BEFORE the headline topic, one last reflection on the ending question of the August 25 column on terrifying messages from Jesus, Mary and other holies recounted by 19th century French stigmatist and mystic Marie-Julie Jahenny.

On why God permits or wills chastisements, besides giving rein to man's free will and worldly failings while prompting the wayward and faithless to turn to Him, a fourth reason is given by Jesus in the August 28 Sunday Mass reading from the Gospel of Saint Luke (Lk 14:1, 7-14).

Our Lord had urged banquet guests to sit at the lowest place, so they might be honored with higher places rather than being asked to vacate a seat of high honor. He then admonished that "everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."

This Aug. 1, 2022 file photo shows President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gesturing during a speech at a vaccination drive event at the Pasig Sports Center in Pasig City. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA
This Aug. 1, 2022 file photo shows President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. gesturing during a speech at a vaccination drive event at the Pasig Sports Center in Pasig City. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

Sadly for the proud, that teaching applies not just to banquet guests, but to all humanity: from paupers to potentates, communities to conglomerates, nations and civilizations.

And there is no greater pride than ascribing to one's own capabilities and efforts alone the achievements and bounties one enjoys, with no thought to the decades of care, protection, education and other blessings one has received and continues to receive.

Get the latest news
delivered to your inbox
Sign up for The Manila Times’ daily newsletters
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

That illusion of being utterly self-made and self-elevating has now reached global proportions, with superpower leaders, billionaires, scientists and innovators and the affluent and highly educated believing their wealth, learning and power can provide all they need and desire.

Such self-exaltation can only lead to great humbling as God steps back and lets humanity see what happens when He withdraws His protection and blessings.

Harness, not abolish PCGG

Turning to the headline topic, having largely attained public trust and governance clout in his first 50 days, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. may now wish to address some touchy and often unmentionable issues.

Foremost among them is the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), created by then-President Corazon Aquino in her first Executive Order (EO) on Feb. 28, 1986, two days after assuming executive and legislative powers after the People Power uprising. Its mandate reads:

"The commission shall be charged with the task of assisting the President in regard to... recovery of all ill-gotten wealth accumulated by former president Ferdinand E. Marcos, his immediate family, relatives, subordinates and close associates, whether located in the Philippines or abroad, ...

"The investigation of such cases of graft and corruption as the President may assign to the commission from time to time [and] the adoption of safeguards to ensure that the above practices shall not be repeated in any manner under the new government, and the institution of adequate measures to prevent the occurrence of corruption."

Obviously, President Marcos Jr. faces conflict of interest regarding the PCGG, so he has rightly stayed clear of the issue, even though he told radio DZRJ in March: "It's true that it has in its present form and in the way that it was organized in 1986, maybe it could be said that they no longer perform the function that they were originally created to do."

He said: "Let's strengthen the PCGG ... Although maybe perhaps you could say that the first time it was organized, it was really an anti-Marcos agency, nonetheless we could turn it into a real anti-corruption agency and the job that it was meant to do from the very beginning has not been finished."

Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla, who oversees the PCGG, believes it should not "spend the next hundred years running after the Marcoses. ... so shift the mandate to something useful for the country and more urgent." His idea: make the commission the central agency in recovering crime and corruption gains, then "we know how much we really get for the country from the proceeds of crimes that we are forfeiting."

As EO 1 states, the PCGG can be harnessed for more than just Marcos-era asset recovery. And besides getting back ill-gotten wealth, instituting reforms to prevent corruption would be another welcome and long-overdue objective. That isn't really done well by any single agency, not even the Office of the Ombudsman.

Bottom line: With its vast and formidable powers, endowed by law under a revolutionary government and which legislators probably would never give any agency today, the PCGG should not be abolished, but instead fully mobilized to fight and prevent corruption and seize ill-gotten gains. Despite this expanded mandate, however, the commission can still pursue its original objective, in which the President is right and wise not to interfere.

National, not vested, interests

The PCGG may be the touchiest conflict-of-interest issue in the Marcos administration, but there are others. The current controversy over sugar, onion and other agricultural imports also demands that the government, especially the President and also concurrent Agriculture secretary, manage moneyed interest groups, so that the paramount goals of food needs and economic advancement are achieved.

Getting competing food and agriculture interests behind these crucial goals was precisely why this writer urged President Marcos to call a July food summit. Thankfully, in the sugar controversy, he showed commitment to the national good against powerful pressures. He must exercise the same laser focus on the nation's welfare and staunch resistance against vested interests.

There could well be more such challenges, especially with some Cabinet members coming from enterprises affected by their decisions and controlled by tycoons said to be close to the President and his family.

In such touchy situations, the President may wish to let his highly regarded economic team comment on Cabinet initiatives involving entities with connections to agency chiefs. Take Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista's plan to rehabilitate Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Is this really the way to go, with two international gateways rising in Bulacan and Cavite and the state needing cash to pay debt?

A third touchy issue is where we stand as America and China face off over Taiwan. That could reach a fever-pitch when the President visits the United States to address the United Nations next month. We'll discuss that on September 4.