Challenging but fulfilling

Published July 22, 2022, 5:02 AM

by Fil C. Sionil

For some, his acceptance to join the Cabinet of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.  was a bit of a surprise. For one, this meant he would be giving up his relatively tranquil, serene existence spending more quality time like playing golf together with wife Joji and his “apostolic mission” for his grandchildren – Sef and Elle.

Actually, on the day then executive secretary designate Vic Rodriguez called him former Philippine Airlines (PAL) president and chief operating officer Jaime “JJB” Bautista just came back from his usual Singapore getaway, where his daughter Liza works as an expat. 

“The President wants to see you,” Mr. Vic tells JJB on the other line. Well, the clarion called and off went JJB to the Marcos campaign headquarters. 

The then President-elect cut the chase and was direct. “I’m offering you DOTr (Department of Transportation).” I’m not pretty sure if the ever cool JJB was startled, but what I know is that he did not, altogether, accept nor reject the offer.

Nope! JJB is not that close with the appointing power. Their engagements were few and far between. But what really left an impression on the President was the work ethics of JJB.

Then a local government official of Ilocos Norte, Mr. Marcos requested the return of the PAL flight frequency to the province that was stopped, altogether by cigarette tycoon and PAL owner Lucio Tan, due to certain misbehaving incident between the airline’s manager in Laoag and a member of prominent political family.

Voila, two days after the cancellation, PAL resumed its flight to Laoag. It’s a microcosm of the adeptness in JJB’s negotiating stance and more importantly, his stewardship.

It was actually the President, himself, who reminded JJB of this incident during the meeting. But, just as he was willing to accept the challenge, JJB requested for sometime to discuss/consult with his family – wife Joji and daughter Liza – because it would mean another paradigm shift in their lifestyle.

He will also be giving up an array of directorships from both multinational and domestic corporations and foundations, which came his way shortly after he retired from PAL.

Finally accepting the appointment JJB said, “It is not always that an offer to serve the government comes along. I want to help, do my share.”

From there on, there was no turning back. His appointment was one of the most welcomed. The first working hour on his first day on the job was spent listening to the Holy Mass with no less than the President and the other Cabinet men at the Royal Parish and National Shrine of Saint Michael and the Archangels inside the Palace grounds.

While he fully understands that airline industry is merely a segment of the whole gamut of the transportation service, JJB’s mission and vision, in accord with the thrust of the President, is to provide accessible, affordable and safe travel to the riding public.

Three weeks into the job, JJB is discovering the huge disparity in working protocol between the private sector and the government. “It’s my first government job. Iba ang culture (the culture is different), especially in terms of budgeting. In the private sector, budgeting is a guide but in government, one cannot freely disburse funds.”

“It’s challenging but at the same time fulfilling, especially if you did something good,” he said.

With his high level of EQ (emotional quotient) and as the wheels of business churn faster with travel and tourism ramping up, JJB is motivating his colleagues, including attached agencies, to work cohesively to provide better service to the people. All it takes is “teamwork” in order to achieve DOTr’s goal of safe, accessible and affordable travel in all aspects – land, air  and sea – of the transport industry.

Talkback to me at [email protected]