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Thank you, Darlene

In more than three decades of observing government and business, I’ve met quite a number of accomplished women who have broken through the so-called glass ceiling that prevents them from being true equals with men. Sadly, not a lot of them are really as good as advertised after you scratch the surface—just like the menfolk that they have had to compete with in order to reach the lofty status of great power and leadership in both the public and private sectors.

In a political scene littered with women who claim to be smart, strong and possessed with great integrity, for instance, I’ve know only a few who really have those qualities. One of them is the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, whom I have had the unmitigated pleasure of observing, from afar and up close, ever since she was a trial court judge in Quezon City in 1986.

In recent times, women have had varying success at scoring real breakthrough victories as far as gaining parity with men at the highest levels of government. In business, only the so-called COOs (Children of Owners) who happen to be women have gained any headway as far as securing positions of leadership is concerned.

And again, like the men, the women put in charge can only often turn in report cards of mediocre accomplishment. Often, but not all the time.

For instance, the end of February marked the end of the term of one of the top bureaucrats whom I truly admire. Darlene Marie Berberabe retired to great acclaim as head of the Home Development Mutual Fund, also known as the Pag-IBIG Fund, for the past six years.

In a farewell Facebook post last Tuesday, Berberabe wrote:

“Today, 28 February 2017, is my last day as the Pag-IBIG Fund President and CEO. I am privileged to have served our country and the Pag-IBIG members in the past six years and three months.

“Together with all the officers and employees of the Fund, I am proud to turnover to the next CEO all our accomplishments in the past six years: Pag-IBIG Fund has doubled its benefits to its members, all without increasing its monthly mandatory membership savings of P100. The maximum amount for housing loans was doubled from P3 Million to P6 Million, the housing loan interest rate was reduced from 11.5 percent to as low as 4.5 percent for affordable housing for minimum-wage earners and 5.5 percent for regular end-user financing, and calamity loan interest rate was reduced by almost half from 10.75 percent to 5.95 percent. The Fund outsourced collection, our call center, billing statements, and doubled our service levels.

“We offered better insurance terms to our housing loan borrowers while reducing by almost half the premium rates, and increased performing loans ratio from 75 percent in 2012 to 93 percent in 2016 (net of impairment loss). Pag-IBIG membership doubled from 8 million in 2010 to 17 million in 2016.

“We also tripled our branches from 38 in 2010 to 119 by end of 2016 within the country, reaching out to more members nationwide. Foreign service posts also increased to 23 worldwide to better serve our OFW members. In recent years, we have also introduced the One Office Look in newer branches, providing a better experience for our members when visiting our offices. We added value to their membership with the innovative Loyalty Card.

“All these have been done with good governance: we are ISO certified, attained an unprecedented 4-peat Unqualified Opinion from COA and back to back Most Outstanding Accounting Office, signed the Integrity Pledge and earned many recognition that validate our work. It is so good to be a part of all this!

“Babaunin ko araw-araw ang karangalang ito. Maraming salamat sa pagkakataong makapaglingkod sa inyo.”

Political observers will remember Berberabe as the soft-spoken but firm defender of the Pag-IBIG Fund when Senator Antonio Trillanes attempted to drag it to the gutter in his effort to destroy Vice President Jejomar Binay in the Senate. Others know that Berberabe as the wife of Philippine basketball great Avelino “Samboy” Lim.

But what Berberabe accomplished at Pag-IBIG has established a new benchmark for heads of government agencies – of any gender. And she did so without fanfare and with a great respect for the members who contribute their earnings to the fund.

I wish Attorney Darlene Berberabe luck in all her future endeavors. And I hope this is not the last we hear from her, because she still has so much to contribute.

Thank you for your excellent service to the nation.

* * *

At 3 p.m. today, an online group calling itself We Are Collective will publish its much-awaited expose on Vice President Leni Robredo. If you’re online at around that time, please follow the links to their web site after searching for the group’s name in social media platforms.

I have no idea what the expose is all about, but people in the know have been raving about it after being given exclusive previews. I intend to find out what the fuss is all about, as well.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago , Darlene Marie Berberabe , Home Development Mutual Fund , Pag-IBIG Fund , We Are Collective , Vice President Leni Robredo
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