Duterte names running mate as foreign secretary

Mr Alan Peter Cayetano working closely with the President as a foreign policy adviser.
Mr Alan Peter Cayetano working closely with the President as a foreign policy adviser.PHOTO: REUTERS

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday officially appointed a senator who ran unsuccessfully for vice-president as his new foreign secretary, in a widely expected move.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano will replace Mr Perfecto Yasay, a former securities regulator whose appointment was rejected by Congress over questions about his citizenship.

Mr Cayetano, 46, was Mr Duterte's running mate in the 2016 elections, but he lost to Liberal Party candidate Leni Robredo.

The president and vice-president are elected separately in the Philippines.

Since last year, Mr Duterte has been saying that he wanted Mr Cayetano to helm the Department of Foreign Affairs. But the senator has had to wait for a year, since the Constitution bars losing candidates from being appointed to a Cabinet post till a year after the elections.

Mr Cayetano is one of Mr Duterte's biggest campaign donors. He has fended off attempts in Congress to pin on Mr Duterte thousands of killings by police and vigilantes in a brutal crackdown on the narcotics trade.

Mr Cayetano led efforts to oust Senator Leila de Lima, Mr Duterte's top critic who is now in jail over allegations that she coddled drug lords when she was justice secretary, as head of a Senate committee investigating the killings.

The senator has been on most of Mr Duterte's trips abroad, working closely with the President as a foreign policy adviser.

Mr Duterte also beefed up his Cabinet by naming General Eduardo Ano as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Gen Ano will assume the post when he steps down as military chief in October.

The President also appointed Ms Margaux Justiniano Uson, a racy dancer known for lambasting journalists, to his communications team. Ms Uson, whose Facebook page has nearly five million followers, has been rallying online support for Mr Duterte.

Before he left for Cambodia yesterday to attend the World Economic Forum on Asean, Mr Duterte made a strong defence of Ms Uson's appointment, saying she is "bright, articulate".

"If it's just a matter of dancing, she was not dancing naked," he told reporters.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 11, 2017, with the headline 'Duterte names running mate as foreign secretary'. Print Edition | Subscribe