Taga Danao: Rene Almendras, the new Dept of Energy Secretary

June 29, 2010

Aquino names Cabinet, Old, new faces in official family

By Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:40:00 06/30/2010

Rene, the youngest among the children of the late "Sir Pinong & Ma'am Rosing" Almendras

The new faces in Aquino’s Cabinet are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Secretaries Voltaire Gazmin (defense), Br. Armin Luistro (education), Proceso Alcala (agriculture), Enrique Ona (health), Alberto Lim (tourism), Mario Montejo (science and technology), Jose Rene Almendras (energy), and Virgilio delos Reyes (agrarian reform).

Also new are Julia Andrea Abad, Presidential Management Staff chief; Edwin Lacierda and Eduardo de Mesa, Aquino’s spokesperson and chief legal counsel, respectively; and Patricia Licuanan, Commission on Higher Education chair.

The others who have served in previous administrations are Secretaries Alberto Romulo (foreign affairs), Cesar Purisima (finance), Leila de Lima (justice), Florencio “Butch” Abad (budget), Cayetano Paderanga (socioeconomic planning), Jose de Jesus (transportation and communication), Gregorio Domingo (trade and industry), Corazon “Dinky” Soliman (social welfare), and Rogelio Singson (public works), and Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares, and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita “Ging” Deles.

Aquino also chose two career officers to head their departments—Environment Secretary Ramon Paje and Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

Aquino also announced that Maj. Gen. Ricardo David would succeed Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Bangit, and that Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Versoza would stay on until his retirement in December.

He was adamant about not appointing any of his relatives to posts in his administration, although he has a father-and-daughter team—the Abads—in his Cabinet.


June 20, 2010

(This article was published in The Freeman on June 7, 2010, by Melanie Marie Ypil-Lachica, who works at the U.N. Headquarters and is  the wife of the Philippine Consul to New York, lawyer Leandro Lachica.   I just thought today being “Father’s Day,” it may be just fitting to post this eulogy which Melanie delivered on June 5 at the church service in honor of her Tatay, Prudencio R. Ypil, from Looc, Danao City, and  former municipal secretary of Liloan, Cebu .  Prudencio who was fondly called “Dodong”, by friends and relatives was the elder brother of my good friend and high school classmate,  Ben Ypil, now in Indiana.  Dodong and I worked in the same building adjacent to the Cebu Capitol Building, he was with the Provincial Development Office and I was with the Farm Systems Development Corp) in the ’80s during Gov. Gullas’ administration.  Monching)                                    

          On behalf of our family, we would like to thank you for being with us here today and for your comfort and prayers during this difficult and painful time. Yes, he was my Tatay, but he was not only just my Tatay but a Tatay to so many of us here today. Tatay was a good man, a simple man and a humble man. While we mourn his loss, let us celebrate a life well-lived. God, in His great goodness, blessed our lives with Tatay’s presence as a husband, a father, a son, a brother, a grandfather, an uncle, a colleague and a friend. Each of us here  has a story to share about Tatay.
              One of the things I will miss most about Tatay was his inimitable sense of humor. He never failed, as I’m sure is the case for all of you here, to make me laugh. I’m positive that he wouldn’t want us to be sad, but rather to remember the happy times with him with a happy, nostalgic smile.
              His humor was only surpassed by his immense heart for others. I’m sure that Tatay has not only helped, not one, not two, but the entire community of Liloan. He never refused anyone who came to him for help. Tatay served the public diligently and honestly throughout his years in government, and armed only with his wit and genuine care for the people, he always delivered. In his own humble way, he has helped this town to be a better place and we are all the richer for having had him in our lives.
             While Tatay’s efforts went unnoticed, he was not to complain. He never complained. But it gives me great comfort and solace to know that during the wake, time and time again people have come up to me to relay how, in one way or another, Tatay has helped touch their lives. But that was the quintessential Tatay.
             A humble man who did not seek nor need recognittion. Truly Tatay was indeed valued and appreciated by so many and Tatay’s passing is not just the family’s loss, but the community’s loss as well.
             Tatay’s love was an unconditional love. He loved wholeheartedly, without any conditions nor reservations, no matter the consequences. Tatay did not have a mean bone in his body and was ever ready to forgive and let by-gones be by-gones. When he was hit by an overspeeding motorcycle driver, the driver was caught and put in jail. But Tatay decided not press charges because the driver has several children to support and he did not want to further burden the man.
             As my Tatay, he never failed me. More than a source of strength, he was my inspiration of love who asked nothing in return. I remember when I was in college in Manila, I fell ill and had to be hospitalized. I was admitted late at night and when I woke up he was the first person I saw the very next morning.
             I will also miss his cooking. He knew my favorite foods and everytime I came home to Liloan, he always had my favorite shrimps or ‘pasayan’ at every meal without fail. Though we will crave for his home-cooked meals in the days to come, we will be soothed by the knowledge that Tatay has already filled us up so many times over with his unconditional love and I take comfort in this knowledge that Tatay will live on in my children and in my children’s children.
            I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Ypil family for their outpouring of love and support. As you know, I did not grow up here and did not have the chance to know my uncles, aunts and cousins from my Tatay’s side of the family. But Tatay, in his own unique way, painful the circumstance may be, brought us all close together.
            I thank Tatay for giving me the chance to discover and appreciate the truly wonderful people that they are. Needless to say, my cousins from Nanay’s side of the family have been a pillar of strength during this difficult time as well.
            When I was a little child, Tatay used to sing the song “You are my Sunshine” to me. Tatay, I want you to know that “YOU” are my sunshine. As sure as the sun rises each day, I know that you will be watching over all of us to brighten our lives and comfort us in the days to come.
             I couldn’t be more proud to have you as my Tatay.

