SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. - The Philippine Star

It was in July of 2016 when I took over this column space, one month into the term of a new president. After six years commenting on the conduct of his public men, we embrace the privilege of offering constructive thoughts on the efforts of another new President.

People are talking renaissance, however high or low the bar they’ve set for Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. (PBBM). A PBBM administration has miles to go before it escapes the weight of expectations. Thursday’s inaugural address has set the tone. There will be no looking back in anger or nostalgia, he said. He spoke instead about the future; of looking ahead and building on the success that’s already happening.

So kindly manage your expectations. The father’s story has been written. PBBM will write his own. He has waited for this all his life. To paraphrase Kennedy, no person has ever been so ready to seize the burden and the glory of leadership.

The cards. PBBM is expected to unveil come SONA his comprehensive, all-inclusive plan for economic transformation, as well as a comprehensive infrastructure plan. We do see the steady hands of his well-received team already sending the right signals to the business sector and foreign investors.

A potential knee-buckler for the economy is the energy situation. Despite the build-build-build bonanza, not much headway was made in the past administration to increase power capacity. Yes, there are renewable plants in the pipeline but these are not baseload. Action should be taken about the gap in our reserves but, always, tempered by the PBBM push for sustainability (fossil fuel-free technologies and the willingness to make our own way). The impending choice of energy secretary takes on immense importance.

The Rubik’s cube challenge is really food security in the short term and education, long term. Indicative of this administration’s earnestness is that the President himself will preside over the food sufficiency response and the Vice President will handle education.

PBBM is looking to increase agricultural productivity. A six-month turnaround is doable, especially with rice. It will be tougher with the other agricultural sectors as he attempts to balance the tradeoffs and bitter pills (consumers, farmers, middlemen, processors, logistics, etc.) that precede fruitful harvests.

We note the other cannon fired across the agricultural bow: to think twice about the policies dictated by the rich free trade countries against protectionism (even as these countries break the rules for their own agricultural sectors). PBBM has declared that food is an existential and moral imperative, not a trade commodity. So, he will do what he must.

Take away. The broad strokes of his inaugural address barely disguises its important, undergirding values. Sustainability (no more investments with quick returns but inflicting irreparable damage for future generations), self-reliance (... we will find a way. We are not far from oil and gas reserves that have already been developed) and self-empowerment (if government ... invested in your self-empowerment to bring it closer to taking on challenges...).

Then there is that term associated with the father: dictate. Twice it came up. Twice, it was disavowed. First, “Imagine how much more you’d achieve, if the government backstops instead of dictating your decisions.” And second: “Their policy boils down to don’t do as we do. Do what we tell you to. I am giving that policy the most serious thought …” PBBM will not dictate. But neither will he be dictated to.

We anticipate a flurry of executive orders pertaining to the organization of his executive offices consistent with these directions. In the case of the first president Marcos, his term of office started with the same public sector reform to capacitate government. His was to undertake Development Administration, particularly industrialization.

Travesty. Senators Nancy Binay and Joel Villanueva have challenged the agricultural smuggling report released by Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III. The report, purportedly validated by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA), named up to 22 individuals as either smugglers or protectors, including several Bureau of Customs and Department of Agriculture officials. Inexplicably, a certain Toby Tiangco was included among the personalities named.

The officials implicated have all publicly denied any participation and denounced their inclusion in the list. As for Mr. Tiangco, actually the congressman from Navotas, no less than NICA director Edson Batalla has come forward to disabuse the public mind on Tiangco’s involvement. He has not done this for anyone else in the Senate report. According to Batalla, Tiangco’s name does not appear at all on the NICA list. What NICA records do bear out is that there were only four cases filed against agricultural smuggling nationwide in the past five years. Navotas City under Tiangco had filed two of them.

Toby Tiangco has been at the forefront of the war against agricultural smuggling. Clearly, the easier path would have been to turn the other cheek but this man has acted courageously against an enemy so base and brazen. In his political life, Tiangco has been a brick wall of principled leadership. Tom Cruise has nothing on this maverick of congressional party politics and pillar of unpopular causes. He will have his day to correct this outrageous and utterly unjust accusation.

Good to meet you, Senator. Our column has previously recognized newcomer and Senate topnotcher Robinhood Cariño Padilla and his ardor for Federalism. Another neophyte, Senator Raffy Tulfo, is validating the nation’s trust and proving his independence bona fides. Sen. Tulfo has declared his support for the move of Senators Riza Hontiveros and Koko Pimentel to revive the Blue-Ribbon committee investigation on the multi-billion Pharmally pandemic supplies deal.

The public is grossly dissatisfied with the Senate’s foot-dragging on the Blue Ribbon committee report. The histrionics between Executive and Legislative did nothing but muddle an issue that is clear. Sen. Tulfo’s pronouncement is a welcome reaffirmation that truth will inevitably come to light.

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