Saturday, January 8, 2011


It was a gathering of “blue bloods” – not the regal variety – but the hundred-strong Ateneo alumni organization in Metro DC who with President Benigno Aquino III and many of their classmates at the helm back home, can't be blamed if they feel they’re pretty close to being political royalty in the Philippines.

They gathered last Jan. 8 for their yearly New Year’s party in Virginia, the discussion gravitating between latest goings on here and the classmates who’ve joined the Aquino administration.

Perhaps most prominent among them is Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa (Ateneo Law ’86), who’s recruited many of the Ateneans now in government.

The “Little President” was former Quezon City administrator under then Mayor and now House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte.

Ochoa’s father, former Pulilan, Bulacan Mayor Paquito Ochoa Sr., was an ally of the President’s father, the martyred Sen. Benigno S. Aquino Jr.

According to various accounts, the elder Aquino was attending Paquito Sr.’s birthday party in Bulacan during the Plaza Miranda bombing on Aug. 21, 1971.

Jose Amor Amorado (Ateneo Law ’86) is Senior Deputy Executive Secretary. His specialization is said to be litigation and labor and maritime law.

Former Tagaytay City Mayor Francis Tolentino (Ateneo Law ’84) is head of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) that helps oversee the Philippine capital region.

Former Agrarian Reform and Education Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad (Ateneo Law ’85) now heads the Department of Budget & Management.

Julia Abad (Ateneo AB Communications ’00), the President’s former chief of staff in the Senate, now manages the Presidential Management Staff.

Jose Almendras (Ateneo BS Business Mgmt ’81) is Secretary of Energy and fellow Ateneans Jose de Jesus and Gregorio Domingo lead the Departments of Transportation and Trade, respectively.

When he reconstituted the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), the President appointed young but very qualified Ateneans to the post – Chairman Juan Andres Bautista (Ateneo Law ’90), Gerard Mosquera (Ateneo Law ’92), Richard Amurao (Ateneo ’92) and Ma. Teresa Chan-Gonzaga (Ateneo Law ’02).

The current Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) chief Cristino Naguiat was the President’s college classmate (Ateneo Economics ’81), and so is the new National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Chito Cruz.

The President’s circle of Ateneo chums extend even to the legislature that include Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona III (Ateneo Law ’84).

Appointing school mates to top positions is nothing new in governance.

US President John F. Kennedy was known to favor Harvard classmates; Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has reportedly surrounded himself with a “civiliki” network of law scholars from the Leningrad State University, especially in the judiciary.

The Japanese coined a word for it – “gakubatsu” – translated as “school cliques” that dominate segments of their society, especially the business world.

A research written by Harvard University professor Mark Ramseyer on Japanese “school cliques” observed that “in the world beyond the university, the graduates of elite schools look out for their own. They talk with each other. They mentor. They help. They lobby their employer to hire still more graduates.”

The President’s supporters argue that if he was appointing a disproportionate number of school mates, that was secondary to their inherent qualifications to fill sensitive positions in government.

This seems to be affirmed by the resume of “blue bloods” in the President’s management team, where graduating from Ateneo often appears incidental to their other academic accomplishments or work experience.

While most Ateneans celebrate the successes of school mates in today’s Philippines – particularly within the Aquino administration – they should also acknowledge they run the risk of reducing the urgent task of governance to the level of a “barkadahan”.

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