Ace Durano maybe out, but Rene Almendras is likely in Aquino Cabinet

June 12, 2010

A cause bigger than one’s own

By Malou Guanzon-Apalisok
Cebu Daily News First Posted 05/24/2010

Rene Almendras

How does Cebu figure under a Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III presidency?

One answer might be forthcoming in the shape of the Noynoy Aquino Cabinet. The names of possible appointees are currently making the rounds of text messages. The list reminds me of the stuff that a bride customarily brings to her wedding for good luck: “something old and something new.”

Former members of the Arroyo Cabinet Dinky Soliman, Cesar Purisima, Avelino Cruz and Florencio Abad are in the list. Members of the so-called Hyatt 10, they turned against President Arroyo in 2005 at the height of the Garci tapes controversy. Dinky is said to be a shoo-in for the Social Welfare and Development Department, Purisima as Finance Secretary, Cruz as Justice Secretary and Abad as Education top honcho.

Also included is Philip “Popoy” Juico, former Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary during the early days of the Cory administration. Online reports say Popoy will be going back to the Agrarian office while his wife Margie, who once served as Cory’s appointments secretary, will be appointed chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

The inclusion of the Juico couple in the new Cabinet has triggered the resurrection of issues against the so-called Kamag-anak, Inc. This has incensed former Tarlac congressman Jose Cojuangco and rightly so. The issues are unsubstantiated, rehashed and sound like a broken record. Critics pointing a finger against Noynoy’s relatives better put or shut up.

New names in the incoming Aquino Cabinet include lawyer Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa as Executive Secretary, Bong Naguiat as chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and Cebuano Jose Rene Almendras as Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways. One of their shared qualities is a long-standing friendship with the incoming president.

Last week’s banner story about Rene Almendras immediately sent ripples in the political circle but especially in the corporate world, where he is held in high esteem.

Almendras is currently President of Manila Water Company, Inc. He also sits in the Ayala Corporation as managing director. Before this, he held top positions with Ayala Land Inc., and was also president and CEO of two listed companies managed by the Ayala Land Group, Cebu Holdings, Inc. and Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp. He was also Chairman of the Ayala Land Group Bidding Committee and head of the Strategic Procurement Division. Among top 100 business executives in the Philippines, I would say Rene would be in the upper 20 bracket.

Pressed for a reaction, Almendras’ elder sister, Provincial Board member Agnes Magpale said her brother is not likely to accept the offer because “maayo ang iyang pagkabutang” (he is comfortable where he is now). The reactions of Ma’am Agnes though would qualify as the understatement of the year because according to a good friend of mine who happens to be Rene’s co-worker in ALI, “super maayo ang pagkabutang ni Rene.”

Rene’s ability and talent in bringing about success to a number of Ayala big-ticket projects is almost legendary. It is a fact that as one goes up the corporate ladder, one finds himself alienated from ordinary workers, but I gathered that Rene is not only well-respected by his peers but also loved by the workforce of the Ayala group.

Stories about Almendras popping up in the workplace to invite mid-level supervisors for coffee abound, as well as his tendency to join the ‘commoners’ during major corporate events when Fernando, Jaza, etc. descend from the virtual Mt. Olympus. Thus when it was time for Rene to leave Cebu to assume the top position of Manila Water Company and make Makati his home base many workers were teary-eyed.

Very capable, dedicated, a track record for honesty and integrity and a heart that holds a soft spot for the ordinary man are attributes that should put Rene on top of the Aquino Cabinet list but especially in the DPWH. I will not bore readers with the background of the department to explain the urgency of the problem. Suffice it to say that even the World Bank weighed on the issue by exposing the bid rigging of WB-funded road projects in 2009. The report exposed how deep and embedded is the system of graft and corruption in the department. By Noynoy’s own calculation, some P280 billion was lost to graft in 2009 alone.

Will Rene bite? Many think he will not and they understand. Someone gave me a picture of the kind of compensation and perks that a man in Rene’s position receives and my eyes almost popped out. If he decides to stay in the corporate world, it will be on account of his family who wish for him a life of peace and contentment.

However, I think Rene also realizes the challenge of the moment. To be called to the task of helping put the country on the road to moral recovery is the chance of a lifetime. Without a doubt, Rene is in the pinnacle of professional success, but among great men and women, one’s purest possibility can only happen if he goes to battle for a cause bigger than his own.