Marcos must face
BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE, MOISES CRUZ AND RED MENDOZA
The Manila Times
PRESIDENT Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. must “battle head-on” urgent national concerns, as he marks his first 100 days in office, a political analyst said Friday. Dr. Froilan Calilung, who teaches political science at the University of Santo Tomas, made the observation after the Marcos administration earned favorable ratings on 11 of the 13 key issues facing the country in the latest Pulse Asia survey. Speaking during a public briefing, Calilung said that overall, the President “did well” in his first three months, getting low marks only in tackling inflation, unemployment and low wages. The survey results showed “a very good indication as to what and how the people would actually try to see his leadership as of the moment,” he said. “I would say that he did very well in many of the other parameters, like disaster response, for instance, postpandemic rehabilitation, [the fight against] Covid-19,” Calilung said. Still, the government should “be sincere, act with a sense of urgency and lay out concrete plans” in resolving pressing issues such as inflation, which, he said, “is really a global problem.” “The peso is not the only currency that is being devaluated for all we know, and there are many things that are beyond their control because this is dictated by global dynamics,” he said. “I think that the government should really try to battle head-on. Ito talaga yung malaking problema na ating kinakaharap lalo na sa food security, gayundin sa inflation na ‘to (these are pressing issues that the country faced particularly the issue on food security and inflation),” Calilung said. In the Pulse Asia poll, released on Thursday, the Marcos administration got a 78-percent rating in responding to the needs of calamity-hit areas and controlling the spread of Covid-19. It showed that 69 percent of the respondents believed in the administration’s efforts in promoting peace in the country, and 68 percent appreciated what it was doing to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers. The administration got a 67 percent rating in fighting criminality and 62 percent in enforcing the rule of law. It scored 59 percent in both creating more jobs and increasing workers’ pay and 58 percent for fighting graft and corruption in government. Fifty-seven percent appreciated the administration’s initiatives in protecting the environment, while 52 percent were happy with its efforts to defend the country’s territorial integrity. The Marcos government had lows of 42 percent on the issue of controlling inflation and 39 percent on poverty reduction. In Pulse Asia’s July survey, 57 percent of the respondents said inflation was the most urgent national concern that the Marcos administration should address. It increased by 9 percent in the latest poll, which was conducted from September 17 to 21. The polling firm said the last survey does not account for other significant events such as the depreciation of the peso, the 50th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, and the senators’ move to ban offshore gaming operators. Calilung said the important thing is for Marcos to sustain the initial encouraging performance during the rest of his term. In a press conference on Wednesday, Marcos said he believes he has assembled a “functional” government composed of the best and the brightest Cabinet members during his first 100 days in office. He said his first 50 to 100 days in government focused on “putting out fires,” particularly issues hounding the agriculture sector. The President said his administration was able to renew and forge agreements with countries during his state visits to Indonesia and Singapore and his working visit to the United States. Also on Friday, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said the President’s good showing in the Pulse Asia survey means he “is on the right track of governance.” Romualdez indicated that the President got off to a good start by having the smartest, brightest, and most capable Filipinos in his economic team and Cabinet. He said the government’s determination to keep the economy open while ensuring that Covid-19 is contained has led to greater mobility, more economic activity, more jobs, and higher incomes for the people. Romualdez said the government is taking steps to ease the effect of external influences on domestic prices. As far as the Department of Education (DepEd) is concerned, Marcos’ biggest achievement in his first 100 days in office is the resumption of in-person classes. Nearly 90 percent of schools in the country resumed in-person classes in August after more than two years of holding blended learning modalities, DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said in a briefing on Friday. “When we brought back the learners in schools, we are not discounting Covid-19, so we are trying to do it as safely as possible,” Poa said. He said the DepEd has issued health and safety guidelines for students so that surge of cases could be prevented, as well as for teachers who will be infected with the virus. Under the directive, teachers, nonteaching personnel and learners, regardless of their vaccination status, will be allowed to attend in-person classes. In a brief statement on Friday, the Department of Health left it to students and school personnel to decide how and when is it safe to remove their masks in outdoor and open areas in schools. Under the guidelines issued by the Civil Service Commission, school personnel who will not report for duty for being isolated for Covid-19 will be considered as an “excused absence” without salary deduction or loss of leave credits.