Many observers could borrow the words from a song monologued by Yul Brynner in the cinematic version of Rodger and Hammerstein’s musical, The King and I, in describing the many dizzying events that have transpired in the last six months and 12 days of the Marcos Junior administration.
First among the most memorable was the handling of the sugar importation to augment a clear shortage of the commodity.
The president was informed about the increased and increasing retail price of sugar, with the current inventory as well as projected milled sugar output and its timeline described by the Sugar Regulatory Administration.
The expert recommendation was for us to import 300,000 metric tons, half of which was for the consumers, and the other for industrial users. No objection was raised by the president.
Forthwith the SRA prepared an import plan for 300,000 tons, and the board, presided by a very able and upright senior undersecretary as COO in the person of Leocadio Sebastian, passed approval.
But some highly influential sugar bloc politicos supposedly whispered to the president that the SRA move was objectionable, because the milling season was about to start.
Heeding them, the president asked his then executive secretary to stop the SRA order.
Shit hit the fan particularly in the Senate, and the “usurpers” of presidential authority were haled, there to face inquisition that robbed them of reputation.
Importation was halved to 150,000 tons. Sugar prices from then until now have not decreased, hovering from 90 to 100 pesos per kilo.
In an effort to stop the inflationary wave, the “king” ordered a MAV importation of 64,000 tons just before the year ended. But that will arrive, assuming letters of credit are drawn now, some 40 days hereafter. And as expected, the sugar planters are raising a howl.
They never had it so good with domestic prices reaching the roof.
As a postscript to the bitter and unsweet episode, USec Sebastian and the SRA officials were “exonerated” from any culpability by the new Executive Secretary last week, because they were in good faith, a confirmation post facto that they acted well within authority and rightly at that.
On the defense front, a retired CSAFP was designated OIC with the title of senior undersecretary at the start of the president’s term.
Since the law stipulated that one had to hibernate for a year before being appointed to a civilian office, it was expected that Jose Faustino would be named defense secretary by November when the one-year ban would end.
In the meantime, a new CSAFP was appointed, in the person of Medal of Valor awardee Bartolome Bacarro.
The appointment was done in the early days of August for one who would reach retirement age in September 18 last year, but because RA 11709 signed by PRRD on April 2022 provided for a three-year stay, it was expected by many that Bacarro was to be CSAFP for the next three years.
He succeeded his PMA classmate Andres Centino who as CSAFP under PRRD had four stars on his epaulet, which Bacarro could not get as yet since Centino would reach 56 years only in February 2023.
Meanwhile, the replaced Centino was nominated to be our next ambassador to New Delhi, and was awaiting imprimatur from the Commission on Appointments.
But puzzlement of puzzlements, on January 6, Centino was returned to his post as CSAFP, replacing Bacarro, in a sudden decision where the acting defense secretary was out of the loop, prompting him to resign along with several undersecretaries on the day of the turnover where the commander-in-chief chose to be absent.
Of course, all these are part and parcel of the president’s appointing power, where all appointees serve at his sole pleasure.
Yet logic asks: why not wait for Centino to reach 56 on February 4, or a month from his re-assignment, give Bacarro who after all was past retirement age his fourth star, and then retire him later, say after a few months of continued service, to be subsequently replaced by a younger two or three-star general who would thereinafter serve the RA 11709’s mandated three full years?
Eeez a puzzlement!
Relatively minor officials have been appointed, then replaced without any announced reason or even the courtesy of civil parting.
Remember NIA Administrator Benny Antiporda, who the Ombudsman suspended for six months without any hearing, and then replaced a month later through media?
Or Noli Eala of the Philippine Sports Commission, who served for less than four months, who found out he was jobless also through media?
Of course they all held ad interim appointments, per the memorandum orders of an executive secretary who was primus inter pares in the Cabinet for just 77 days.
Since both Antiporda and Eala were given their designation while Rodriguez was still the ES, many speculate that there is an ongoing “cleansing” of all Rodriguez-tainted officials, such as the 81-day press secretary Trixie Angeles.
Jose Art Tugade, son of PRRD’s transport secretary, was appointed NAIA General Manager apparently without consulting DoTr Sec. Jaime Bautista, and then transferred to head the Land Transportation Office when the latter balked, so the previously appointed LTO chief was shunted off to the DoTr as an ASec, before being re-appointed as chair of the LTFRB weeks later.
Which ad interim appointees are next on the chopping block? Watch the evening news or get it from social media.
While variants of the pandemic still mutate, the health department is still headed by an OIC, a highly respected career undersecretary.
Given the in-and-out goings on in the present government, I doubt if she would ever want to lose her career entitlements to be appointed to a position which serves at the pleasure of the president.
And so we all speculate as to who will be appointed as DOH secretary, likely after the one-year ban on 2022 election losers expires on May.
Just as many predict that senatorial candidate Gilbert Teodoro will be the next defense secretary, and Carlito Galvez is only a stand-in.
Malacanang was in the dark about Erwin Tulfo’s citizenship when he was appointed DSWD secretary, and only when he faced the Commission on Appointments did we discover that he took up American citizenship and renounced the same only when he was appointed to the Cabinet.
Who will be the next DSWD secretary, while OIC Edu Punay, a journalist, warms the seat? Another election wannabee who lost last May?
On the bright side though, Atty. Cheloy Garafil, who has handled the press office very well in acting capacity in the last hundred days or so, finally took her oath as the press secretary and head of the newly re-named Presidential Communications Office, a most important position in these times.
The administration is already six and a half months old, way past the hundred-day milestone.
One hopes and prays that we shall see clear directions and less puzzlements in the next few weeks, even as the president travels yet again, to Davos and then Tokyo, after Jakarta, Singapore, New York, Phnom Penh, Bangkok and Beijing.
Critics called the PNoy government a “student council” administration. Later, the yellows retorted that PRRD led a “barangay” administration.
How will pinklawans and the boys from Davao describe the present?