CEBU CITY, Philippines – If you had asked Cebuano businessman Michael Lloyd Dino 6 months ago if he would consider giving up his career as a successful entrepreneur for public service, he would have laughed it off as a joke.

But when the newly-elected President Rodrigo Duterte asked Dino to be his Presidential Assistant for the Visayas, he knew it was serious.

“I visited with only the purpose of congratulating Digong, but he got up and said ‘this is going to be my guy in the Visayas,’” Dino said.

Dino is a founder of the ‘Bisaya Na Pud’ group in Cebu, one of the first groups that began pressuring Duterte to run as early as 2014. Once he made his candidacy official, they were among several groups who campaigned for their bet in Cebu, the province that delivered 1.1 million votes for the president.

“You want me to be your assistant in the Central Visayas?” Dino asked Duterte. “No, the entire Visayas,” Duterte replied. Duterte then instructed Salvador Panelo, his legal adviser, to draft the appointment papers.

Last June 30, Dino would not only become a public servant for the first time at 48, he would be filling an office that had been vacant for 6 years. 

In 2004 Gloria Macapagal Arroyo opened Malacañang sa Sugbo as her official residence and office in the Central Visayas. She appointed Felix Guanzon as her Presidential Assistant, who was only assigned as the assistant for Region VII.

But when the Bohol earthquake struck last 2013, the then abandoned building suffered structural damage. Dino will move his office there once rehabilitation work is complete.

“I will not pretend like I know everything about the job,” Dino says. He is not a politician and does not plan to become one after 2022. Dino says that’s his advantage.

“If you work based on the premise that you are setting the stage to launch a political career, then the things you can do will be limited,” he says. “Me, it doesn’t matter. I can do what I think is right regardless of politics and parties. I will stay for 6 years, as long as Duterte is in office, and not a day longer.”

‘Yaya’ of Visayas