Red flags     

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Barely a week had passed since Bongbong Marcos (BBM) assumed the presidency but dangerous red flags abound which indicate bad and poor leadership. It seems the country is headed to another six years of roller-coaster ride.

On the day BBM assumed office several key cabinet posts were unfilled. He started his presidency with the following departments headless: energy, environment and natural resources, health, human settlement and urban development, foreign affairs, and science and technology. The posts of cabinet secretary and adviser on the peace process are also vacant.

The following day the backlog was reduced with the appointment of veteran diplomat and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Enrique Manalo as Secretary of Foreign Affairs. He later abolished the cabinet secretary position.

Among the still vacant cabinet posts (as of this writing) that of health is the most important. Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over. Although the situation now is much better than the beginning of the year, the pandemic remains the most serious health crisis the country faces at present.

Despite the dangers posed by the on-going Covid-19 pandemic, the country does not have a health secretary. There is a slight surge of cases and if not handled well could escalate into a more serious outbreak. A responsible leader must have given health the foremost attention since the pandemic is the top health threat. Yet BBM does not consider the pandemic a top priority otherwise he ensured that the health department is not left leaderless. Or did he forget about it, a simple lapse? With the pandemic still raging this is a serious omission.

Unlike his predecessors who hit the ground running upon assuming office, BBM did not hold a cabinet meeting on his first day of office. His first cabinet meeting was held five days after his inauguration. It is also worth noting that he held his late first cabinet meeting with key positions vacant.

The late cabinet meeting and incomplete cabinet reveal BBM’s personality and leadership. The country faces serious problems, among them the pandemic and the sky rocketing prices of oil. Yet the top leader of land has no sense of urgency, that things can wait or he will attend to them at his convenience. Marcos senior, in his diary, already expressed his worry that his junior is “too lazy and carefree.” This early on can call BBM’s regime a “happy-go-lucky” administration. It does not bode well for the future of the country.

BBM promised to bring the Philippines to the “land promise” overflowing with “milk and honey.” He convinced 31 million voters that he will inaugurate a “Golden Age” for the Philippines. If he cannot even complete his cabinet at the outset of his rule and takes his leisure before facing urgent and serious problems of the country by convening his cabinet, how can the “golden era” come about?

Laziness and easygoing style of leadership will not effectively deal with the serious and grave social problems confronting the nation. Lethargic and sloppy leadership will not give birth to a “Golden Age.” While too early, it is unavoidable to ask, “Is this another budol-budol?” If this is the likely case, then Filipinos are duped once more, similar to six years ago when they were also deceived by the “3-6 months” vow.

Another red flag is the take of BBM on reality. When told that official figure from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows inflation rate ate present is 6.1 percent, he immediately disagreed.

“I think I will have to disagree with that number. We are not that high,” BBM reacted. “We have crossed the—our targets were less four percent or less. Unfortunately, it looks like we may cross that threshold. Tatawid tayo sa four percent,” he added.

A problem can only be solved if it is recognized and accepted. If reality is denied how can one deal with it? BBM’s mentality of rejecting reality if it does not suit to his thinking or what he wants is not only bad but dangerous. If he is not reconciled with reality how can he handle it?

Filipinos are groaning at present due to high prices of goods and services which is what inflation is. If BBM does not accept the current reality and insist on his “alternative fact” which is a euphemism for a lie, he will not do something about the hardship facing the people. If he thinks inflation is not high, he would not be bothered about its impact on the lives of the people especially the poorest section of the population, the bulk of which voted him into office.

After BBM made his controversial remark, his finance secretary was forced to “clarify” his principal’s words. “The President’s disbelief at the 6.1% June 2022 inflation rate figure was misunderstood. He was referring to it as a full-year figure when in fact, the year-to-date, meaning January to June average inflation rate is actually 4.4%,” Benjamin Diokno said.

Embarrassed government officials forced to clarify, explain or elaborate the president’s “faux pas” was one of the hallmarks of the Du30 administration. It appears there is a continuity of this bad habit under the current dispensation. A department of clarification and explanation is urgently needed more than ever.

Given the emerging laziness and messiness of BBM’s leadership, his officials will have to learn the skill of reading “tea leaves.” Good luck to them.

In his first week in office, red flags are already popping up giving a foretaste of the future under BBM.  So far, the prospect is scary.