Duterte makes Cabinet men 'accountable for every mistake'
DAVAO CITY (UPDATED) - President-elect Rodrigo Duterte's marching orders to his Cabinet men are simple: ensure that no form of corruption will be tolerated and that each secretary will be directly accountable for the missteps committed by the agency he or she supervises.
Incoming Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol, who was present in the three-hour Cabinet meeting held at the Philippine International Convention Center on Wednesday, said Duterte told his Cabinet that he would trust the decisions they would make while running each department.
READ: Duterte convenes Cabinet in Manila
"Sabi niya there should be no corruption. Nobody from my family will interfere with your work. You'll have a free hand on the people you choose, but you are answerable to me for your misdeeds and for the people you have chosen," Piñol said.
"The president would relieve the entire department sa city hall pag may isang nagkamali. I think that's still the same mindset. Nobody is indispensable. Walang holy cow dito," he added.
He told reporters that despite the stern warning, the second Cabinet meeting was "upbeat" as they were able to tackle several issues.
"It would appear he is really concerned sa K-12, sa availability and affordability of food, Metro Manila traffic, security and how much money is there to fulfill it," Piñol said.
Duterte, who was "in a light but serious mood," asked incoming Education Secretary Leonor Briones to explain why the government needs to push the K-12 education system.
"Sabi niya (Briones), it's too late in the day to shift gears because there is a law. Kapag binago ang K-12, the leadership would violate the law," Piñol narrated.
"She (Briones) is open to improvement and modification (of the K-12), but steadfast in her post that there is no way we can amend that."
Incoming Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade presented some practical solutions to solve the colorum and traffic problem in Metro Manila, while incoming Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno reported that P1.7 trillion is still available in the government's coffers until the end of the year.
Piñol said no controversial issue was brought up in the 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. meeting, but noted that Duterte "called chief PNP and the head of the Armed Forces to a corner" to talk about the "problem in Sulu" before the night ended.
Meanwhile, incoming presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella expressed admiration for Duterte's "sense of flexibility and openness," saying the 71-year-old incoming president was "in high spirits" when he accommodated his executive family.
"What I do admire is his sense of flexibility and openness. He's actually listening to people, contrary to the combative [image] that he's 'bullheaded' or whatever," Abella said in an interview on ANC.
"He does have a listening ear and quite willing to adjust, though he has very firm ideas on what should be done and needs to be achieved," he added.
Abella also described the members of the incoming Cabinet as "vibrant" with flaming passion for the Philippines.
"From what I am hearing, they really are people who are passionate about using the experience and skills and resources in order to build a new nation," he said.
He also clarified that all the secretaries chosen by Duterte were thoroughly vetted, and he himself had gone through the process.
"I met up with him about once or twice, then for the third time, that's when I went on air. It went through a process of vetting, and it took actually a month, about three weeks, before it was actually confirmed what he was wanting me to do," he said.