Compos mentis

THE country's 17th president delivered a good inaugural, a SONA that focused more on economics, put together an eight-point social agenda, and presented a budget message to the House of Representatives when the executive branch submitted its National Expenditure Program (NEP).

The eight-point social agenda was identified as follows: "Protect purchasing power and mitigate socioeconomic scarring by ensuring food security, reducing transport and logistics costs, and reduce energy costs to families; reduce vulnerability and mitigate scarring from the Covid-19 pandemic by tackling health, strengthening social protections, and addressing learning losses; ensure sound macroeconomic fundamentals by enhancing bureaucratic efficiency and sound fiscal management and ensuring a resilient and innovative financial sector; create more jobs by promoting trade and investments, improving infrastructure, and achieving energy security; create quality jobs by increasing employability, encouraging research and development and innovation, enhancing digital economy; create green jobs by pursuing green economy and establishing livable and sustainable communities; uphold public order and safety, peace, and security; and ensure a level playing field by strengthening market competition and reducing barriers to entry and limits to entrepreneurship."

 The NEP is in the amount of P5.268 trillion for FY 2023. It represents a 75.5 percent growth from the P3.002 trillion budget in 2016. It is higher by 4.9 percent than FY 2022 and is equivalent to 22.2 percent of GDP. The budget message was anchored on prosperity: "6.5 to 7.5 percent real GDP growth in 2022; 6.5 to 8 percent real GDP growth annually between 2023 to 2028; 9 percent or single digit poverty rate by 2028; 3 percent national government deficit-to-GDP ratio by 2028; less than 60 percent NG deficit-to-GDP ratio by 2025 and at least $4,256 gross national income (GNI) per capita or the attainment of upper middle-income status." 

And yet what stood out in the past 61 days were appointments made under questionable circumstances, fake appointments, reports of appointments-for-a-fee; consolidation of power in one man building a cordon sanitaire; the mess in the office of the press secretary; the SRA scandal arising from delegated authority where no one has owned up the error; the raids invoking "visitorial power" and freezing Customs officers and staff in Subic due to "recycled" papers when in fact the shipment was legal and there was an actual payment of taxes; the BTA appointments and the lack of legal cover on the act of the social welfare secretary to distribute the Education Assistance Payout, among others.

Compos mentis is a legal phrase in Latin that translates to "of unsound mind." Sound mind, memory and understanding are critical in presidential governance. Greed, hunger for money and salivating for more power are not the attributes needed for serving the president. These traits are the very reason the institution becomes weak, from approval and trust. But then again, PBBM appears to give more importance to loyalty than any other virtue and when loyalty is the main key, whatever errors in judgment are made, even maliciously, are readily swept under the rug. And that is when the institution becomes weak, and the president loses the edge. The albatross on the shoulder of PBBM is clear: be better than the father and reboot the economy post-pandemic. Undeniably, he is a Marcos so people are saying, he cannot be seen as exercising a strong hand. Unfortunately, he must do so because the team he has assembled, at least in his office, appears not to be up to the job.

Then we feel invisible hands are orchestrating things on the prices of basic commodities, pointing out to a president who is holding on to the position of Secretary of Agriculture and peace and order (read: crime). When a president has a press secretary who says on Day 1 that they will use vloggers more than mainstream media, the presidency has been boxed in. That statement does not serve the president well. This also contradicts the earlier statement by the president's son, Rep. Sandro Marcos, that his father is president to the 110 million Filipinos and no longer to just 31 million. A good pivot rhetorically but operationally may not even be part of the key messaging frame of this administration. 

We also have rabid loyalists defending the leader blindly. This does not help in strategic communications. It adds to the pervading divisiveness, three months after the elections. These loyalists do not want to prick the presidential ego that wants to put together his cabinet by himself, only to be led into disarray and chaos. The crises of this administration are self-inflicted. They panic and create them in the process. Some say that the members of the president's executive team are too amateurish. So, the loyalists, instead of helping in explaining things, hit out at every person who wants to ensure the success of this administration or just allow it to wither away despite the biggest mandate in presidential history. Is the president the leader of 31 million Filipinos or of 110 million Filipinos? If he is of the latter, then dissent should be entertained, constructive criticism allowed to simmer, that way the institution of the presidency is assisted. Imagine, instead of concentrating attention on the SRA mess that they themselves created, they should pivot to plans and programs. Give the details to the eight-point social agenda and start communicating these for the first 100 days, conscious of the first six months. Those timelines are clear, and why should a honeymoon period be invoked when the mandate was huge and the name that took the oath was a Marcos? Surely, people will agree that a Marcos does not need a honeymoon period. This plan has been there since they returned, that is why there is always a Marcos floating/running for national office since 1992.

Just dissecting the inaugural, SONA, eight-point social agenda and the proposed budget are already led to storylines that could shape a responsive and action-oriented administration. By September, PBBM will be going on three foreign trips — to Indonesia, the United Nations and Singapore. These are times to project Marcos 2.0 abroad. The question to be asked is how, and it seems no strategies are being made when the foreign media is known to be anti-Marcos.

Some people are also saying "they don't feel government at all." "Magulo, walang disiplina na naman, walang malasakit..." When this happens ahead of one's first 100 days, Houston, we have a problem.


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