OF TREES AND FOREST
Former Senate President
Two thousand one hundred ninety-two days. That’s the full term of office of a Philippine president. Not 100 days. But why does the media pay so much attention to the first 100 days of an administration? Surely, you cannot possibly proclaim the success or failure of any president based solely on only 4.5 percent of the total days of a presidency. I can understand if we make an assessment of an administration after its first year but 100 days? I read somewhere that someone claimed that President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. “failed to fulfill his promises” in his first 100 days. It seems arbitrary and insignificant, not to mention ridiculous. So how did this practice start in the first place? And what is even the point of a 100-day assessment?
According to an article posted on the CNN website, the practice began as Franklin Delano Roosevelt entered office “amid the tumult of the great depression.” Against the backdrop of an economic crisis, FDR picked his new Cabinet, summoned the US Congress to a three-month special session which passed 76 new laws, mostly aimed at addressing the effects of the depression.
Ever since that time, US presidents have been measured in terms of how ambitious and significant their accomplishments have been for the first 100 days in office. I understand the reasoning behind it. It does give us an indication, a peek into the priorities of a new administration. But I think it is important to put the 100 days review in its proper place. It cannot be a genuine assessment because 100 days is too short to make a decision whether a presidency is successful or not. I would argue that even one year is an unfair period given the herculean challenges our country faces. What it provides us is a glimpse of what he wants to do, of his style, of his priorities. That’s all. I know that those who oppose him cannot wait to crucify him but 100 days is simply too short to make any valid review.
But what have we seen in PBBM’s first 100 days? I think we saw very good indications that we have the right person as leader, the right economic team in place and the right direction for the country. Based on his inaugural address, the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and various official pronouncements, I believe that the current president has a good grasp of the kind of problem we face, and to me this is crucial. We cannot solve our problems if our leaders do not have any idea what the problems are.
President Marcos, Jr. has consistently expressed the view that his priority would be the economy, in particular ensuring our economic recovery out of the rubbles of the pandemic. That is the reason why he focused on assembling a topnotch economic team, why he continued the policy of the previous administration in opening up the economy by saying that there will be no more lockdowns, and why the focus of his recent international trips has been to showcase the Philippines as an investment hub. He gets the problem and he knows how to solve it. Can he actually solve it? We’ll have to give it more time. His administration faces daunting challenges in which some of the issues are beyond their control. But what the first 100 days has shown us is that we have the right team in place to face these obstacles.
Another important indicator that I think is important is the President’s temperament. By temperament I refer to his focus on solving the problems of the country. This has been on display since the campaign. He refused to get involved in pointless political skirmishes — those that create political noise but very little on substance. We have observed him sustaining his argument for unity in his first 100 days. He does not want to get distracted by unnecessary controversies that only feeds into division but does not help our people.
The two official trips that he took during his first 100 days are also very significant. He passed with flying colors as the country’s top ambassador. I thought the world saw a working president who understands the problems of his country and the global political dynamics that animate our world. This was in full display in The United Nations General Assembly as well as his statements on the US and China as well as the territorial disputes in the region.
It is a great start. No one knows if the next days and years will be a failure or a success. But the first steps that he took have been encouraging. These are the important takeaways, in my humble view, from PBBM’s first 100 days. I look forward to the rest of his 2,192 days in office.