I AM publishing here, starting today, with my readers’ apologies, some excerpts of my yet to-be-published book entitled “I WALKED WITH PRESIDENTS”. May I confess here and now that the title is not originally mine.
When I was reporter-columnist of the MINDANAO TIMES during those early years when I was at the Ateneo de Davao law school , it was actually our Publisher Cesar “Chuck” Nunez, who later became my “ninong” ( wedding sponsor) who told me that he dreamt of writing a book with that title as he had “covered” or wrote articles during his lifetime about several Philippine presidents but he did not actually personally serve any of them. When he was starting to feel that he was about to “go to the great beyond” he called for me and told me: “Jess, you write that book!” Honestly, I never thought or imagined I would “literally and actually walk” with those heads of state in my later years. My “ninong” Chuck’s dream coming true.
4 PRESIDENTS —‘Twas a memorable almost life-long “walk” with four (4) Philippine presidents from Corazon (CORY) Cojuangco Aquino, Fidel Valdez Ramos ( FVR,) Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ( GMA) and Rodrigo Roa Duterte ( RRD).
CORY — In 1987, after the lifting of martial law, I was elected Davao City 1st District Congressman until 1989 during President Cory. I personally served her when she later appointed me as member of the Governing Board of the Philippine Coconut Authority.
FVR — In 1992, I returned as Davao Congressman until 1995 under President FVR and towards his final year as president in 1997, he appointed me as Presidential Assistant for Mindanao ( OPAMIN) and concurrent chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCO).
GMA – It was during President Arroyo’s term that I served in various capacities in her cabinet. In ￼2001, at the onset of her ￼9-year term ( 3 years of deposed President Estrada’s remaining term and her regular ￼6 -year term) President GMA first appointed me chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council ( MEDCO) and concurrently chairman of the government negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front ( MILF). Then in 2003 she asked me to serve as her Presidential Peace Adviser. In 2005, I served her as official palace spokesman as Press Secretary. When my wife Beth started to suffer from kidney problems, I begged leave to spend more time to personally attend to Beth. PGMA agreed. But didn’t totally let go of me. Instead, she appointed me as her Chief Presidential Legal Counsel in 2006. And finally, toward the end of her term in 2009, she appointed me as first Chairman of the newly created Mindanao Development Authority ( formerly MEDCO which I headed previously ) with a fixed 5- year term of office until 2014 but which I voluntarily relinquished in 2010 with the assumption of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino.
I recall I once asked PGMA why she moved me from one post to another with five ( 5) cabinet positions during her 9-year presidency.
I said: “Ma’am, I am getting the feeling that I am not good at any of the posts you gave me.”
She merely laughed and said: “If you don’t deserve those posts at all, why would I give you a 5-year fixed term at MINDA even beyond my term?” End of discussion!
PRRD — In 2016, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte became president, he appointed me as his Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process ( OPAPP) handling the government’s work with the MILF, MNLF, CPP/NPA/NDF and other threat groups nation-wide, dealt with the ABU SAYYAF kidnappings and other terrorist attacks, met with the world’s leaders abroad and handled global fund assistance facilities for the whole country’s peace and development paradigm.
Finally, I voluntarily and irrevocably resigned in November ￼ 2018 to take “full responsibility” for the misdoings of my OPAPP staff.