Sonny Dominguez lugs his own garment bag

FIRST OF all, let me thank the teachers and volunteer workers who contributed their personal time and effort to making the last elections one of the most credible in recent years. For me personally, it was one exercise of a public duty that saw my status as a senior citizen upheld with all its privileges and considerations.

Upon arrival at our voting station located near the Immaculate Conception cathedral in Cubao, Quezon City, I immediately proceeded to line up at the precinct indicated on our voter’s card. A young man walked up to me and courteously advised me to move to the head of the line, signaling his coworkers inside that I was a senior citizen. At the desk manned by teachers, I was provided with a folder containing a ballot sheet and directed to a chair nearby instead of a booth for stand-up voters. After filling out the form, I cast my vote and got my finger marked. In less than 30 minutes, I was out of the place and was heading for home.

Congratulations to the Commission on Elections for a job well done. This also includes the volunteers of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting and the men in uniform—the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines—who kept the peace for all of us.

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A week after the elections, I seem to notice more “Duterte for President” stickers on cars passing by. It goes to show that the old saying “Victory has many fathers and followers; defeat is an orphan” remains as true today as in the past.

One of the more graceful concession speeches I have ever come across was that of losing candidate Mar Roxas.

“It’s not about me. It’s not about anyone. It is about how we love our country and how we will do all that we can for her. She’s the only one.”

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There’s a mad scramble to find the right connection to the new power structure. An impressive resumé would be worthless without the right messenger. According to a reliable source, the man to see is a certain Mr. Hill. When pressed for more information on the mysterious connection to the incoming administration, my friend recalled that during his campaign sorties, Mayor Duterte would always say, “I will iliminate the criminals and drug lords in six months. If you do not believe what I am tilling you, you can go to hill.”

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The only face that is familiar to me from among the newcomers who are reported to be part of the transition team of presumptive President Rody is former agriculture secretary Carlos “Sonny” Dominguez. Let me share with you my experience with the guy. This provides valuable insight into the character of some of the people surrounding the new president.

When Sonny was agriculture chief, I was assigned at the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta, replacing Ambassador Manuel Yan who moved back to Manila as foreign affairs undersecretary.

Among the many duties and responsibilities of an envoy posted abroad is that of greeting and sending off high government officials especially those of Cabinet rank attending regional or international conferences. When the airport is located a good 40 minutes away as in the case of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta, the whole operation, including settling down one’s guests in a hotel, can take up much of your time, leaving your schedule in shambles. Incidentally the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport is located at Cengkareng, about 28 kilometers west of Jakarta. The airport is named after the late president Soekarno and his vice president and one-time prime minister Mohammad Hatta. In the early days of their revolt against the Dutch, the two men complemented each other perfectly. But in the end, Hatta became one of Soekarno’s harshest critics. The airport is probably the only such facility in the world honoring two individuals who were their nation’s first president and vice president.

I particularly recall one Asean Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta because the Cabinet representative sent by Manila arrived attired in a T-shirt appropriate for a golf or tennis appointment. Fortunately, since I met him plane-side some distance from the terminal, we had time to scrounge around and slip on a barong. We then proceeded to a crowded VIP room where other Asean ministers in coat and tie were being welcomed formally by protocol officers and the local media.

The one Cabinet official I remember most, however, was our agriculture secretary, Sonny Dominguez. His office would send me a cable a few days in advance informing me of his arrival and he would usually show up on a Friday or Saturday evening. Without much ceremony, Sonny would emerge from the plane carrying a garment bag which was all he had. Most Cabinet secretaries would take along an assistant for this and other purposes. I was reminded of former US president Jimmy Carter who was once photographed lugging his own garment bag in the early days of his presidency.

Since Dominguez had no check-in baggage we would proceed straight to the embassy vehicle and head for the city. His meetings were usually in the offices of an Asean joint-venture fertilizer project in Aceh, the northernmost province of Indonesia where he sat in as the Philippine government representative. I did not see him for the rest of his stay until it was time to return to Manila. He struck me as a hardworking, no-nonsense type of person, although unlike other workaholics he had a warm and friendly disposition that made it easy to get along with him. I said to myself that it is people like Sonny Dominguez who can make things happen whether in the private sector or in government, and any undertaking could use more of his kind.

Sonny’s wife, Ball, is the daughter of the late Col. Antonio Andrews of Class 1949 of the PAF Flying School, one of the pioneers of the Philippine Air Force.

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