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The President’s first 100 days

BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa - The Philippine Star

A president’s first 100 days in office should be a good basis for an assessment of management styles, real priorities, agility in tackling work, and commitment to getting work done.

For Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., now the Philippines’ 17th president, gauging all of the above through a very short window of time has been made more challenging by the fact that his earlier four decades in politics was not marked by any strong advocacies. Actually, the most news-hugging activity he indulged in before campaigning for the presidency was his electoral protest after losing the vice presidential race to Leni Robredo in 2016.

As a presidential aspirant, he managed to stay out of debates that would have allowed a glimpse of his governance style and priorities. Thus, the nearest to a platform that best spells out his intentions as the top executive of the land is his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) delivered in late July.

Definitely, our new president is not a man comfortable in publicly delving on the problems of the country. An apt summation of his SONA is in the ending statement: “The State of the Nation is sound.” In his over an hour speech, the President managed to make light of any of the global or national problems currently casting a dark cloud on us now.

His optimistic posture radiates to his foreign diplomacy views: “The Philippines shall continue to be friend to all. Thus, his trips outside of the country, now counting four, have paved the way to building up a persona of a “traveling salesman” instead, one that his office says has resulted in over P1 trillion in business pledges from Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States.

Another visit to the US later this month, and his attendance in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit scheduled this November in Thailand are already being readied, and should boost this sales “achievement.”

The President’s men

The President has also demonstrated how efficient he is at delegating work, at least in most areas of government except that of the Department of Agriculture (DA), which he concurrently holds.

He had been quick enough to announce the members of his economic team days before he took oath, which immediately mollified businessmen and potential investors who were anxious about the country’s pressing economic problems and vague fiscal policy.

His choices for the economic team have largely skirted controversy. He has mostly picked former officials of previous administrations for key positions for their ability to provide the right state policies when dealing with the rather sensitive and technical issues of governance.

Definitely, our new president is one who prefers not to be bothered by the day-to-day running of government, a reflection of his great penchant for relying on his trusted lieutenants to recommend solutions to problems, even crises.

This should be a good thing, but could turn to the sticky side, especially if the two layers of advisers start to disagree. The President is known to have an inner “advisory” circle that has so far done well in filling up the official list of executives under his branch of government, but could easily overreach in their future advices.

Definitive leadership

No doubt, our new president is a popular one if we rely on the percentage of the Philippine voting population who elected him to office. But is he a strong president who can ably lead the country should a life-and-death crisis develop?

We have a president who glosses over global issues, such as threats of climate changes or the widening disagreements in geopolitics that could force the Philippines to eventually take a more definitive stance or even the evolving fiscal landscape resulting from the US Fed’s aggressive monetary policies.

When the time comes for him to personally step up, will we be comforted by a show of defining leadership where he can muster the whole of government to respond and follow a clear set of orders?

The simple crisis that developed involving sugar comes to mind, when a lapse in a routine importation policy resulted in shortages that saw sugar prices double in a matter of weeks. It is easy to find a scapegoat, but the president can’t escape responsibility forever, especially if the crisis upends a whole nation.

The President said during his SONA that, “We have assembled the best Filipino minds to help navigate us through this time of global crisis.” This should absolve us of our worries, that is, however, if things don’t turn sour.

Let’s hope that the same mettle he demonstrated by winning the presidential race can be relied on as a measure of his ability to make things happen. I am still at awe in how he was able to surmount that unpalatable part of the country’s history marked by massive dollar outflows leading to the bankruptcy of the Philippine government under his father’s two-decade rule.

Unmentionables

The President routinely, if not deliberately, avoids dealing with topics that have to do with accusations of whitewashing, not just what history books have recorded of governance under his father’s term, but also his family’s personal wealth that is tied up to reportedly ill-gotten money and assets.

Others have to do with the very essence of good governance, particularly in getting rid of corruption among elected and appointed officials. The Philippines continues to perform poorly among more than a hundred nations in its fight against corruption, which ultimately affects the quality of governance and results in billions of pesos of tax money lost.

Perhaps we’ll hear more from him on these and other unmentionables in the coming months?

Facebook and Twitter

We are actively using two social networking websites to reach out more often and even interact with and engage our readers, friends and colleagues in the various areas of interest that I tackle in my column. Please like us on www.facebook.com/ReyGamboa and follow us on www.twitter.com/ReyGamboa.

Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at [email protected]. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

FERDINAND MARCOS JR.

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