Presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has asked former Labor Secretary Bienvenido “Benny” Laguesma and migrant workers’ advocate Susan “Toots” Ople to be part of his administration.
His spokesman, Vic Rodriguez, said Tuesday Marcos had talked to the two before leaving the country for Australia for a “much needed rest and vacation” after a grueling campaign.
Laguesma was asked to lead the Department of Labor and Employment, while Ople was asked to take the helm of the newly-created Department of Migrant Workers.
“Both are respected in the field of labor and employment,” Rodriguez said.
He said both Laguesma and Ople “accepted the invitation warmly” even as they asked for some time to consult first with their families, friends, and other people they trust.
“They were honored,” he said.
Laguesma was DOLE Secretary from 1998 to 2001 under President Joseph Estrada – a position also held by Ople’s father, Blas Ople, under President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. from 1978 to 1986.
Toots Ople, who heads the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, was an undersecretary of DOLE under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2004 to 2009. She was her father’s chief of staff in both the Senate (from 1992 until 2002) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (in 2003).
Earlier, the Marcos camp announced the first two Cabinet members of the incoming administration: presumptive vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio for the Education post and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman Benhur Abalos to lead the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Rodriguez earlier said their camp is moving “in the right direction, with the appropriate speed” in forming a “responsive” team amid the challenges besetting the country.
“I know people are excited about who else’s names will be released, but the interview process and vetting will continue” Rodriguez said.
For his part, Dindo Manhit, president of research firm Stratbase ADR Institute, said Marcos must transform his popular support into a Cabinet reflective of his message of unity.
“He had a strong message of unity, it worked and brought about that strong support from the public. Now transform that legitimate support into a government that’s formed with technocrats,” he said in an interview on ANC.
“He will be inheriting a government that is challenged with debt, demand of the Filipino people to address what I consider economic consequences of this pandemic so we need really technocrats, we need people who are qualified on one hand, not political in nature because you will need to make decisions that’s not political,” Manhit added.
Rodriguez, who heads Marcos’ transition team, said they are also looking at the possibility of tapping candidates who lost in the May 9 polls after the one-year ban.
“We’re looking at some possible personalities, but I think most of them would rather enjoy their much-needed vacation for one year,” he said.
Party color is not a consideration in choosing Cabinet appointees, Rodriguez said,
“After May 9, we are no longer talking about political color. Our call for unity is not just a campaign messaging,” he said.