By Jeannette I. Andrade | Inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines — Presumptive President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has selected four more people to join his Cabinet, with his nomination of Cavite Rep. Jesus Crispin Remulla as justice secretary at once drawing objections from advocates of human rights and press freedom.
In a press briefing on Monday at his campaign headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Marcos said he had also tapped Arsenio Balisacan and Bienvenido Laguesma to the agencies that they used to head — the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), respectively.
Balisacan headed the Neda during the administration of the late President Benigno Aquino III, and Laguesma served as labor secretary of former President Joseph Estrada.
Furthermore, he selected Susan Ople, an advocate of migrant workers’ rights, to head the Department of Migrant Workers.
Ople is the daughter of the late Sen. Blas Ople, who was the longtime labor minister of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos, the presumptive President’s father.
The Department of Migrant Workers was created by virtue of Republic Act No. 11641, which President Duterte signed into law in December last year. The new law gathers all government offices related to overseas employment under that new agency.
All four nominees have accepted Marcos’ offer to join his Cabinet.
Marcos described Balisacan as “an old friend” and “very competent.”
“Our minds are aligned when it comes to economic managers,” said the presumptive President, adding that Balisacan’s return to the Neda “would be for the betterment of the country, development of the economy.”
‘Very good lawyer’
Regarding Remulla, Marcos said, “I think he’ll be very good. He has a great many years of experience in government. He’s a very, very good lawyer. He will fit very nicely into the DOJ (Department of Justice).”
Remulla announced his nomination as justice secretary ahead of Marcos in an interview with Sonshine Media Network International on Monday morning.
“Probably he (Marcos) asked me to join the Cabinet for some reasons that he saw, where we can be effective on the job,” said the lawmaker.
But advocates of human rights and press freedom immediately expressed concern about his nomination.
“Given Remulla’s atrocious track record of shameless apologia for Red-tagging, human rights violations, and attacks on press freedom, we express grave concern over his impending appointment as [DOJ] secretary, especially when his appointment also means that he will get to sit as a member the Anti-Terrorism Council (ATC),” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.
Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said Remulla might “reverse the headway made by the current DOJ in relation to the Bloody Sunday murders” of March 7, 2021—referring to the series of police raids that led to the murder of nine activists—as well as the drug war that the department is reviewing on the watch of its current chief, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
As the new justice secretary, Remulla will be sitting as a member of the ATC formed under the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020 (Republic Act No. 11479), which has the power to designate terrorists. He will also take over the Administrative Order No. 35 Task Force investigating politically motivated extrajudicial killings, as well as the ongoing drug war review.
Besides being accused of Red-tagging, Remulla also drew controversy for his role in the nonrenewal of ABS-CBN’s congressional franchise.
He continued to provoke criticism during the election campaign, particularly after Red-tagging supporters of Vice President Leni Robredo and accusing them of vote-buying.
Despite his notoriety among Robredo’s supporters as well as among activists and the media, Remulla ran and won unopposed as representative of Cavite’s seventh district and became one of Marcos’ key local allies during the campaign, as he helped deliver the vote-rich province to the presumptive President.
‘A few more days’
Marcos had earlier named his running mate, presumptive Vice President and outgoing Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, as education secretary, his campaign manager and former Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. as interior secretary, and his chief of staff and spokesperson Victor Rodriguez as executive secretary.
“Allow me the luxury of a few more days,” Marcos said. “Slowly we’re beginning to fill positions. We still have to talk to [some people] … We will continue to discuss with them and should they agree, we will start with the planning.”