Wouldn’t you like to see, in black and white, Reader, a list of PBBM’s accomplishments and mistakes, in his first hundred days of the presidency? I will try to oblige.
But first, I cannot help but mention Senate President Migz Zubiri, who in his usual brown-nosing, or actually clueless mode, told reporters that PBBM’s critics were nag-bubulagan (pretending not to see), those accomplishments. He tried to enlighten but did a lousy job – with Zubiri as a friend, PBBM does not need any enemies—because the three accomplishments he cited were: 1) PBBM’s formal opening of the subway (is that an accomplishment?); 2) PBBM “will continue” his predecessor’s build-build-build program (same comment); and 3) what sounded like “roadchuse” (I couldn’t make this out), so I will be neutral on this one.
Just to give an idea of the kind of time period we are talking about: the one hundred days, from June 30 to Oct.7, covers 14 five-day work weeks, or a little over one/fourth (0.27) of a year, or about 4% of his six-year term. Whether this is too short a period is, as Executive Secretary Bersamin is wont to say, “irrelevant”, but for the record, all the post-Marcos Sr. Presidents reportedly gave their 100-day report, with the exception of PRRD, who gave his in 50 days.
So what did PBBM accomplish during this period? Here is as comprehensive a list as I can gather:
1. On the Economy:
His greatest accomplishment is choosing what I consider to be the best team of economic managers (the Secretaries of Socio-economic Planning, Finance, Budget, and the BSP Governor) post and pre-EDSA. If anybody can bring this country back better days, they can. But that’s only four people.
PBBM goes a great deal further: he says (to the Manila Overseas Press Club) that he has chosen the best and brightest for all the positions he has filled in government. I cannot go that far, because there are very glaring exceptions. I think that of the 31 most important positions that were filled, only 11, maybe 13 tops, were filled by the best and brightest. Different metrics were used for the others – political payoffs, or personal (Ilocano, loyalty, etc.). I don’t think their curriculum vitae would have passed the first post.
Macroeconomy: The third quarter 2022 GDP, under PBBM, won’t be released until Nov. 10; but latest employment figures look very good; unfortunately, latest Consumer Price Index shows no sign of inflation slowing down. So macro performance is neutral so far. But this really cannot be attributed to PBBM – the Duterte administration left a very heavy burden on him.
Other encouraging signs (i.e., that he is listening and acting on the advice of his economic managers): PBBM exercised his veto power on several bills , which represented either increased government expenditures or decreased government revenues: creating the Bulacan Airport Special Economic Zone and Freeport; granting tax exemption to honoraria received by election workers; strengthening the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel; creating a Transport Safety Board.
2. On Society:
a) On the Philippine National Police, Index Crimes in the first two months of PBBM went down by 11.67% from the year before (but there has been a spate of kidnappings that are more than worrisome)
b) The new administration continues its war on drugs, but pivots toward prevention and rehabilitation (No hard evidence yet to show that this is being done).
c) PBBM approved (one of his first acts) a DOTR memorandum providing free rides for students using the MRT-3, LRT-2 and PNR when in-person classes resume in August (from August 22 -Nov.4). Also extended free EDSA Carousel bus rides until Dec. 2022. But two weeks later, the plan was “recalibrated”, allowing the free rides only on LRT-4, which was found to be most used by students. This shows that the government may be trying to target its beneficiaries better (thus using government funds more efficiently).
d) On External (Foreign Afffairs) – PBBM seems to have executed a volte-face on Duterte’s previous stance of ignoring the 2016 landmark ruling on the West Philippine Sea. Last July 12, there even was a “commemoration” of the 6th anniversary of the ruling, with Japan, the US, Australia, France, Germany, Denmark and Canada celebrating with the Philippines.
What about the mistakes that were committed by PBBM in his first 100 days?
1. Appointing himself as Secretary of Agriculture ,when he has neither the time, nor the qualifications for it. This is really the origin of the sugar fiasco, which led to the loss of a highly qualified bureaucrat (Leocadio Sebastian) who was actually more than qualified to be the Agriculture Secretary, and which revealed the weak underbelly of the President himself: he is so insecure, he shies away from admitting his mistakes.
2. His failure to appoint a Secretary of Health, even as he has appointed the USecs and the ASecs. Shouldn’t the Secretary have a hand in choosing his team? This is a recipe for disaster. The uncertainty and the very possible maneuvering for the job has ultimately led to the extension of the state of Covid calamity from Sept. 22 to December 22, to the failure of the vaccination program, especially for students.
3. He places too much emphasis on making political points. Thus the promise of a P20/kg. price of rice ,which can be fulfilled only if the government subsidizes both farmer and consumer; or the temporary ayuda to poor elementary, high school and college students, which from all accounts was badly implemented — there were near riots, early on, and how were those students chosen throughout the Philippines?
4. His cavalier disregard of the law. As shown by his asking for a review of the already final and executory decision on the Marcos estate tax; and for his appointment of a a recently retired general (nov. 2021) , Jose Faustino, Jr., who by law cannot be appointed to a government position for a year after retirement. PBBM wanted him as Secretary, but in apparent deference to the law, appointed him as senior USec and OIC until Nov. 2022. But isn’t a USec also a government position? Just asking.
5. And finally, his unannounced trip to Singapore to attend, for heaven’s sake, the F1 Grand Prix. Mr. President, as a government employee, you are not entitled to a vacation, until you have served at least a year. And if it was a business trip, as you are trying to make it appear after the fact, why was it not scheduled? You used a military plane to go to Singapore. That’s tax-payer money you have used. How much in all did the Filipino people spend for that trip? We are entitled to know. How can you justify that expense?