Media’s notes on Marcos first 100 days

DESPITE A hundred days in Malacañang – June 30 to October 8 – Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has yet to show that he has really taken over as Chief Executive, although he has visibly enjoyed the perks of the Presidency.

So far, Marcos has retained some policies and practices of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte: the continuation of red-tagging and the drug war, filling Cabinet positions with mostly political allies, the frequency of his foreign visits, and confidential funds amounting to billions. This comes as no surprise with Sara Duterte serving as second in command.

He has shown how different he is only in matters of style. He sticks to prepared speeches by reading from the teleprompter and hardly ever veering away from the script. There has been no crude language, no obscenities uttered in public. The social life of the President is on high gear’ in contrast to Duterte’s discomfort about not being in his hometown, living very much like a recluse with only selected Davao friends, mostly Bong Go, for company.

Marcos has treated his first weeks in Malacañang as the anticipated homecoming of the entire Marcos family. Two parties to celebrate his mother’s and his birthday were connected to a daisy chain of parties out of the Palace, with photos to record how much fun it is to be President.

But how much work has he done?

His vlog on October 8 expressed satisfaction at how much he has accomplished: “They say that the first 100 days is a honeymoon period when you’re still feeling your way. But that’s not how I feel — maybe because I’m already familiar with the work. That’s why I was able to start immediately.” He reverted to the KKKs of his father’s regime claiming advances in “kalusugan, kabuhayan, kapayapaan” (health, livelihood, and peace) in his first 100 days.

But the media reports on his 100 days did not agree with the President’s claim of having done well. These cited experts and presented facts to point out that the claimed advances are just repeated promises, vague and unclear, with little action that could help alleviate the impact of various crises. He himself has not actually specified how much he has done, saying little about specific problems, which the media have noted to be urgent.

From October 7 to 9, CMFR noted the following reports on six issues:

  1. High inflation, low peso

Despite Marcos’ big talk on the Philippine economy, Filipino consumers have had to reach deeper into their pockets to keep up with the cost of living during his first 100 days. ABS-CBN’s Edson Guido on October 8 pointed to the current lowest peso to dollar value and how this has affected consumers. He explained that because of the high value of the dollar, imported products like oil and other food products are more expensive. This is also one of the main reasons for the high 6.9 inflation rate in September.

Guido added that recovery from the pandemic, the resumption of classes, and healthier tourism would strengthen the economy. Netizens cheered Guido’s report for its moving graphics that made the numbers on our economy understandable.

Similarly, on October 7 and on October 8 used charts to illustrate the above-limit inflation, rising public debt, unemployment rate and job quality, rising prices, and peso depreciation in Marcos’ three months.

TV5’s Frontline Pilipinas on October 7 cited Marcos’ performance ratings based on a survey that Pulse Asia conducted from September 17 to 21. The report noted a 26% disapproval rate on how Marcos has handled poverty and a 42% disapproval rate on how he has handled inflation. Prof. Froilan Calilung added that if citizens are hungry, it will “resonate in a negative image especially on the leadership.” In the same report, Prof. Jean Franco noted she was discontented or “nalalamyaan” as the administration presented no innovative solution for present economic woes. 

  1. Weathering disasters

The new administration’s disaster response was tested in the early days; with a magnitude 7 Abra earthquake in July and Supertyphoon Karding ravaging parts of Luzon in September. Marcos traveled to Abra to assess the damage, while he conducted an aerial assessment after Karding. In both times, he said he is not keen on traveling to the disaster-stricken areas as this would only “slow down” LGU efforts.

CNN Philippines on October 9 reviewed Marcos’ four speeches which talked about the importance of climate action, assuring that it was on top of the national agenda. The report then cited environmental groups which deplored the lack of action on the issue. According to a joint statement, the groups noted “ecologically destructive projects and attacks against environment defenders” continuing during his first three months.

On the same day, cited Greenpeace Philippines, which said that “none of the president’s rhetoric has translated into meaningful action so far.” The report also noted only two measures on the climate crisis were included in Marcos’ legislative agenda with a lower proposed budget than of this year’s.

