The first 100 days of Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
BY AARON RONQUILLO
The Manila Times
FERDINAND “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was elected president of the Republic of the Philippines by a citizenry that became disillusioned for the last 30 years following the 1986 EDSA Revolution that toppled his father’s regime and sent them into exile. The failure to deliver on the promises of the EDSA Revolution saw the Marcoses gradually make a comeback and his election to the presidency served as the culmination. His administration, despite unrelenting criticism from those who are committed to oppose him, has reached its 100th day and during this period of time accomplished quite a lot as it seeks to move forward rather than live in the past. Part of the “to-do” list of the second Marcos administration is the continuation of the policies and programs of the previous (Duterte) administration, particularly the “Build, Build, Build” program, which was renamed to “Build, Better, More” partly as a play on the president’s nickname, as well as promising to be better than the past administration in as far as building infrastructures are concerned. One tends to expect whenever a president forms a cabinet, he tends to appoint political allies. Marcos tries to be different as he tries to strike a balance not only appointing allies, but also individuals he feels are better suited for the job or could make a contribution. If no one can be found, such as in the case of the Department of Agriculture, he appointed himself as interim secretary until a suitable candidate can be found. His vicepresident, Sara Duterte-Carpio was given an additional portfolio as Education Secretary. In a strange twist of fate, he appointed Juan Ponce Enrile as his Chief Presidential Legal Counsel. Enrile used to lead an uprising against his father in 1986 with the late former President Fidel V. Ramos who was the Vice Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines at the time. In reorganizing the government, Marcos abolished the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and Office of the Cabinet Secretary to streamline the government and eliminate redundancies. The powers and functions of PACC moved to the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, while the existing Cabinet Secretariat was put under the Presidential Management Staff. On July 23, Marcos vetoed a bill strengthening the Justice Department’s Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, citing “excessive grant of remuneration, incentives, benefits, allowances, and honoraria” to employees and hired lawyers. He also vetoed a bill creating transportation safety board, saying that the proposed board has functions that are redundant as the Department of Transportation, the Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation have the same functions. On September 16, Marcos issued an executive order transferring the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) from the Department of Trade and Industry to the Department of Labor and Employment as part of the reorganization. “I think what we have managed to do in the first 100 days is put together a government which is functional and which has a very, very good idea of what we are targeting in terms of strict economic targets,” Marcos said in his speech before the Manila Overseas Press Club on October 5. As the chief executive, he dealt with one crisis after the other, such as the case of rising sugar prices. Marcos reorganized the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) after it released an order allegedly signed by Marcos, which turned out to be false. This led to the resignation of the SRA’s top officials. On September 14, Marcos signed an executive order imposing a one-year moratorium on the amortization and interest payments of agrarian reform beneficiaries, which is seen to “lead to freedom of farmers from debts.” This also coincided with his 65th birthday. For the economy, he assembled a competent group of technocrats to address the country’s economy by appointing men like Alfredo Pascual in the Department of Trade and Industry, Benjamin Diokno to the Department of Finance after serving as Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Succeeding Diokno in the latter is Felipe Medalla who was part of the central bank’s Monetary Board. Marcos ascension into office came at a time the Covid-19 pandemic is still persisting and his administration’s economic managers have done a great job not only keeping the economy afloat but also transforming it amid the health crisis. He also sought to attract more investors to the country by making a pitch during recent visits to Indonesia, Singapore and the United States. After assuming office, Marcos signed a memorandum seeking to provide free train rides to students, and extend the free EDSA Carousel rides until December. The memorandum is expected to benefit students using the Light Rail Transit and Metro Rail Transit lines when face-to-face classes resumed in August. In relation to Covid-19 pandemic, Marcos signed an executive order on September 12, allowing voluntary use of face masks in outdoor settings with good ventilation. Upon the recommendation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Marcos signed a proclamation extending from September 13 to Dec. 31, 2022, the period of the state of calamity due to Covid-19, which was declared by his predecessor. However, Marcos does not want to totally imitate past administration and instead be unique in its own way as far as policy-making is concerned. The Duterte administration’s war on drugs was controversial if not a hotly contested issue with detractors denouncing needless deaths, especially the extrajudicial killings that took place. Upon assuming office, Marcos promised a shift in this campaign, putting more emphasis on prevention and helping “heal” those with drug dependence issues. In relation to that, he rejected calls for the Philippines to rejoin the International Criminal Court, especially to investigate the deaths during the Duterte administration’s war on drugs. The current administration maintained that these deaths are already being investigated by the Philippine government. Solicitor General Menardo Guevara, who was Justice Secretary in the previous administration, maintained that “the alleged murder incidents that happened during the relevant period do not constitute ‘crimes against humanity’, considering that said incidents do not qualify as an ‘attack’ against the civilian population.” In the realm of foreign policy, Marcos has embraced the US as a crucial partner, which was a contrast to his predecessor who was friendlier towards china. In his recent visit to the US, Marcos could not imagine a future of the Philippines without the US. The country’s defense policy is somewhat related the country’s relationship with the US as it reconsidered ordering Russian helicopters in favor of American models, partly to avoid sanctions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of this year. During the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, which he attended, he made the most of it by telling the world how the Philippines has been able to cope with the problems they are facing. “We have been able to show that the Philippines is standing on its feet. The Philippines continues to have its aspirations and its dreams, and we are willing to do our part in making those dreams come true,” said Marcos. All in all, the second Marcos administration is out to prove its detractors wrong with their assumptions about it. It chooses not to dwell on the past, but look forward in keeping with its call for unity as it marches towards better future for the country.