Presumptive president Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has tapped a former Aquino administration Cabinet member, Arsenio Balisacan, to return as head of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Referring to Balisacan as “an old friend,” Marcos said he had worked extensively with the NEDA chief when he was governor of Ilocos Norte and had asked him to return to the agency.
Meanwhile, reelected Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla said he accepted an offer from Marcos to head the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“I accepted it. It’s an honor to serve the country in that capacity,” Remulla, a lawyer, told reporters.
Earlier, presumptive vice president Sara Duterte and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos accepted offers to lead the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), respectively.
Former Labor secretary Benny Laguesma and Susan “Toots” Ople were offered to be part of the new administration as well, as secretaries of the Department of Labor and Employment and the Department of Migrant Workers, respectively.
Marcos spokesman Vic Rodriguez said he would join the Cabinet as executive secretary, and confirmed that Ople, Laguesma, and Balisacan have accepted the offers to be part of the incoming Cabinet.
“We have very similar thinking in that regard, so I am confident. I know he’s very competent, I know his policies are policies that will be for the betterment of our country,” Marcos said of Balisacan in a mix of English and Filipino.
“We’ve talked for hours, and I think we have the same thoughts on our approach when it comes to the country’s economy,” Marcos added.
Balisacan, who led NEDA under the administration of the late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, headed the Philippine Competition Commission under the Duterte administration.
Remulla, who ran unopposed as representative of Cavite’s 7th district, said he did not apply for the post, but Marcos thinks he is the best man for the job.
He recalled that a few days after the election he was asked by Marcos if he would want to be part of his Cabinet. “And I accepted.”
“Marcos knows that I really work hard, I am devoted to my duties, that’s why it doesn’t take much when you are told by the president, it’s understood already, but the specific things we will have to talk about it later because the justice system has many problems we need to fix,” said Remulla said.
He said he opted to disclose his imminent appointment as Justice Secretary Menardo Gueverra’s replacement ahead of Tuesday’s congressional canvassing “for transparency.”
Remulla serves as the House Senior Deputy Majority Leader in the 18th Congress, which will adjourn sine die in June.
As soon as he assumes his post as Justice secretary, Remulla said a caretaker can be appointed to his seat or a special election can be held.
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia said it is up to the House of Representatives to decide if it would appoint a caretaker lawmaker for Remulla’s district in Cavite or declare a vacancy and call for a special election.
“We will wait for Congress. If Congress says we will fill up the position to conduct a special election, we will conduct the special election,” Garcia said in a press briefing. “But usually, the Congress just appoints a caretaker to handle the concerns of the district.”