  1. Foreign trips, parties

Marcos went on three trips in September – 2 state visits in Indonesia and Singapore and a working visit in the US. But none of the agreements signed seemed to have made any real impression and received scant expression of public approval. The visit to the US found him absent while Supertyphoon Karding lashed at various communities, and he had little to say about it, maintaining the schedule of posh dinners and entertainment after his address at the United Nations and his meeting with US President Joseph Biden. In the midst of rehabilitation efforts for Karding’s victims, Marcos flew again to Singapore to attend the F1 Grand Prix championships. Rappler on October 9 reviewed past presidents and noted Marcos as the “most frequent traveler” post-EDSA Presidents.

In an earlier report on October 8, Rappler also pointed out that Marcos had attended 18 social and leisure events as President, including dinners, concerts, and birthday parties. On the same day, Prof. Dennis Coronacion in ANC’s Headstart asked for the ”relevance” of some family members in these trips, raising the question of the source of funds for the Marcos family’s travels.

  1. Facing COVID-19 with no DOH head

Marcos inherited a slew of controversies from Rodrigo Duterte’s mismanagement of the pandemic, including corruption scandals involving the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and the Department of Health (DOH). But running for President, he should have known that he had to give immediate attention to the problems in the health sector which were highlighted by the pandemic, with even private hospitals shown up for their limited capacity to deal with COVID-19.,, and Rappler correctly noted the President has yet to even talk about what can be done about public health issues. Amidst the departure of nurses and hospital workers for jobs abroad, rising cases of dengue and other diseases, and overwhelmed hospitals, the President has so far been unable to appoint a DOH Chief.

He signed Executive Order No.3 that removed the requirement for wearing masks outdoors. Health experts claimed that the order only “widened the cracks” in the country’s health system. On October 7, Rep. France Castro, House Deputy Minority Leader, added in ANC’s Dateline Philippines that not appointing a secretary showed that health is “not a priority” for Marcos.

  1. HR, relations with ICC

In June, Marcos said that he will continue with Duterte’s policy on drugs but “within the framework of law.” However, on August 1, he declared that the country will not rejoin the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Court has insisted on proceeding with a probe on the killings during Duterte’s drug war.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Third World Studies Center of the University of the Philippines documented 90 drug-related killings from June to September. The media have been reporting killings but have not come up with a number to indicate the sustained pattern of killings in the fight against illegal drugs.

In the 51st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on October 5, Justice Secretary Jesus Remulla assured the Council that the country is pursuing reforms to provide “real justice in real time” supporting the position against the ICC investigation.

Noting the irony of these statements, on October 7 reported on the continuous red-tagging of lawyers and the killing of journalists. CNN Philippines on October 8 cited an ecumenical group that  recorded at least 81 cases of human rights violations. Most victims, including a child and a Person with Disability (PWD), were killed in alleged encounters with the New People’s Army (NPA).

Meanwhile, Rappler on October 8 noted that it took Marcos 80 days before appointing a Chairperson and Commissioner for the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), with 3 more vacancies to be filled to enable the Commission to make decisions en banc.

  1. Resignations vs a “functional government”

Only three months old, the administration has already shown cracks in team “unity.”  Three key officials announced their resignations on October 4 – the Chair of the Commission on Audit (COA) Jose Calida, Press Secretary Trixie Cruz Angeles, and former Executive Secretary and Presidential Chief of Staff Vic Rodriguez.

All administrations will have its share of infighting; but the Marcos administration has set a record for quickly showing its separate factions.  Coronacion in ANC’s Headstart said the resignations suggest that the President “might not be in control of things” or is “not strong enough to handle these allies.”

Despite these, Marcos claimed that he was able to “put out fires” early on — making things work and assembling a “functional” government.

Media recorded in separate programs observations about the competence of those forming the economic team. However, Coronacion and Calilung in TV5’s Frontline Pilipinas agreed that Marcos should let go of heading the Agriculture department and appoint a specialist.

Long six years

More issues demonstrate Marcos’ laid back approach to various Presidential duties: transportation woes, sugar importation mess, and not the least, the continuing education crisis.

Anchor Ed Lingao in TV5’s Frontline Tonight did note that it is still too early to fully check the new administration, but he also pointed out that the passage of the first hundred days is important, because it can flag weaknesses in  the executive decision-making process, delegation of powers, the lack of a work ethic, and a love of parties and fun that can get in the way of presidential responsibilities.

The personal qualities of leadership are usually easy enough to detect. So far, the first 100 days of Marcos do not offer too much hope in his capacity as the President to address the problems he inherited while creating his own.

The work of the media is clear as Marcos moves to the next quarter of his presidency. The press should not hesitate in criticizing actions that can make things even worse than they are already.