NORBERTO BORJA GONZALES was the 36th Secretary of the Department of the National Defense of the Philippines under the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. His term covered from June 2009 until June 2010. Earlier, he served as Arroyo’s Presidential Chief of Staff (August 2004 to February 2005) before being promoted as National Security Adviser and Director-General of the National Security Council.
Secretary Gonzales was born in Puerto Rivas on April 17, 1947. He is the son of the late Jose Dizon Gonzales Jr. and Aurora Alonzo Borja. He was the class valedictorian when he graduated at the Maximino delos Reyes Memorial Elementary School. He was an honor student and medalist for academic excellence during his high school days at the Arellano University in Malabon.
After one year of study at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, he transferred to Ateneo de Davao University where he finished a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was employed as an instructor of Chemistry and Biology at the Western Philippine College (Batangas City) and later on, at St. Paul’s College (Quezon City).
While working for his Master’s degree at UP, he was detained by the military for being one of Senator Ninoy Aquino’s LABAN leaders, and for co-writing with Fr. Romeo Intengan, SJ, the book entitled “The Philippine Crisis and Commitment.”
He spent many years hiding in the United States and Europe during the entire Marcos regime to avoid arrest and detention “for political reasons.” In the US, he established communications with Senator Ninoy Aquino and the other political exiles. In Europe, he joined the Social Democrats organization representing the Philippines.
He returned to the country in 1986, during the administration of President Cory Aquino. He was involved in the “peace talks” with the Mindanao rebels while serving as a panel member of the GRP-MNLF Peace Process. He likewise assisted Aquino in the consolidation of people’s organization and cooperatives but he never accepted any government position.
He co-founded the LAKAS ng EDSA Coalition that launched the presidential candidacy of General Fidel V. Ramos. He also led in the formation of the September 8 Movement, a coalition consisting of Catholic and Protestant Church elements.
He joined the government service in 1998 when Gloria Arroyo was still the Vice President of the Philippines. The lady President took him in as Presidential Chief of Staff and later promoted him as National Security Adviser and Director-General of the National Security Council. In June 2009, President Arroyo appointed Gonzales as the 36th Secretary of the Department of National Defense.
Secretary Gonzales has four children: Marie, Terry, Donna and Jose Norbie. His eldest, Attorney Marie, ran for the congressional post of the Second District in 2007 and 2010. Both attempts, however, were unsuccessful.