Ace Durano maybe out, but Rene Almendras is likely in Aquino Cabinet
Sat, June 12, 2010 12:26 pm
A cause bigger than one’s own
By Malou Guanzon-Apalisok
Cebu Daily News First Posted 05/24/2010
How does Cebu figure under a Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III presidency?
One answer might be forthcoming in the shape of the Noynoy Aquino Cabinet. The names of possible appointees are currently making the rounds of text messages. The list reminds me of the stuff that a bride customarily brings to her wedding for good luck: “something old and something new.”
Former members of the Arroyo Cabinet Dinky Soliman, Cesar Purisima, Avelino Cruz and Florencio Abad are in the list. Members of the so-called Hyatt 10, they turned against President Arroyo in 2005 at the height of the Garci tapes controversy. Dinky is said to be a shoo-in for the Social Welfare and Development Department, Purisima as Finance Secretary, Cruz as Justice Secretary and Abad as Education top honcho.
Also included is Philip “Popoy” Juico, former Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary during the early days of the Cory administration. Online reports say Popoy will be going back to the Agrarian office while his wife Margie, who once served as Cory’s appointments secretary, will be appointed chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
The inclusion of the Juico couple in the new Cabinet has triggered the resurrection of issues against the so-called Kamag-anak, Inc. This has incensed former Tarlac congressman Jose Cojuangco and rightly so. The issues are unsubstantiated, rehashed and sound like a broken record. Critics pointing a finger against Noynoy’s relatives better put or shut up.
New names in the incoming Aquino Cabinet include lawyer Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa as Executive Secretary, Bong Naguiat as chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and Cebuano Jose Rene Almendras as Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways. One of their shared qualities is a long-standing friendship with the incoming president.
Last week’s banner story about Rene Almendras immediately sent ripples in the political circle but especially in the corporate world, where he is held in high esteem.
Almendras is currently President of Manila Water Company, Inc. He also sits in the Ayala Corporation as managing director. Before this, he held top positions with Ayala Land Inc., and was also president and CEO of two listed companies managed by the Ayala Land Group, Cebu Holdings, Inc. and Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp. He was also Chairman of the Ayala Land Group Bidding Committee and head of the Strategic Procurement Division. Among top 100 business executives in the Philippines, I would say Rene would be in the upper 20 bracket.
Pressed for a reaction, Almendras’ elder sister, Provincial Board member Agnes Magpale said her brother is not likely to accept the offer because “maayo ang iyang pagkabutang” (he is comfortable where he is now). The reactions of Ma’am Agnes though would qualify as the understatement of the year because according to a good friend of mine who happens to be Rene’s co-worker in ALI, “super maayo ang pagkabutang ni Rene.”
Rene’s ability and talent in bringing about success to a number of Ayala big-ticket projects is almost legendary. It is a fact that as one goes up the corporate ladder, one finds himself alienated from ordinary workers, but I gathered that Rene is not only well-respected by his peers but also loved by the workforce of the Ayala group.
Stories about Almendras popping up in the workplace to invite mid-level supervisors for coffee abound, as well as his tendency to join the ‘commoners’ during major corporate events when Fernando, Jaza, etc. descend from the virtual Mt. Olympus. Thus when it was time for Rene to leave Cebu to assume the top position of Manila Water Company and make Makati his home base many workers were teary-eyed.
Very capable, dedicated, a track record for honesty and integrity and a heart that holds a soft spot for the ordinary man are attributes that should put Rene on top of the Aquino Cabinet list but especially in the DPWH. I will not bore readers with the background of the department to explain the urgency of the problem. Suffice it to say that even the World Bank weighed on the issue by exposing the bid rigging of WB-funded road projects in 2009. The report exposed how deep and embedded is the system of graft and corruption in the department. By Noynoy’s own calculation, some P280 billion was lost to graft in 2009 alone.
Will Rene bite? Many think he will not and they understand. Someone gave me a picture of the kind of compensation and perks that a man in Rene’s position receives and my eyes almost popped out. If he decides to stay in the corporate world, it will be on account of his family who wish for him a life of peace and contentment.
However, I think Rene also realizes the challenge of the moment. To be called to the task of helping put the country on the road to moral recovery is the chance of a lifetime. Without a doubt, Rene is in the pinnacle of professional success, but among great men and women, one’s purest possibility can only happen if he goes to battle for a cause bigger than his own.