‘Grateful’ Duterte chairs final full Cabinet meeting of his administration

President Rodrigo Duterte also hosts a thank you dinner for Cabinet members and their wives a month before stepping down as president.

MANILA, Philippines — A mixture of sadness, celebration and gratitude permeated the 54th Cabinet Meeting in Malacañang, the last full Cabinet meeting under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, held on Monday, May 30, exactly one month before the end of his mandate.

It was a milestone in another way, being the first full Cabinet meeting in two years or since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was again held in the Aguinaldo State Dining Room, the traditional venue inside the palace for full Cabinet meetings.

Lungkot nga namin (We were sad),” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Rappler on Tuesday, May 31, of the mood of Cabinet members the night before.

“But also happy to have lasted so long and to have achieved a lot for the people,” he added. Lorenzana is one of the pillars of the Duterte cabinet, at the head of his department since 2016 while other departments have experienced head changes.

DAVAO BOYS. President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, who leads his economic team and is one of his most important advisers. Malacanang Pictures

Duterte himself was “optimistic,” according to presidential communications secretary Martin Andanar, but also thoughtful and grateful for those who had embarked with him on his six-year journey as chief executive.

“The President thanked the members of the Cabinet for giving him their time…. I’ve heard him say repeatedly: “I was not wrong in the choice of Cabinet officials,” Acting Cabinet Secretary Melvin Matibag said during a palace briefing on Tuesday.

Talking Transition

Yet the Cabinet meeting followed an agenda. Groups of cabinets – or groupings of departments based on specific sectors such as security, justice, economy, infrastructure, environment and climate change, etc. — each submitted reports, Matibag said.

Also discussed were the recommendations that the ministries have for the new Marcos administration. These recommendations have already been approved for transmission to the team of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Matibag stressed that although this is the last Cabinet meeting, work did not stop that night as Duterte still has guidelines for implementation. It is also possible that, if necessary, another Cabinet meeting will be convened. Cabinet meetings under Duterte generally took place only once a month, except in emergencies.

It is not yet known whether Duterte plans to meet Marcos before June 30, the day of the inauguration.

Sentimental night for the Cabinet

Cabinet members also took the time to say their thanks. Lorenzana explained how “privileged and honoured” they were to serve the country under Duterte, the unconventional mayor of Davao who, six years ago, snatched them from their private lives to help lead the country.

TOKENS. Funko Pop Mickey Mouse figurines of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat are placed in front of Cabinet members, as a sign of thanksgiving. Malacanang Pictures

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat presented the entire Cabinet with Funko Pop Mickey Mouse figures wearing Filipino Barong Tagalog.

But the evening ended on a festive note. After the meeting, Duterte hosted a “thank you dinner” for Cabinet members and their wives. Also present was her partner, Honeylet Avanceña.

A video posted to Facebook by Higher Education Commission Chairman Prospero de Vera III showed Duterte singing a song for his guests, accompanied by the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, as Cabinet members whipped out their smartphones to document performance.

While his longtime aide, Senator Bong Go, has said Duterte would be keen to offer advice to the next government, the 77-year-old president is also ready to rest, according to Andanar.

“He looks forward to retiring to Davao City and spending more time with his family and grandchildren,” the acting presidential spokesman said.

Duterte will step down as the 16th Philippine president at noon on June 30, the day President-elect Marcos will be sworn in as the next chief executive. – Rappler.com

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