MANILA, Philippines - Members of the Aquino Cabinet buckled down to work on Thursday, tackling hot button issues such as the reproductive health bill and sex education for grade school kids on their very first day on the job.
Newly installed Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin skipped a formal turnover but immediately met with officials of the defense department. Topping Gazmin's agenda at the DND were preparations for the rainy season, the modernization of the Armed Forces, and peace talks with rebel groups.
"Ang gusto ng presidente, ayusin na ito. We sit down and talk. The more you kill, the more enemies you create," he said.
He said he will also investigate the alleged misuse of intelligence funds by his predecessor, Norberto Gonzales.
“We are having that investigated. Soon, you will know the result of the investigation,” he said without elaborating.
A statement from the DND’s Office of the Public Affairs and Legislative Affairs said the new defense chief “has immediately directed the conduct of an impartial investigation on the case....The new SND (secretary of national defense) assured that due process will be observed.”
Early this week, DND chief accountant Leticia Coronel Obnimaga told ABS-CBN that she has resigned because of the corruption by the outgoing defense officials.
She said Gonzales had sought the release of P5 million from the intelligence fund. Also, she revealed that undersecretary for legal affairs and special concerns Arturo Lomibao had also sought the release of unspecified amount for a travel to Singapore.
The DND statement said Obnimaga was relieved from her position based on a “formal complaint” of Gonzales.
RH bill and sex ed
At the education department, Secretary Armin Luistro was warmly welcomed by DepEd employees and former secretary Mona Valisno. Luistro said education is among the top priorities of the Aquino government.
"Kung ang ating pangulo ang mamamayan ang boss, tayo dito sa Dep-ed ang boss natin ay ang batang Pilipino," he said.
Luistro refused to comment on the issue of integrating sex education in the curriculum for grade school and high school students, which was implemented by his predecessor.
"Di naman kayo makakatulong ang media dito. Pag-uusapan namin yan ng di sa harap ng media kaya wag niyo na akong tanungin tungkol dyan!" he retorted.
New Health Secretary Enrique Ona also had his baptism of fire as he answered several issues his department inherited from the previous administrations.
On the issue of the reproductive health bill, Ona said he is for a legislative measure that ensures the health and welfare of mothers and their babies.
"Ang pinakamalaking kasalanan ay magdala ka ng bata sa mundong ito ng hindi ka handa o hindi mo kaya suportahan," he said.
Ona said he is not used to facing the media and that he was first hesitant to accept the health portfolio.
But Ona said he is ready to push President Aquino's programs for the health sector, which include the compulsory universal health insurance for Filipinos.