GNASH your teeth until they fall out, you Yellows, Pinks and Reds. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. posted an impressive 86 percent trust and 78 performance rating, according to a survey undertaken by OCTA Research in the last week of October.
Marcos should take advantage of this colossal political support to start the reform programs this country direly needs even if these are unpopular or will be resisted by oligarchs.
Those ratings are basically at the high levels of his predecessor President Rodrigo Duterte, whom I would think the masses identified with more than Marcos. This is perhaps indicated by the fact that while both presidents had an 86 percent trust rating, Marcos’ performance rating was 78 percent, a bit lower than Duterte’s 86 percent. Those of the past three Yellow presidents — Cory, Ramos, Aquino 3rd — were all below Duterte and Marcos.
Marcos’ trust and performance ratings are impressive because of two reasons. First, inflation has not been contained during the months when the survey was undertaken, increasing to 7.7 percent in October from 6.9 percent in September. This certainly hasn’t been an abstract statistic, with even newspapers and TV reporting surges in rice, sugar and vegetable products in grocery shelves.
And people usually blame, rightly or wrongly, their president for high prices of the usual things they buy everyday.
The political consequence of rising prices was not lost on a guest columnist in this paper, Fermin Adriano, who’s a professional economist specializing in agriculture. He wrote in a recent column:
“With no less than President Marcos Jr. heading the Department of Agriculture, the rising prices of food commodities reflect badly on his leadership. I am afraid that this will contribute to the undermining of the president’s credibility and eventually his popularity if not arrested.
“Although the administration overall remains popular, the results of the latest Pulse Asia survey showed that about two of the respondents expressed serious concern on the soaring prices of basic commodities. It also revealed that 42 percent of the respondents disapprove of how the national government is controlling inflation.”
The OCTA findings, however, show that people do not blame Marcos for soaring prices, and rightly so.
The second reason why Marcos’ high ratings are impressive is that compared to his predecessor, his first five months in office have been either lackluster, colorless or even drifting.
Whether you agree with Duterte or not, his war on illegal drugs in his first three months in office stunned the nation in its intensity — or ferocity. Everyone was talking about it, with the president’s road on fire with his war.
There is just no equivalent of that in Marcos’ first months in office.
A few of his supporters of course make much of his travels abroad, that Marcos has as one headline put it, put the Philippines “back in the map.” But out of his five travels abroad — roughly once every month — three were to attend required international meetings (UN General Assembly in New York, the Asean Summit in Cambodia, and the APEC meeting in Thailand), one was for his family’s entertainment (the Singapore Grand Prix). His last trip was to Indonesia, which I totally do not understand the significance of why he had to make that trip.
In the meantime, Marcos’ house was in disorder, his executive secretary, a crucial post, at odds with his First Lady, and it took Marcos three months to decide which side he’ll take.
He can’t decide, now after four months, who to appoint as agriculture, health and press secretaries — three crucial posts. This is the first time I think that a president couldn’t complete his Cabinet, which is in fact usually announced on the first week of a president’s term.
So far, it is image prevailing over substance in the first four months of the Marcos administration.
For image, Marcos spent time mimicking a famous photo of his father with US President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 checking out the “miracle rice” that could produce 99 sacks per hectare, developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños. The IRRI was set up by the American Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, with some Philippine government support — which is the reason why Johnson was so willing to pose with Marcos. While indeed developing new, more productive rice varieties in the 1960s, IRRI is a shadow of its former self, with rice institutes set up in almost all Asian countries.
That photo of Marcos Jr. with IRRI executives was a lot of nonsense.
The substance is that the Agriculture department is dead in the water, as its secretary — Marcos himself — is so busy running the national government and traveling abroad, that he has visited the department’s headquarters only twice, and even missed — canceling at the last minute — the celebration there of World Food Day October 17. As a result, the highest official attending the event was a legislator, Sen. Cynthia Villar.
Marcos could have appointed as his representative in the department an active and respected official. Instead he appointed Domingo Panganiban, whose main qualification is that he was one of his father’s most trusted men in the agriculture sector. At 83 years old, officials there tell me, Panganiban does what most seniors have to do, which is to take frequent naps, even if his most active recent work was as basketball coach to the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdog team.
And then it puzzles me no end why Marcos can’t appoint a health secretary when we aren’t really totally out of the pandemic woods yet. Has the pressure of lobbying groups paralyzed him?
Marcos intervened in the issue over San Miguel and Meralco’s tiff with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) by issuing a public statement that the Court of Appeals — a part of the judicial branch — should not have issued its temporary restraining order on the ERC order which SMC and Meralco protested. This is just plain wrong: the head of the executive branch just doesn’t intervene or comment on a decision or an action of the judicial branch.
But he hasn’t bothered to ask the Justice department — which is under the executive branch — why it hasn’t issued or can’t issue an arrest order against former Bureau of Corrections head Gerald Bantag, who has been publicly tagged, directly or indirectly, accurately or inaccurately for several weeks now as the alleged mastermind of the killing of journalist Percival Mabasa.
Where does Marcos intend to take the country to? Duterte in his first months of office at least made clear he wanted to rid the country of illegal drugs, to prevent the nation from becoming a narco-state. A “simple” goal, but still a clear path, with the rest of the blah-blahs like “macro-economic stability,” “stable fiscal situation,” and “investment-attractiveness” left to his technocrats to work on. Then he emphasized as his goal his “build, build, build” program — to build as much infrastructure as the government can.
Marcos hasn’t done that yet. I do hope he would soon; and his huge political support would allow him to undertake even the most painful reforms.
Don’t get me wrong. More than most people, I’d like this administration to succeed, the antithesis — hopefully — of the hypocritical, oligarch-backed, holier-than-thou Yellow regime. I hate being told next by a Yellow niece and my AH Ateneo classmates: “I told you so…” I rooted for Marcos, and debunked with much success the Yellow myths over his father’s rule, for which I’m now the most hated writer by Yellows and Reds.
And after all it would be the penultimate administration I’d live under in my lifetime, and if it fails, we will see a Yellow counter-revolution, and my grandson will live in a country overtaken by Vietnam or even Cambodia and Laos.
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