All the President’s men
And, in this case, I’d like to refer to President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, whom I had the honor and pleasure to serve as Press Secretary and Spokesperson.
It is not often that a celebration will bring together, perhaps by accident, incumbent and former Cabinet members and high functionaries spanning several administrations.
But nothing happens by chance or accident. There is always a certain form of serendipity in given situations.
This was the case when Budget Secretary Benjamin “Ben” Diokno had a birthday and thanksgiving celebration, a gathering of past and present Cabinet officials. Not surprising, as Secretary Ben is one of the rare breed of dedicated, passionate, intelligent, and results-oriented government men in all of officialdom, past and present.
Secretary Ben is armed with a very pleasing personality and gentlemanly charm, a quality in short measure if one is particularly immersed in the world of the academe from where he came. These qualities are what endear him to both colleagues and friends alike.
Endearing, he truly must be, as it has been awhile since captains of industry and top government officials gathered socially under one roof, where members of the Duterte cabinet like Executive Secretary Medialdea and Finance Secretary Dominguez come together with members of the Estrada cabinet like former Trade and Finance Secretary Titoy Pardo, Labor Secretary Benny Laguesma, PMS Head Lenny De Jesus, Energy Secretary Mario Tiaoqui, DPWH Secretary Gregorio Vigilar, Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Presidential Chief of Staff Eki Cardenas , DoTC Secretary Jun Rivera, and National Security Adviser Alex Aguirre, to name a few, to break bread and greet a good man on his birthday.
I had the distinct pleasure of working with Secretary Ben during the Estrada administration, so I speak from experience.
President Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada (PMJEE), together with former Senator Dr. Loi Ejercito, took time off to celebrate with his former Budget Secretary with whom he has never lost touch, as is with the rest of us in his cabinet. Perhaps many people do not know, but PMJEE would regularly meet with us for more than 15 years now. Each gathering, together with our lovely and supportive wives, was always fun. We invariably discuss the burning issues of the day, touch on a few gossip perhaps, but mostly it was fun and merriment.
No gathering is complete without members of the cabinet belting out a song or two. Thus, during Secretary Ben’s party, members of the cabinet led by the celebrant, Secretary Laguesma, and Secretary Pardo rendered a number of love songs to wow the guests. I had to do my share and render a song by Michael Buble. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea crooned us with some popular Filipino songs, but sang in the way Frank Sinatra would do it. Of course, we were but the front act, as PMJEE in his inimitable way sang a song which he also composed, “ Kahit na Magtiis”.
The Estrada cabinet is arguably one of the best that was ever assembled, and the fact that some of them are back in the PRRD administration, like Secretary Ben and Education Secretary Leonor Briones who was Erap’s National Treasurer, supports this view.
All the President’s men (and women). All the precedent men and women our country ever needs.
A Happy Easter to All!