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A senior-citizen Cabinet

12:01 AM August 01, 2016

IN TERMS of biological age, the members of the Cabinet of President Duterte may be considered the oldest in the Philippines in recent years.

Almost 80 percent of the President’s official family are in their middle or late 60s, which is close to his 71 years. Most of them are his former classmates in law school, political allies, or people he worked with closely when he was mayor of Davao City.

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In a speech before the San Beda College alumni, he said that his pool of appointees is limited because he does not have a wide social circle and that he maintains friendly ties mostly with people he has known for many years.

This age profile has caught the attention of netizens and has become the subject of jokes. The Duterte Cabinet has been described as a club of senior citizens or geriatrics, and a collection of recycled government officials.

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Some netizens have raised concerns that the “club” members may not be able to cope with the pressures of their office due to age-related health problems, or that their professional experience make them less competent to meet present-day challenges.

It is noteworthy to mention that these officials cut their teeth when manual typewriters were used to prepare reports, foreign and domestic long-distance calls were done through telephone operators, and newspapers, radio and TV were the principal sources of international and local news.

Their generation also saw the death of Philippine democracy during the Marcos dictatorship and its resurrection 14 years later through People Power.

The internet, social media, smartphones and other modern gizmos came into their lives decades later.

While it is true that some of the Cabinet members may no longer be youthful, they have on their side the expertise and experience that came from long years of service in the government and the private sector.

This exposure enabled them to hit the ground running after Mr. Duterte took over the reins of government on June 30.

They didn’t have to undergo introductory courses on the processes and procedures of the bureaucracy, or learn what government levers to pull to accomplish the objectives and action programs of their departments.

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Also working to their advantage is the trust and confidence they enjoy from Mr. Duterte that are products of long years of association with him, or his personal recognition that they performed well during their previous stints in government and therefore deserved to be called back to the service.

Since these officials are close to the twilight of their lives, it is reasonable to expect that they will exert their best efforts to do a good job so they can leave a legacy of which their families can be proud.

For the Cabinet officials who once served in elective positions, their appointments may be considered their last hurrah or final opportunity for public service. It is safe to assume that, no longer spring chickens, they will not use the resources of their office for further political ambitions.

The elderly members of the Cabinet have a tough job ahead of them. They have to deliver on the promises that Mr. Duterte made during the campaign. The people expect that, within his term, the same kind of good governance that marked Davao City will be enjoyed nationwide.

If they are able to meet this challenge, they will put to rest the doubts raised about their physical and mental capability to competently and efficiently perform the duties and responsibilities of their office.

A good showing will be a strong blow against ageism, or the act of “stereotyping and discriminating against individuals or groups on the basis of their age,” which has become prevalent in our country. They will send the message to the youth-obsessed members of our society that “old age” is not an obstacle to the ability of a person to serve the country.

Like most senior citizens, these Cabinet officials are already set in their ways. They have acquired certain habits, attitudes and idiosyncrasies through the years that may be difficult, if not impossible, to change at this stage in their lives.

Well, this time they may have to make some adjustments to adapt to the changes in our environment and society that have arisen since their formative or professional years.

It’s understandable if they sometimes become grouchy, impatient or irritable in the course of their work. If folklore is to be believed, those acts are the inevitable consequences of age, although some will probably disagree with this impression.

Or they may result from the pressure to accomplish the vision that Mr. Duterte has set for his administration. Time can fly so fast that before they know it, six years have come and gone.

For practical reasons, the senior citizens in the Cabinet should learn to pace themselves as they try to meet the objectives that Mr. Duterte has set for their departments.  They should recognize that there are limits to the things that a chronologically-advanced person can do.

Although science can refurbish the external manifestations of age, a person’s physical state is governed by nature’s own rules.

Raul J. Palabrica ([email protected] ph) writes a weekly column in the Business section of the Inquirer.

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TAGS: Cabinet, Commentary, Duterte, opinion, Rodrigo Duterte
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