PHILIPPINE President Rodrigo Duterte beefed up his administration by naming his military chief and his running mate as ministers on Wednesday, and appointing a racy dancer known for lambasting journalists to his communications team.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president last year, would become foreign secretary and armed forces chief-of-staff General Eduardo Ano would take the interior portfolio before his tenure ends in October.
Duterte made a strong defence of Margaux Justiniano Uson, an entertainer famous for her risqué moves, for blogging about sex advice and masturbation and for posting revealing photographs on social media.
She was appointed assistant presidential communications secretary, a decision Duterte said was his entirely, as a reward for supporting his election campaign.
“She is bright, is articulate. And if it’s just a matter of dancing, she was not dancing naked,” he told a news conference.
“During the campaign, (she was) a little bit sexier than the other, but that does not (allow) anybody to deprive her of the honour that she deserves.”
The appointment of Uson, a Filipino celebrity known as “Mocha”, may be a source of friction among the press that she will have to work with in her new role.
A diehard Duterte apologist, Uson has a frosty relationship with journalists, calling them “presstitutes” and lashing out frequently on Facebook about “fake news” she considers biased against the maverick leader.
Duterte said he had no hesitation in appointing Uson, who has a Facebook following of nearly five million people.
“There’s no law that says if you expose half of your body, with shorts and bra, you are disqualified,” he said.
“Check Facebook and she can have a very structured mind. So what’s the problem?”
Duterte delivered the news when a reporter asked him about filling two Cabinet posts currently held by caretakers. He told his top general to step forward.
“You are now facing the next interior and local government secretary,” Duterte said.
Ano was an infantry division commander in Davao when Duterte was the city’s mayor. He said he needed Ano as interior minister because the Philippines has a problem with rogue police and Islamic State-linked militants.
Ano would be the second army chief Duterte has picked this week to join his cabinet. Roy Cimatu, who also served in Davao, was appointed environment minister on Monday.
“There’s one more vacancy. I will add another military, then the junta is complete,” Duterte joked.
Cayetano’s appointment was widely expected. He was one of Duterte’s top campaign donors and takes the foreign affairs portfolio after the expiry of a one-year ban on losing candidates from taking government posts.
He ran on Duterte’s ticket for the vice presidency, a position elected separately to the president, and has worked closely with Duterte as a foreign policy adviser in his administration.