Marcos reshuffles Cabinet to reform bureaucracy
Manila — Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos has appointed four technocrats to his Cabinet to reform a largely ineffiencient and corrupt bureaucracy. He has also named a new military chief of staff, who is expected to retire some 40 "barnacled generals" to make room for younger officers.
The technocrats, sometimes known as "American boys" because of their support for what are seen as pro-American policies, are mostly in economics planning positions.
But the changes have left the President's old guard largely intact, except for thefour technocrats. And the President's authoritarian powers remain undiminished.
The changes are part of President Marcos's New Republic established after his election June 16 to another six-year term.
The new program replaced the eight- year-old New Society Program, which was widely criticized for failing to alter the country's backward social and economics base.
The new system is like that of France in that it provides for a strong president who appoints the country's prime minister.
At the helm of the technocrats' bloc is newly named Primed Minister Cesar Virata. He is concurently finance minister and chairman of the executive committee -- an important body vested with succession powers in the event that Mr. Marcos dies or is incapacitated.
Mr. Virata's support will be drawn mainly from a pool of technocracy consisting of Jaime C. Laya, governor of the Central bank; Industry and Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin, and newly designated Economic Planning Minister Placido Mapa.
The technocrats' bloc, though counterbalance by the old guard, mostly politicians, is expected to implement a nononsense economic program and minimize corruption.
Mr. Marcos has named the top man in his presidential security command, Maj. Gen. Fabrian Ver, as new chief of staff, with the rank of four-star general. General Ver's closest rival, West Point graduate Maj. Gen. Fidel B. Ramos, was named vice-chief of staff. General Ramos, an American-trained professional soldier, was preferred both by the US Supporters of Mr. Marcos, and by the reorganization committee of technocrats.
However, Mr. Marcos decided to appoint General Ver, who runs the state's massive intelligence community, possibly as a counterweight to the influential pro US technocrats.
Since Mr. Marcos declared martial law in 1972, he has assigned trusted generals to strategic military command. Most of them. about 40 altogether, would normally have been retired, buy Mr. Marcos kept stalling.
The overstaying generals, known as "extendees" or "barnacled generals," succeeded in blocking the promotions of majors and colonels, and rumbling in the military threatened Mr. Marcos main power base.
With a new chief of staff, it is expected that Mr. Marcos will retire no less than 40 generals and pave the way for younger ones to rise. However, the main criterion is expected to be loyalty to the President.
If Mr. Marcos is judicious, he can contain further deterioration of the military's morale. But if he uses favoritism as a yard- stick, some disgruntled military men may take the initiative to reform the government by maneuvering for power.
Critics of Mr. Marcos remain skeptical about the possibility of basic social and economic reforms, despite the technorats' influence. The reason is that Mr. Marcos remains the most powerful man and can veto moves by both the executive committee and the interim National Assembly.
On July 27, the President presented a broad framework for the country's economic plan. He urged both his cabinet and the interim parliament to buckle down work.
It is, however, the consensus of the nationalist sector here that Mr. Marcos's political plans are largely in conformity with US-oriented interests, particularly the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. These, they suggest, continue to extend massive loans to support the national economy.