The huge political capital gives Marcos awesome powers to unify the nation, reform society as his father attempted with martial rule, promote inclusive and sustainable growth, ensure the supply of basic needs—food, energy, education, and health care—and give Filipino workers, especially those going abroad, a better deal.
In Philippine democracy’s finest hour, Ferdinand Romualdez “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. took over as the 17th president, at exactly 12 noon, Thursday, June 30, 2022.
It was exactly 20 years and 66 days since his father, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr. first took his oath as the 10th president.
The elder Marcos was the first and only president to be reelected thrice—1969, 1981, and 1986, enabling him to reign for 20 years, the longest of any president. He was ousted by People Power on Feb. 25, 1986. In May this year, Marcos Jr. took presidential power back, to hold it for the next six years.
Snappy in a well-pressed piña barong and dark grey pants, Marcos, 64, recited his oath, in Pilipino, before Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, in a 60-second solemn but simple rite of passage.
At the end of that shining moment, nearly everyone, led by the First Lady Liza Araneta Marcos and Vice President Sara Zimmerman Duterte, was teary-eyed.
Hope and confidence
Despite overcast skies, the new President delivered a 25-minute speech that brightened with hope, confidence, and purposefulness to get things done right and soonest.
He drew images of an empowered people, with food aplenty, energy sourced locally…in a safer, more prosperous country”, with a future bright for the people and their children.” “Ang pangarap ninyo, ay pangarap ko” (“Your dream is my dream”).
In the road ahead, the immediate months will be rough,” he warned, mincing no words, “but I walk with you.” “These are troubling times. What’s happening to others can happen to us,” he said. “But it will not,” he assured. “Giving up is not an option,” he declared. “We shall begin again, but better.” With a house divided, “we shall build it back better”. “I am ready for the task,” he said, “you will get no excuses from me.”
A historic moment
“This is a historic moment,’ Marcos began. “You have spoken, and it is resounding,” he noted. “When my call for unity started to resonate with you, it did so because it echoed your yearnings, mirrored your sentiments, and expressed your hopes for the family, for country, and for a better future…It reverberated and amplified as it did to deliver the biggest electoral mandate in the history of Philippine democracy.”
Last May 9, 2022, Marcos defeated nine other presidential aspirants, garnering an unprecedented 31.6 million votes, 59% of all the votes cast for president. The opposition’s and closest challenger, the then vice president Leni Robredo, settled for just 15 million votes, less than half Marcos’s vote, and just 28% of the total.
No politics of division
“By your vote, you rejected the politics of division,” Marcos told his inaugural audience.
In return, the President promised “we will go very far under my watch.” “I hear you,” he acknowledged in Pilipino, your shout of unity (pagkakaisa), unity (pagkakaisa), unity (pagkakaisa). “We will go farther together than against each other…the changes we seek will benefit all and will short-change no one.” “I have never given up on reconciliation,” he added.
“I am here not to talk about the past. I am here to tell you about our future. A future of sufficiency, even plenty, of readily available ways and means to get done what needs doing. By you, by me,” Marcos said. And the crowd responded with a warm applause.
The President promised to take his countrymen “to a place better than the one we lost in the pandemic,” “with new ways.” “A stronger resilience and quicker adaptability … they are our best prevention…our best protection” as we go “to something better place, something less fragile”.
The Philippines was fastest growing in ASEAN, he recalled. The country was growing at more than 6.6% per year in the four years to 2019, before the pandemic. Then growth collapsed to 9.6% negative rate in 2020.
“We shall be—again, by radical change,” he said, “and recover what we have lost in that fire and move on from there.”
Marcos fretted about dark prospects of the Ukraine war spreading to our part of the world, “of which we are totally blameless.” “Countries like ours will bear the brunt of it,” he warned.
The answer, Marcos indicated, is to “put more means and choices” in the hands of the Filipino.
“I trust the Filipino,” he said. “Imagine how much more you will achieve if the government backstops instead of dictating your decisions, (is) always there to pick you when you fail. Giving what you need to get past a problem. Imagine if it (the government) invested in your empowerment to bring it closer to taking on whatever challenges come. Imagine—that in almost every sense—is you.”
“Now imagine what you and government can achieve together. We did it in the pandemic. We will do it again,” the President said.
Details in the SONA
Marcos did not elaborate what resources he would give the Filipino and or how cooperation with government could be achieved. “The forthcoming State of the Nation will tell you exactly how we shall get this done,” he promised.
“Government will get as much done without requiring much from you,” the President assured, just in case the people would not cooperate with his presidency.
He extended the hand of reconciliation to his detractors and the opposition. He said: “We shall seek, not scorn, dialogue; listen respectfully to contrary views. We are open to suggestions coming from hard-thinking and unsparing judgment –but always from us, Filipinos.”
Sense of nationalism
Alluding to colonial powers and recent attempts to encroach on Philippine territory, Marcos remined his countrymen: “We can trust no one else when it comes to what is best for us. Past history has often proven that. Solutions from outside divided us, none deepened our understanding. They were always at our expense. Never forget, we are Filipinos, one nation, one republic—indivisible.” (Applause).
Marcos kept stressing on unity without closing one’s mind to diversity.
Food is a priority
Food sufficiency, he said, will be given priority, just like what the rich countries do with huge subsidies to their agriculture. He debunked the traditional wisdom that a country should not produce food but import instead what other countries have more of, and sell cheapest. “Food is an existential imperative—and a moral one,” he said.
Upon his proclamation last May, Marcos said it is his aspiration to bring down rice per kilo to P20, half of current prices. To mean what he said, he has assumed the position of secretary of Agriculture.
Energy too will get parallel attention. “We are not far from oil and gas reserves that have already been developed,” Marcos said.
Build, Build, Build to continue
Build, Build, Build will continue. Marcos will “build on success that is already happening,” complete the projects Duterte began, within the six years of his own presidency.
“My father built more and better roads, produced more rice than all administrations before his,” Marcos recalled.
The son has also risen. Marcos Jr. can do no less—no matter how tougher the times now. “You will not be disappointed,” he told the people. “So do not be afraid.”