business schools in the region. Steve DeKrey is a major part of the process.


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