OFFLINE: Setting himself up for a big fall

I had always believed in and tried to follow that old saying among us journalists that it was our job to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.

Also, where a new president is concerned, I also followed that practice of giving him or her the benefit of the doubt, as well as the traditional First 100 Days honeymoon, when our judgement would necessarily be colored by his or her lack of experience.

Looking back at some of my past writings, I am happy to recall that I gave the likes of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that benefit, believing that her background gave her all the makings of not only a good president, but a great one.

Sadly, it was her actions that led me and many of my fellow journalists to believe that she had become corrupted by the near absolute power that comes with the Philippine presidency.

I now believe that GMA remains one of the most dangerous politicians alive today. More on that later.

For now, the 100 day grace period of Ferdinand Marcos Jr is long over. He has held the reins of power long enough for us to realize that he will never become a great president. Not even a good one, unfortunately. At best, he can be a mediocre chief executive like Erap Estrada.

He has made himself the butt of painful jokes for multiple reasons. This week he added to that list by going on his eighth foreign trip in seven months as president.

His apologists will say that each one was official business, and that the country would reap the benefits from the investments that he is sure to bring in.

This is bullpap, of course. Look back at all the promises made, the pledges that he supposedly brought home. That’s all they are, thus far. Pledges, which have not translated to actual investments.

Worst of all, in all his foreign trips, he would bring a contingent worthy of a global superstar, whether in boxing or basketball or music or movies.

The trip to Davos, Switzerland that he takes this week is one for the books. He is bringing a contingent of 70 friends, relatives, and hangers on. No one will question him for bringing along his wife, the First Lady. But does he always have to bring along his cousin, the House Speaker, and his son, the deputy majority leader?

What, pray tell, are those two lawmakers planning on doing in Switzerland? Will they think of and craft new bills while enjoying the winter snow?

And what in God’s name is Gloria Arroyo doing there, too?

My dirty and suspicious mind keeps telling me that they are either looking over their Swiss bank accounts, or are planning on opening one.

What is most galling about this junket is that most other leaders attending the World Economic Forum are bringing with them contingents of 10 or less.

I am talking about countries whose economies are much larger than the Philippines. The fast-developing India, which I expect to be both an economic as well as military power by the end of this decade, will be represented by a contingent of 10.

And believe it or not, Finland with its rock solid economy will be represented by three – that’s one, two, three – representatives.

There is no justification at all for a developing country like the Republic of the Philippines to send 70 representatives. Who pays for the plane fare, hotel, food, and allowances?

Need I ask? You and me, of course.

One wag jokes that Marcos should not have appointed himself as concurrent Agriculture secretary. Since he loves to travel so much, why not just head the Department of Tourism?

That semi-funny joke is also a mite painful. See, he is indeed the country’s Agriculture secretary. And guess what department has been failing consistently.

By now it is well known that the prices of various commodities have shot through the roof – I may even use the  word skyrocket – and the Department of Agriculture continues to act like a deer on a highway that’s been blinded by the glare of an incoming bus. It is petrified.

Last year, it started with sugar more than doubling in price at the market. Then came the unbelievably high prices of onions, which reached a height that was beyond belief. It was selling at more than P700 per kilogram, when earlier in the year it was selling at one-tenth of that sum. Now the prices of the humble egg are also heading for the heavens.

It is the job of the Agriculture department under the leadership of its secretary – one Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. – to keep the prices of agricultural commodities within reach of the ordinary Filipino.

In this regard, Secretary Marcos has been a complete and utter failure. Even close allies have suggested that he step down and hand over the reins of the department to a worthy executive. Such allies as senators Grace Poe and Imee Marcos have suggested that he step down soonest.

Come again? Yes, that Imee Marcos, his older sister, who seems to know more about agricultural matters than her baby brother.

Last year, that dangerous ex-president who is absolutely addicted to some form of political power was credited for convincing Marcos Jr to have Sara Duterte as his running mate. At that time, the daughter of then president Rodrigo Duterte was topping the surveys, and with the support of the government’s machinery, she could have won.

But GMA succeeded in what now appears to be part of her plan to remain in power, but not in the open. Junior even called her his secret weapon in dealing with China.

The way his presidency is going, Marcos Junior is setting himself up for a big fall, and he will only have himself to blame.

He wanted to become president supposedly to clear his father’s name. If he does not play his cards right, he may end up with a worse reputation that his father, the dictator.

From where I sit, I see a presidency that survives on press releases and little else. Junior has not only failed to accomplish anything, he has actually overseen the fall of the Philippine agri sector. And that’s not even the worst of his sins.

Like a rudderless ship, the country is going nowhere. But unlike Mao Zedung who rightfully saw himself as China’s Great Helmsman, this Philippine president is nothing more than a Mediocre Captain of a Ship of Fools.