The business of governing

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

At his first State of the Nation Address, the President projected the action man image. His objectives were measurable. He discussed how to achieve them and proposed the exact legislative agenda to implement the same.

The following day,  his economic managers presented the eight-point near and medium term socio-economic agenda moving forward.

Like every administration, there are those who inevitably “can’t be sold” or “won’t be persuaded” on the President’s plans. In social media threads, there was good skepticism on the audacity. My favorite comment: “Ang taas ng targets. It’s like a _____ (insert here your top 100 corporation) officers meeting!”

But they have concrete plans. This is the point. Hence, they’ve hit the ground running. With 100 days of honeymoon, we should be looking at a strong running start.

Just as we noted after the Marcos inaugural: “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 ballyhoo. Before the Air Force One touched down, we watched the red carpet. The lawmakers and their spouses. The President’s men. The Judiciary. Local government executives (including the Metro Manila mayors led by the Silver Fox, Honey Lacuna).

It isn’t every day you witness the Justices of the Supreme Court walk in together, out of their black robes. They were rendered enigmatic by the face masks but this was mystery consistent with their institution’s vaunted anonymity. The Chief Justice and his brethren were clearly relieved to make it through the media gauntlet virtually unnoticed.

High officials rarely converge all in one place (makes the premise for the Designated Survivor storyline plausible). The once in a term Presidential Inaugural and the annual vin d’honneur for diplomatic corps are hosted by the Executive. The annual SONA is hosted by the Legislature. What is the counterpart for the Judiciary? In the US, it is the Red Mass marking the start of the Supreme Court’s annual term. Its purpose is “to invoke God’s blessings on those responsible for the administration of justice as well as on all public officials.” The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices are joined by the President and his Cabinet, members of Congress, diplomats, university presidents, members of the bench, the Bar and the legal academe at the Catholic ceremony.

Jumbo jumbo. For the first time in almost three decades, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors (the FED) has gone from coquettishly steering the economy to skittishly nudging it with supersized rate hikes. Twice in a row was unprecedented but not unexpected. There really isn’t much else in the toolkit of the most important Central Bank in the world to balance the trade-offs between inflation, recession and economic growth.

Bangko Sentral Governor Philip Medalla and company already anticipated this with our own 75 basis point increase. For small economies like ours, the exchange rate is what serves as bellwether. Looking at ours over the past months, also vis-a-vis ASEAN, our trading band basically followed the rest of the world and is relatively robust.

My good friend, business guru and UP Economist Peter Angliongto, has been schooling me on the nuances. There is a lot of confidence in our markets, in what our BSP and DOF are doing. We’ve been “ahead of the curve” rather than reactionary. The PHISIX has gone up – everyone happy.

And now, they’ve inched closer to the edge with 2nd quarter US GDP figures in another, consecutive quarterly decline. The giant nation is now in “read my lips” recession until officially confirmed by their National Bureau of Economic Research.

As for us, we watch and we manage our own mix. Around this time next month, we’ll see if Sec. Ben Diokno’s hope for a double-digit 2nd quarter growth comes to fruition. If so, our basic plans are in good standing.  The economy has been growing and will be growing and they can finesse the fiscal gap instead of taking investments out of infrastructure.

Lex lapsus. For the Vape law, the next frontier is the constitutional challenge at the Supreme Court. Post mortems will address how a bill OK’d in January took almost six months to negotiate the route from House Speaker to Senate President and arrive in Malacañang only after the outgoing president’s final bill signing session. This will be included among the many causes of action in the suits that may be elevated.

One lapse to celebrate is the non-veto of the bill creating the Second Congressional Commission on Education or EDCOM 2. The Senate will be happy to welcome this diamond opportunity for legacy building.

Senator Win Gatchalian set the bar high. EDCOM 1, he acknowledged, was “one of the most influential congressional reports ever published.” EDCOM 2 could not have come at a more propitious time. The senator has publicly expressed his shame and outrage at how our education system has failed generations of learners.

The moving force behind EDCOM 1 was senator Edgardo Angara. EDCOM 2 will be credited to Sen. Gatchalian who is in the right mindset to lead the nation in an assessment and evaluation of the education sector. The Senate has honored his contributions by retaining him as chair of basic education. Senator Chiz Escudero is at higher and technical-vocational education. Over at the House, it is the same cast of characters with Cong. Roman Romulo for basic ed. and Cong. Mark Go for higher and technical ed. With this high functioning team of education experts, together with the no-nonsense Vice President Sara Duterte at the Department of Education, we can expect to tackle the broad system-wide reforms we need, ASAP.

The K-12 program has been placed under urgent review but the north star should always be teacher training. This is a matter close to home for this administration. The grandparents of the President were both public school teachers who met as students at the Philippine Normal School, precursor of the Philippine Normal University.

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