Monday, September 24, 2018
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Business Matters

Executive search for next president

IT IS easy to set selection criteria for the next president: He or she should be both honest and competent as an executive. Realistically, however, it is highly probable that the majority of the voters may make their decisions on the basis of other sets of criteria. We may actually end up with a president who is honest but lacks experience as a decisive executive. Or we may get a leader whose record in good governance leaves a lot to be desired but who is decisive and results-oriented.

The next best thing I can do if my candidate is not chosen is to help whoever will be the next president to choose the best people for his or her Cabinet. Having been around for at least 40 years participating in development efforts, I have met countless people in various areas of expertise in government service. A good number of them are both honest and competent.


To increase the chances that the next president will choose Cabinet members on the basis of merit rather than personal friendship or blood relations, I will risk being presumptuous by presenting a list of individuals I would choose for my Cabinet if I were the president. I am doing this to encourage groups and other individuals to submit their own lists so that the next administration will have many choices of honest and competent people to head the various executive departments. Whatever personal weaknesses the next president may have can be partly compensated by the strengths of honest and competent members of the Cabinet.

Let me be blunt in illustrating this point. President Benigno Aquino III will be remembered as having laid a solid foundation for good governance. However, he was lacking in executive ability. Even his strongest supporters admit that he has never been a good manager. To compensate for this weakness, there are at least three members of his Cabinet who have done wonders in improving the running of departments notorious for corruption or lack of results. I refer to Secretaries Rogelio Singson of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Armin Luistro of the Department of Education, and Ramon Jimenez of the Department of Tourism. In my opinion, these departments saw the greatest improvement in good governance and positive results. Subject to their acceptance, the next president would do well to retain these three for at least the first two or three years of the next administration so that they can consolidate the reforms they have introduced.

As for the other key departments that will be crucial for the attainment of sustainable and inclusive growth, here are my recommendations. Apart from integrity and competence, I also considered their relative youth and good health. (In principle, I did not include anyone who is much above 70.)

For the Department of Finance, I recommend Omar Cruz, former national treasurer; Jojo Dispo, former president of First Metro Investment Corp.;  Vaughn Montes, a board member of the Development Bank of the Philippines; and Anton Periquet, a prominent financial analyst and industrial economist.

For the Department of Agriculture, I recommend Rolando Dy, executive director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific; Miguel Dominguez, former governor of Sarangani; Jet Parma, CEO of an agribusiness multinational company; and Gina Bautista Martin, present administrator of the Sugar Regulatory Commission.

For the Department of Transportation and Communications, my candidates are Juan Peña, former head of the Philippine Ports Authority; Ramoncito Fernandez, manager of infrastructure projects of the First Pacific Group; Henry Basilio, transportation specialist now working for USAID; and Dante Lantin, assistant secretary of administration, DOTC.

To take the place of Singson at the DPWH after two or three years, I recommend Mark Dumol, infrastructure executive at the San Miguel Group; Mabini Pablo, former undersecretary of DPWH; George Consunji, CEO of DMCI; and Robert Castillo, CEO of Engineering Equipment.

For the Department of Energy, I recommend John Alcordo of Team Energy; Oliver Butalid, former member of the Energy Regulatory Commission; Guido Delgado, former president of National Power Corp.; and Ed Chua, CEO of Shell Philippines.

For the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, I recommend Mahar Lagmay and Carlos Arcilla, both of NOAH (or the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) of the University of the Philippines.


Finally, for the Department of Trade and Industry, I recommend Adrian Cristobal Jr., the present secretary; Thomas Aquino, former undersecretary of DTI; Jose Antonio Buencamino, assistant secretary of DTI assigned to Geneva; Ramon Quesada, former president of the Small Business Corp.; and Leo Dominguez, former managing partner of Quisumbing Torres Law Office.

I have less exposure to the other professions involved, so I have fewer names for the Departments of Health and of Social Welfare and Development. For the former, I recommend Dr. Ernest Dawson, medical director of the DBP; Dr. Jimmy Montorja, consultant on infectious diseases of the Department of Science and Technology; and Dr. Antonio Colanoc, prominent orthopedic specialist and prolife advocate. For the latter, my candidates are Ma. Socorro L. Bautista, executive director of the Madrigal Foundation; Esther Santos, executive director of Smart Foundation; and Maria Dolores Tanseco del Rosario, head of the Resiliency Program for Street Children of the Center for Family Ministry.

I can vouch for the executive ability and integrity of each one of these persons.

Bernardo M. Villegas ( is senior vice president of the University of Asia and the Pacific.

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