(On Feb. 14, 2022 I conducted an imaginary interview with then Presidential candidate BBM where I predicted his victory. Today I speak with BBM as President.)
HL: Mr. President, wow, the last time we met you were running for office. Now here you are President of 110 million Filipinos. Congratulations. What does it feel like?
PBBM: Yeah, I am so grateful and honored to be leading this great nation.
HL: Does it feel like a vindication?
PBBM: 36 years ago we left Malacanang rather hurriedly. It is good to be home again. Mom is so excited.
HL: Did VP Leni ever concede the race?
PBBM: Leni did not Viber but maybe she is on WhatApp. She is a fine woman who was never given the chance to properly serve the country.
HL: The one year ban on Government positions for those who ran in 2022 is soon over. Would you offer Leni a Cabinet post? She may decline but it would be a master political stroke. It means you are truly a unity Government.
PBBM: Hmmm. Let me run it by the First Lady.
HL: Some other Cabinet changes? Gibo Teodoro (DOF, DND, ES)? You could use the new blood.
PBBM: Liza is preparing the memo.
HL: What do you say to “the yellows and pinks”?
PBBM: March with me or be left without me.
HL: You have a mandate from 32 million Filipinos, what have you done or want to do with it?
PBBM: I am aware of the high expectations for my Administration. I am working on it.
HL: Your economic team has been widely praised. What has that dream team accomplished so far?
PBBM: Let me think. The Maharlika Investment Fund?
HL: Why this obsession with the Fund?
PBBM: The Fund allows me to fast track our infrastructure without always having to run to Congress for the money. The Fund will allow me to write my own checks.
HL: Speaking of Cabinet appointments why is DOH still vacant?
PBBM: OMG, I totally forgot. Let me remind Liza.
HL: What about yourself. With all the problems in agriculture do you have time to be both President and DoA Secretary?
PBBM: I want to show how much I care about agriculture.
HL: You realize you will be accountable for the corruption and inefficiencies in the department?
PBBM: Yes I do.
HL: But nobody can fire you so how does that work?
PBBM: Exactly. That is the privilege of being President.
HL: In your Inaugural Address you promised to hit the ground running. People say you have little to show for it.
PBBM: My Dad always said the best things in life are worth waiting for.
HL: For how long? In the meantime inflation is at a record high, we have a Php 14 trillion debt, over 20 million Filipinos live below the poverty line, we are the last in the world in science, math and comprehension, and then there is the corruption. You promised an economy on steroids.
PBBM: I can understand the frustration but I inherited this situation, not created it. We are working on our problems even if the public does not see it.
HL: Maybe you need to communicate better. All we seem to get from the Palace are Christmas, Valentine and Easter messages of love and kindness. Do you pen these personally or do you use ChatGPT?
PBBM: Hahaha. You are funny.
HL: The criticism is this Government is all talk, a Government by Power Point.
PBBM: That is unfair. For example NEDA just completed a thousand page 5 Year Development Plan. I still have to read it but I am told it is a cliff hanger.
HL: The perception is your priority is to see the world.
PBBM: You know we live in an inter-connected planet. It is important I have face to face contact with the leaders of other nations in case we need their assistance or co-operation. Plus these foreign trips bring in billions of critical foreign investments.
HL: Yet the BSP announced that foreign investments fell by 23% in 2022 and again this year.
PBBM: Maybe I should travel more.
HL: What about the Formula One trip to Singapore?
PBBM: As they say all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
HL: Should you not be promoting Philippine rather than Singapore tourism?
PBBM: My advisers were opposed to that trip but what is the point of being President if one cannot have a little fun? Liza and I deserved a break after a hectic campaign so give that to us.
HL: On foreign policy: You have made a reverse pivot to the U.S. America and its allies are erecting a wall against China stretching from S. Korea to Australia to Taiwan to Japan; anchored by a U.S. military presence in the Philippines. A private equity firm with State Dept. support has bought into Subic for use by the U.S. navy. EDCA has been re-launched in four sites. What are we getting out of all this? You have stated you want us to be neutral in the U.S.-China conflict.
PBBM: Subic was a private sector rescue following the Hanjin bankruptcy so it was a bail out for our banks that had lent money to them. Our military also wants to restore relations with the U.S. and what my generals want my generals get. I repeat, my foreign policy is to be friends with all.
HL: What will you tell Premier Xi when you see him on your next trip?
PBBM: We admittedly have a love-hate relationship with China. Maybe I should focus on the love.
HL: It does not help that we are hosting POGOs against the wishes of China.
PBBM: POGOs have contributed to our economy but I can understand China’s position. A compromise may be to relocate the POGOs in neutral territory like the Spratleys.
HL: Speaking of the military DOF Sec. Ben Diokno reportedly wants to downsize the pensions of our soldiers approved by President Duterte because it is unaffordable.
PBBM: Aargh. Why is Ben saddling me with this problem knowing how sensitive it is? Why did he not oppose the plan when he was on the Duterte team? He has been assuring me our debt load is manageable so he should go find the money and stop whining.
HL: Change subject because you are clearly upset: Will you be handing President Duterte to the International Criminal Court?
PBBM: The War on Drugs may have been overdone but PPRD meant well. There are other world leaders who are committing worse crimes.
HL: Local politics: People say you are getting set for a multi-generational family dynasty. You seem to already be grooming Sandro. The First Lady has been mentioned as a potential place holder until the kids come of age.
PBBM: You must be crazy if you think Liza wants the job.
HL: Even if she is said to be the power behind the throne?
PBBM: Do not believe those stories. Liza just wants to chill.
HL: What about your nephews or your sister Imee? Will they be given a crack at the Presidency in 2028?
PBBM: Let me talk to Liza.
HL: And Sara? It is said you gave her a graveyard job at the DepEd when she wanted Defense.
PBBM: I cannot speak for the VP but Sara will always have a special place in my heart. Her ROTC idea is brilliant.
HL: The two biggest problems of our country are poverty and corruption yet you rarely allude to them?
PBBM: I want to focus on the positives.
HL: Is corruption and poverty improving?
PBBM: Let us not go there.
HL: How will you curb corruption?
PBBM: By making everybody happy.
HL: Do you worry about your reputation and legacy?
PBBM: People see others through the prism of their prejudices. Reputation is what people think of you, character is who you are. I am going with character.
HL: After 9 months you, Sir, are still an unknown quantity. Who is BBM?
PBBM: BBM is a man who showed up when 32 million Filipinos wanted him to show up.
HL: What is your message to the nation as we approach your Government’s anniversary?
PBBM: Be kind and love one another.