Tribute to the late PNoy

Mr. Mel Senen Sarmiento
Former Secretary
Department of Interior and Local Government

When I became Secretary General of the party, he said that his father, had he not been assassinated, would have been President. He himself was Sec Gen and he became a President. He jokingly told me to take the job and become President. He then said, “I know this is hard work and will affect your time in the district, but let me assist you in case you need it.”

Assisting the President was never easy, you needed to be prepared with your answer in case he became aware of something. It should be factually correct. After long hours of work, he made up for it by taking us out for dinner.

As a speed reader, he would go through the meeting materials. Given the savings achieved by the government, our department asked for additional funding because the Yolanda typhoon damaged the local government structures and over one thousand projects in fine print. At the start of the meeting, he went directly to one of the municipalities and said, “Repair of 9 multi-purpose halls at 15 million pesos each.” He said, “How can the damage be precisely the same?”

He invited me to his office while waiting for another guest to come. He was reviewing a funding proposal. A calculator was beside him. He said, “Mel, I am very careful. It’s the people’s money and I’m always conscious that my mom and dad are on my back, reading it, too.” And that they were ready to slap his back if he did something foolish.

Sitting next to him in a helicopter, he brought a music player and a new headset. He said, “It’s so good, try it.” He gave it to me and liked the quality of the sound and the music. Perhaps when he saw I liked it, he was ashamed to get it back. On landing, I gave it to the assistant. After one week, his assistant called me and gave me the same type of music player and headphones. Perhaps, indirectly saying, “Mel, when we travel, bring your gadget to avoid borrowing mine.”

If I loved a song, within a few days, I got the CD.

While we were traveling the country, he would say, “Try to get hungry, I know a place with good food.” I was amazed at how he was able to memorize small restaurants in the provinces.

On our outings, he didn’t want the LGUs to prepare food for us because it would cost the local government a lot of money. He didn’t want them to concern themselves with our food. We ate somewhere simple with good food.

If we compare the 2012 era of local government to 2018 when he was President, the Internal Revenue Allotment for the latter was double that of the former. He was a great economist, with a 6.25% GDP increase during his time to show for it. I am deeply grateful for him for advancing the economy, and I’m sure the LGUs think the same.