Norberto B. Gonzales is an avowed democratic-socialist, whose long career spans activism and union organizing, peace talks negotiation and national security adviser, defense secretary and presidential chief of staff appointments under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. He chairs the Philippine Democratic Socialist Party, which has roots in the protest movement in the 1970s and participated in the mass campaigns against the Marcos dictatorship, peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front and the ouster of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada.
During his tenure in the Arroyo administration, Gonzales was involved in the Venable contract controversy, concerning the eventually cancelled agreement with a United States-based consultancy firm engaged by Gonzales allegedly on behalf of Arroyo to manage the president’s charter change plans. Critics assailed the contract for seeking US funding for efforts to shift the Philippines to a parliamentary system, a violation of Philippine sovereignty, and the exorbitant $900,000 or P50.4 million contract price. The Senate blue ribbon committee later recommended the filing of charges against Gonzales for entering into the “illegal” contract and doing so without authority. However, no such charges were filed.
Norberto Gonzales was also among the heads of Oplan Bantay Laya, a wide-scale counter-insurgency program of the government, which received much criticism for alleged legal and human rights violations such as extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances and illegal detention by political activists as well as independent fact-finding bodies led by former Supreme Court Justice Jose Melo and United Nations special rapporteur for human rights Philip Alston.
Later, Norberto Gonzales became part of the National Transformation Council, a group of Arroyo allies among former government officials, politicians and catholic clergy that called for President Benigno Aquino III to resign and be replaced by an interim government. The group denied accusations that it was instigating a coup d’ etat against Aquino.
As a surprise candidate for the 2022 presidential election, Gonzales frames many of the issues faced by the country as matters of national security, including food security and the COVID-19 pandemic. He vows to prioritize reform of the agricultural sector to boost food production and increase farmers’ income.
“Ang hangarin natin ay baguhin ang umiiral na pamumulitika dito sa bayan natin. Sa aking karanasan na halos isang dekada sa paglilingkod sa gobyerno, nakita ko ang pagiging importante ng pulitika at ng uri ng politiko na magpapatakbo ng bayan natin.”
NORBERTO BORJA GONZALES PROFILE
Full Name: Norberto Borja Gonzales
Birthdate: April 17, 1947 (Age 76)
Birthplace: Balanga, Bataan
Languages Spoken: Filipino, English
Parents: Jose Dizon Gonzales Jr., Aurora Alonza Borja
- Bachelor of Science in Pre-Medicine, Ateneo de Davao University, 1968
- Master in National Security Administration, National Defense College of the Philippines, 2006
- Secretary of the Department of National Defense, Nov. 2009 – Jun 2010
- Acting Secretary of the DND, July – Aug. 2007
- National Security Adviser and Director General of the National Security Council, Feb. 2005 – June 2017
- Political adviser, officer-in-charge of the Office of Political Coalition Affairs
- Presidential chief of staff, Aug. 2004 – Feb. 2005
- Presidential adviser for special concerns, Arroyo administration, Feb. 2001 – Jan. 2004
- Principal senior official in back-channel efforts in talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the National Democratic Front
- Peace Panel member, Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front, 1996
Norberto Gonzales completed a pre-medicine course in Ateneo de Davao. During the second term of President Ferdinand Marcos, Gonzales joined the burgeoning anti-government protests. The protest movement he co-organized became the Kilusan ng mga Demokratikong Sosyalista ng Pilipinas, which later became the Partido Demokratiko Sosyalista ng Pilipinas (PDSP). The PDSP worked together with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to help overthrow Marcos. Once Marcos was ousted, his successor Corazon Aquino appointed him as a negotiator to the MNLF. Two years later, a peace agreement was signed between the government and the MNLF. A decade later. Gonzales was appointed presidential adviser for special concerns and presidential chief of staff by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Norberto Gonzales was appointed as national security adviser in February 2005 until his appointment as the defense chief in July 2007. He briefly served for a month and was replaced by Gilbert Teodoro. As national security adviser, he was ordered detained by the Senate for contempt of Congress in 2005. Later on, he cited the ongoing communist insurgency as a reason why the Philippines remained a “Third World country.” He proposed crafting a good strategy to defeat the rebels, or extending President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s term.
After Teodoro’s announcement of his presidential candidacy, Gonzales served as the secretary of national defense again from November 2009 until June 30, 2010