Senate of the Philippines

Zubiri’s advice to Marcos amid ratings plunge: Axe ‘poorly performing’ Cabinet members

Bonz Magsambol

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Zubiri’s advice to Marcos amid ratings plunge: Axe ‘poorly performing’ Cabinet members

File photo of Senate President Migz Zubiri

Angie de Silva/Rappler

Without naming names, Senate President Migz Zubiri says the President should replace 'three to four' Cabinet members

As President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. suffered a two-digit plunge in his public approval rating, Senate President Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri gave this unsolicited advice to the Philippine leader: axe the poor performers in the Cabinet.

“Ang suggestion ko po sa ating Pangulo to crack the whip with his Cabinet, lalo na ‘yung poorly performing members of the Cabinet na imbis na tumulong ay lalong napeperhuwisyo ang ating Pangulo,” Zubiri told reporters in a press briefing on Wednesday, October 4, when asked about his reaction on the recent Pulse Asia survey.

(My suggestion for the President is to crack the whip with his Cabinet, especially the poorly performing members of the Cabinet who do not help but are instead harming the President.)

In a Pulse Asia survey held in September, the country’s top government officials all suffered lower approval ratings. The approval ratings of Marcos and Vice President Sara Duterte went down from 80% to 65% and 84% to 73%, respectively, while Zubiri’s approval rating dropped from 56% in June to 50%.

Some analysts traced the dip in public approval for top government leaders, especially Marcos, to continuing food price spikes and higher inflation.

Zubiri said that the collective public anger, as reflected in the nationwide surveys, is directed not only at the Executive but the whole government.

“Sama-sama na siguro dahil kapag nakita nila opisyal whether House of Representatives, Senate, Office of the President, medyo nagagalit ang tao sa gobyerno kaya lahat kami bumaba ang ratings,“Zubiri explained.

(It’s directed to all of us because if they see an official, whether from the House of Representatives, Senate, or Office of the President, the people are angry towards the government so we all had lower ratings.)

So who should Marcos kick out of the Cabinet? Zubiri did not name anyone or any department but said there are “three to four” Cabinet members who, for him, should go.

“If there’s a promise on inflation, then look at the agencies that’s suppose to track why there’s overpricing. Bakit nagkakaroon ng hoarding? Bakit walang napapagalitan na price manipulators sa market side (Why is there hoarding? Why is that no one gets reprimanded with the price manipulators in the market side)?” he said

“These are questions that the President can ask his Cabinet [secretaries] and if they are not performing up to par with the President’s standards with what the country needs,” Zubiri said.

Controlling inflation – the most urgent concern of Filipinos – involves not only agencies overseeing the monitoring of prices of goods, but also those involved in food supply, cash subsidies to the poor, and social protection programs, among others. Based on the Pulse Asia survey in September, Filipinos were most dissatisfied with the Marcos government’s performance in reining in inflation.

Marcos himself is among the most criticized agency chiefs as he leads the Department of Agriculture in a concurrent capacity. The DA has been beset by problems, particularly high food prices, since Marcos led it when he became president in 2022 – from the onion crisis to sugar fiasco, and the most recent spike in rice prices that compelled him to order a month-long price cap on rice prices that apparently had no impact on public opinion.

Many groups, experts, and some lawmakers have been calling on Marcos to turn over the DA to a permanent secretary who can focus on the job 24/7. Marcos has rejected these calls, saying he has yet to find the best candidate to replace him.

Another Cabinet secretary who has been in the spotlight this national budget season is Vice President Sara Duterte who is seeking confidential funds of P500 million and P150 million for the Office of the Vice President and the education department, respectively. Her requested funds, however, will be realigned to fund agencies at the forefront of efforts to protect Philippine interests in the West Philippine Sea, following China’s repeated incursions in the area. –

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Bonz Magsambol

Bonz Magsambol covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler.