PHILIPPINE STAR/ KRIZ JOHN ROSALES

THE SELECTION process for vacant seats in President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s Cabinet is now in the final stage, according to his press chief, but no target date has been set for completing the team.

Mr. Marcos did not hold his first Cabinet meeting on his inauguration day on June 30 as conventionally done by recent past Philippine presidents.

“I understand that this is going through the final evaluation stage so I don’t think it will take too long,” Press Secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles told a news conference on Monday.

Ms. Cruz-Angeles said there is no “deadline” for the selection process because it is being carefully done.

“There’s no deadline,” she said. “What we’re saying is that we’re evaluating the candidates very well.”

Mr. Marcos has yet to fill some key Cabinet posts, including chiefs of the departments of Health, Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, Science and Technology, and Human Settlements and Urban Development.

“That they are unable to name the heads of these important agencies reveals the absence of these programs during the campaign,” said Leonardo A. Lanzona, who teaches economics at the Ateneo De Manila University.

“It seems obvious that the Marcos campaign did not have a clear program that can help address issues that face ordinary citizens, particularly health and housing,” he said in a Messenger chat.

“The Marcos campaign was really running on empty programs. This does not contribute to the confidence of the business community, worse it shows a disregard to the plight of the common tao (folk).”

Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at Ateneo, said discussions between and among allies with their own proposed names for those posts might still be ongoing. 

It’s also possible “that Mr. Marcos already has the names of his new Cabinet members, but other allies are not happy with it,” he said in a Messenger chat. “If this is the case, then the delay should really make us suspicious of the independence of the presidency with his political allies.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Marcos on Monday held a closed-door meeting with members of the Department of Agriculture, which he is currently leading as its secretary. The topics discussed in the meeting were not disclosed to Palace reporters.

When asked by reporters whether the new Philippine leader would consider any government austerity measure or new revenue-generating policy to help address the country’s debts, Ms. Cruz-Angeles said: “It’s the economic team who is making these — drawing up these plans and the policy proposals in accordance with the directive of the President.”

“We’ll wait for the economic team to make the announcement,” she said.

Ms. Cruz-Angeles also said Mr. Marcos has no scheduled state visits yet.

“The President has not announced any state visits,” she said. “As of now, he is busy building up the Cabinet.”

At the weekend, the Philippine’s envoy to the US said American President Joseph R. Biden has invited Mr. Marcos to visit Washington. However, no schedule has been set yet. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza