First things first: A conflict-averse president?

BBM’s only task  is to accept his mandate and lead the nation out of the deep crisis caused by the  Covid-19 pandemic that has destroyed jobs and incomes and caused inflation and the national debt to shoot past the roof, and  the highly divisive presidential campaign that has virtually vaporized all forms of civility in our political and social life. 

Francisco S. Tatad

The  winners in the May 9 elections have not been officially proclaimed, but world leaders have already recognized former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as the 17th president of the Philippines. US President Joe Biden is the first one to  extend such recognition.  China’s President Xi Jinping and others  have followed.

With  65.7 million votes cast in the polls, the 65-year-old son and namesake of the late former President Ferdinand Edralin Marcos who ruled the country for 21 years  has polled over   31 million votes against his closest rival, Vice President Leni Robredo, with 14.8 million votes.  Since the 1986 EDSA “uprising” forced the old man Marcos to vacate Malacanang without any resistance, no Filipino president has ever earned such mandate.   BBM is the first.

No one has explained how it happened, but it is an uncontested fact and young people are dancing in the streets to the music and words of “Ang Bagong Lipunan” (the New Society).

From this point onward, BBM’s only task  is to accept his mandate and lead the nation out of the deep crisis caused by the  Covid-19 pandemic that has destroyed jobs and incomes and caused inflation and the national debt to shoot past the roof, and  the highly divisive presidential campaign that has virtually vaporized all forms of civility in our political and social life. 

Task ahead enormous

The depth of the crisis defines the enormity of the task ahead. Clearly, a massive shift in our perceptions and priorities must take place. Until now, many still blame Marcos and his 1972 proclamation of martial law  for the country’s deep political crisis. This must change. It’s time to realize that  the CPP/NPA  insurgency  caused the crisis and martial law  was the constitutional response to it.  If that did not completely work, we had  36 years to make things right. If we have failed to do that, we must now do all we can in the next six years.

Between the two Marcoses,  the nation has produced six presidents. Cory Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Simeon Aquino 3rd, and Rodrigo Roa Duterte.  Without discounting any of the six, it would be good to look at the two Aquinos—-Cory, the mother, and PNoy, the son—-as a point of departure for the next government.

The damage done by Cory

After the military generals withdrew their support for Marcos in 1986, they installed Cory Aquino, who had lost the snap  presidential election, as revolutionary president. She quickly abolished  the 1973 Constitution, replaced it with a provisional “Freedom Constitution,” and had the entire Marcos family flown by the US Air Force to Hawaii for exile,  never  to return to the Philippines.

Then she freed all the communist prisoners in jail,  handpicked 48 individuals to write a new Constitution since she could not trust the “people”  to write their own Constitution. Although she had started joining anti-bases marches before the EDSA uprising, after  Mt. Pinatubo erupted and the US-Philippine military bases agreement expired in 1991, she had a new treaty rushed in an attempt to extend the MBA by another ten years.  Her Senate allies, however, shot it down. 

After her “revolutionary” presidency, Cory continued in office without the benefit of an election. She invoked  Section 5 of the Transitory Provisions of the new  Constitution, which provides: “The six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice-President elected in the February 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992.”

Nobody questioned the legitimacy of her position, but Section 5 did not provide a constitutional basis for it. The military had installed her and Salvador “Doy” Laurel to head the revolutionary government, but they were never “elected” by the people. The only ones elected and officially proclaimed as such by the Batasang Pambansa were Ferdinand E. Marcos as president and Arturo Tolentino as vice-president. 

As revolutionary president, Cory could have easily reworded Section 5 to say that at the end of the revolutionary period, she and Doy would continue in office until June 30, 1992, “under the express terms of the new Constitution.” 

But  she did not do that, so their occupation of the presidency and vice-presidency violated the Constitution.

Hacienda Luisita saved from land reform

Neither was her governance nearly irreproachable.  For one, she went out of her way to exempt Hacienda Luisita, her  family’s large sugar estate in Tarlac, from the comprehensive coverage of agrarian land reform.  When on January 22, 1987 protesting Hacienda Luisita farmers marched on Mendiola, a street away from Malacanang, to dialog with her, they were met with a hail of bullets that took the lives of at least 12 farmers and injured 51 others. 

PNoy’s presidency was  even more unreal. His candidacy was launched by media celebrity-friends from his mother’s bedside before she died on August 1, 2009.

The harm done by Pnoy presidency

Later,he told the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that he expected to win by at least five million votes, but that  he would have to call for “people power” to keep her from trying to prevent his election.  Of course this could be avoided, he suggested, if she  guaranteed his win.

GMA yielded on the condition that PNoy would do nothing against her when he became president.  PNoy kept this agreement for a year, but  thereafter, he had GMA jailed on some non-bailable charges at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. 

At the same time, he had Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, whom GMA had appointed, impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate impeachment court, by paying 19 senator-judges  P50 million to P100 million apiece for his removal. This crime  remains unpunished until now.

In the 2013 midterm election, PNoy made sure that his senatorial candidates won 60 percent of all the votes, while some opposition candidates got only 30 percent, and the rest got 10 percent. Election watchers did not suspect anything until  Ateneo IT Professor Alex Muga  denounced the sophisticated form of cheating. 

On his first visit to the US, PNoy assured President Obama and State Secretary Hillary Clinton he would enact a law  that would impose artificial birth control on all Filipinos.  For the past 15 years, Filipino legislators had opposed this proposed measure, which violated the pro-life provisions of the Constitution and the religious belief of most Filipinos.

But PNoy gave Obama and Clinton his word after receiving a grant of $454 million from the US Millennium Challenge Fund. Upon his return he railroaded the legislation, and the Supreme Court threw out all petitions against it, declaring  the patently unconstitutional population control measure “not unconstitutional.”

Corruption under Pnoy

PNoy’s rule was not untouched by corruption.  On the day the Makati regional court ordered the arrest of Janet Napoles, the alleged pork barrel queen, she appared in Malacanang, accompanied by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda for a private meeting with PNoy.

Hours earlier, PNoy had announced a P10-million bounty for her arrest. She was now with him,  purportedly “to surrender.” PNoy personally escorted her to the PNP headquarters at Camp Crame where  DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and the PNP chief were waiting to receive her.

So much of PNoy’s presidency was written in blood. During his first year in office, a tourist bus hijacking at Manila’s Rizal Park resulted in the death of eight hostages and the hostage-taker and injuries to seven other hostages and two bystanders. It also chilled relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong for sometime. 

In mid-February of 2013, some 235 militant followers of the Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram II,  clashed with Malaysian security forces in Lahad Datu in Sabah, resulting in  the death of fifty-six militants, six civilians, and ten members of the Malaysian security forces.

The Sultan’s men had come to Lahad Datu to assert the Sultan’s rights over Sabah which is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Philippines and Malaysia.  PNoy promised to address the Sultan’s grievances if he would recall his men rom Sabah, but he never complied with his promise after the incident.

On September 9, 2013, some 300 rogue elements of the MNLF tried to raise the flag of their self-proclaimed “Republik” in front of the Zamboanga city hall. This resulted in a running gunbattle with the military for 17 days. Eighty-seven persons were killed and 146 wounded, about 100,000 people in Zamboanga and 20,000 in Basilan were displaced, more than 10,000 homes were razed to the ground or destroyed. The leaders of the rogue elements escaped.

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