With the first 100 days of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. coming to an end, I must say that everything he did, his appointments to the Cabinet, government bureaus and agencies have been so far, so good.
Bongbong Marcos’ takeover of the Department of Agriculture was timely because of the looming shortages of basic commodities — first with sugar, then with onions and garlic and even salt, fish and meat.
It was timely in the sense that now Marcos Jr is fully aware of the need for him to stop the smuggling of essential food like vegetables and other food supplies.
He is now aware of what happens when a super typhoon like Karding devastates agriculture which was reported to be a loss of over P3 billion.
But, it would now do Bongbong Marcos well to name a permanent secretary of agriculture and it looks like Senior Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban would be it, unless BBM has somebody else in mind.
It would also be good now for President Marcos Jr. to appoint a permanent DOH Secretary. While USec Vergeire is doing well as OIC of the DOH, there is a need for a permanent DOH Secretary.
President Marcos Jr.’s first foreign trips to Indonesia and Singapore were also very timely, considering the many challenges that a President of a country like the Philippines is facing, the rising incidence of poverty, joblessness, looming food supply and shortages, and, more urgent, the need for foreign investments for job creation.
BBM’s battlecry that the Philippines “is now open for business” certainly made a dent among foreign investors in Indonesia and Singapore.
No doubt about it, BBM’s attendance at the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) and many bilateral meetings with the heads of state, especially the one-on-one meeting with the United States President Joe Biden, certainly made the country’s presence in a world assembly noticed.
It also made a dent in the eyes of the world that the Philippines is now open for business.
His one-on-one meeting with Biden was notable in the sense that it confirmed once again the “iron clad” commitment of the US on the mutual defense of the Philippines and the US.
With BBM’s invitation to US investors to come to the country, I am certain it made a big dent to American investors to the fact that the country is now “the rising star” of Southeast Asia.
I particularly like what BBM said of the alleged conflict with China over the South China Sea and China’s frequent incursion into Philippine waters at the East Philippine Sea that the US’ commitment to come to the defense of the Philippines is iron clad.
President Marcos was quoted to have said that “There is really no conflict between China and the Philippines. The alleged conflict arises from the fact that China is claiming part of Philippine waters that belongs to our country.”
In connection with the planned importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar by the SRA (Sugar Regulatory Administration) which became a fiasco or a mess, it is now clarified.
And with the short-lived Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez resigning, BBM avoided a real fiasco.
According to Executive Secretary and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Lucas Bersamin, Rodriguez is not a part of the administration, having no office, since the position of Presidential Chief of Staff was abolished during the time of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Contrary to claims that there was an administrative order assigning Rodriguez as Presidential Chief of Staff, it turns out now, according to ES Bersamin, there was no administrative order at all.
And Marcos Jr. did well to listen to the advice of his chief legal counsel, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, not to give in to the move of Vic Rodriguez to give himself extra powers and responsibilities as Presidential Chief of Staff.
I say that on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the highest, the first 100 days of Marcos Jr. in office, which will end tomorrow, is almost a 9.
As for his appointments, so far so good, except for Trixie Cruz-Angeles as Press Secretary, who could not seem to differentiate a blogger and vlogger from a journalist.
During the congressional hearing of the budget of the press secretary, Angeles was quoted to have said that as Press Secretary she is still open to the accreditation of bloggers and vloggers as members of the Malacanang Press Corps.
Santa Banana, bloggers and vloggers as accredited members of the Malacanang Press Corps is an insult to all journalists like me and members of the mainstream media.
Bloggers and vloggers are nothing more than glorified “chismosos” or “chismosas” without accountability, unlike journalists.
And as a journalist of 75 years, I am glad she resigned, allegedly for health reasons, which will end the controversy about her bias to accredit bloggers and vloggers to the Malacanang Press Corps.
Marcos Jr., as president, will continue to have acid tests.
For instance, the total ban on POGOs has become a choice between totally outlawing POGOs and deporting Chinese who entered the country illegally or are now overstaying and to totally deport all of them, which other sectors say will be a possible loss of some P200 billion for the government.
There is also a claim that outlawing POGOs will result in social costs and empty condominiums and houses in many subdivisions.
The fact that POGOs have made the country a hot bed of criminal activities like kidnapping for ransom, torture and even killings should not be a choice for Marcos Jr.
With enough political will, with one sweep, Marcos Jr. can resolve the problem brought about by the POGOs, which is actually illegal in China, since it is gambling.
And I am sure Marcos Jr. knows the need to totally ban POGOs and to deport all Chinese who have entered the country illegally or are overstaying.
Santa Banana, at a time when the country is approaching the new normal, it’s imperative to have a peaceful and orderly country for the sake of tourism, foreign and domestic, and attracting foreign investors.
For the sake of the common good and national interest, as far as I am concerned, there is no choice, Mister President. Just ban POGOs and deport all Chinese who have violated our laws.
As far as the resignation of former Solicitor General Jose Calida is concerned, I must say that it is now the President’s choice to appoint the next Commission on Audit chairman.
I cannot end this column without praising BBM for his choice for executive secretary, no less than retired Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
With Bersamin’s long record in the judiciary and as former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, BBM made an excellent choice.
As I said earlier, President Marcos will continue to meet challenges and acid tests as President.
But, I am sure, he will hurdle them. All he needs is a good personal adviser who will warn him of pitfalls along the way.
But, at the rate he is going, I am confident that BBM will hurdle all the challenges he will continue to face, mindful of what he said, “Your dreams are my dreams.”
As for the trip of the President and the First Lady to Singapore last weekend, critics have said that it showed insensitivity to the victims of the super typhoon Karding.
I believe, however, that as BBM said “It was productive” since he followed through many of the pledges and commitments to invest in the Philippines.
There was a need, however, for the Press Secretary and BBM’s advisers to have made the trip to Singapore more transparent, like explaining that the attendance of BBM to the F1 Grand Prix was upon the invitation of the Singapore Prime Minister, including expenses and that the jet used was borrowed from one of the taipans.
But as I said, the Press Secretary and the advisers could have avoided the criticisms by having the foresight to announce and explain the President’s trip in a more transparent manner.
I have heard from some sources, alongside rumors, that my good friend Mike Toledo, who is Senior Vice President of MetroPacific of Manny V. Pangilinan and now chairman of the Chamber of Mines, will be the next Press Secretary.
As far as I am concerned, Mike Toledo is a very good choice because he was once a Press Secretary of former President Joseph E. Estrada.
And Mike Toledo knows very well what the press is all about, especially now that once again, journalists are being put to the test with the recent killing of a broadcaster.
Having been a journalist for 75 years, I know being a journalist is not a walk in the park. It entails a lot of sacrifice and is a very dangerous job in bringing to the public the truth.
I can attest to the fact that Mike Toledo will be a very good choice for Press Secretary.