Be presidential, be the secretary

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

When President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr. declared martial law in 1972, he did not do so out of whim, frivolity, or caprice. He agonized over it. He knew it could be the start of his waterloo. But he knew it could also mean deliverance from a communist wave beginning to sweep in. His options were pretty clear to him, such that when he decided, he was willing to live or die by his decision.

Martial law may not have turned out the way Marcos Sr. wanted. It indeed turned out to be his waterloo. But if there was one thing admirable about martial law, it was the resoluteness of the man who decided to impose it. Such a man was a true leader, one who was willing to face the odds, challenge the storm. He defended what he did not only before his countrymen, but also before the world. He did not waver one bit.

Decades later, his son and namesake, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Romualdez Marcos Jr. would dare follow his footsteps. And quite incredibly, the son won the presidency in an unprecedented manner, capturing more than 31 million votes for a majority unheard of in Philippine history. That it was also hailed as the cleanest, most honest, peaceful, and orderly election only added to the clarity of his mandate and strength of his authority.

But would Bongbong be as great a leader as his father? And by that I mean having the courage to exercise leadership, not the consequences of his actions to which must be factored even things beyond anybody's control. It may be unfair to judge Bongbong this early in his presidency. Still, two months in office can already be too long into a short six-year presidency.

For certain types, a lot of ground can already be covered in two months, especially in a country like the Philippines where a lot of things are in such a mess it literally begs for even a whiff of true seize-the-bull-by-the-horns kind of leadership such as Marcos Sr. had, or even Rodrigo Roa Duterte. But except for the almost impeccable choices Bongbong made for his Cabinet, his presidency at this stage does not look promising.

When PBBM appointed himself Agriculture secretary, the best way to describe the decision was that it drew mixed reactions. Those who warmed up to the idea saw it as an attempt to finally tackle the huge problems that have made the department such a failure. Those who did not take kindly to it saw it as a distraction from other problems the president faces just by being president without having to also be a secretary.

But since PBBM himself decided to take on the post of Agriculture secretary, he gave people no choice but to expect him to act like one. And yet the current mess involving an apparently unauthorized attempt to import sugar has become like a ship caught in a storm. It is a situation where the captain has to be at the bridge, his hands firmly on the wheel,

Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez, who had an insightful exchange with Rigoberto Tiglao about which the columnist wrote extensively about in his Manila Times column last Wednesday, has cleared up a lot of things about the sugar importation flap. But if you have been reading this piece carefully, the following facts would have jumped out immediately: Marcos Jr. is Agriculture secretary; Rodrigez is executive secretary.

So where is Marcos Jr.? Why is it Rodriguez that we are seeing? Of course, as "ES" Rodriguez can explain on behalf of the president. But the president is also agriculture secretary for whom the "ES" may have unclear footing speaking. The 31 million who voted for BBM voted to make him PBBM, not SBBM. But as PBBM also made himself SBBM, can SBBM also show up at the sugar pile? And hurry. The ants are gathering.


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