BBM wins polls yet it is not over yet for him and the Philippines

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After years of hard work, former senator and now president-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Junior just fulfilled the wishes of his 92-year-old mother, former First lady Imelda Marcos to lead the family’s political comeback. It took 36 years for BBM to get where he wanted—and that path was not easy. As this country’s first majority president, BBM is now poised to correct the monumental errors left by those who once conspired against his family. The overwhelming 31 million votes gave Mr. Marcos junior the highest political capital needed to lift this country from the economic, social, and political morass that the people find themselves in. However, winning, as they say, is one thing. Survival is another.

BBM faces an economy that mimics the conditions of 1986 when Filipinos chased him and his family out of the palace. His predecessor, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, left almost US$13 trillion in debt. Prices of essential commodities are at an all-time high. Oil prices are skyrocketing to levels unseen in the past decades. The peso is barely keeping itself up against the dollar. Unemployment rates are in double digits, inflation has broken the psychological limits, and the stock market lost billions of dollars last May 10 after it seemed clear that Vice president Leni Robredo got swept with what De la Salle professor Julio Teehankee described as a tsunami of votes not seen during the post-dictatorship era. Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III bared that his team has already communicated with the BBM camp. Economists ask BBM about his economic plans to stem the tide of investors leaving the country for other promising markets.

If prior assertions by the Marcos family are factual, then several major company owners might now be squirming in their seats. In an article written by Tony Lopez for Asiaweek, Imelda Marcos claimed that the Marcoses own 150 of the most prominent companies in the Philippines, including the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), San Miguel, Philippine Airlines, et al. The Marcoses reportedly entrusted ownership to several trustees.[1] Speculation is rife within the business community that several shakedowns would probably happen shortly after BBM ascends the rungs of power.

It is not just the fractured economy—the peace and order situation remains highly problematic. With doubts about the integrity of the conduct of this year’s elections, many are seeing a destabilized political situation. Youth groups are consolidating under the command of an organization dedicated to preventing a Marcos comeback.

Mindanao is a potential tinderbox since most of the insurgent groups, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), had supported the candidacy of Leni Robredo. It is not entirely clear how BBM would use his enormous political capital to at least deal with the potentially explosive situation in the South. The wounds inflicted by the Duterte administration during the Marawi siege remain fresh, with most Maranao residents still unable to occupy their previous ancestral lands. And despite public announcements of success and rebel surrenders, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) continues to lord it over the vast Sulu sea and the archipelago.

And there is the local insurgency movement. The Duterte administration created an anti-terror bill that the Supreme Court recently affirmed as valid. Billions of pesos are being spent by the government in its anti-insurgency campaigns. The environment is being primed for insurgent recruitments.

Despite 17,000 deaths and several billions of illicit drugs seized, the drug problem festers. More than 5 million Filipinos remain victims of drug addiction. The Duterte administration did its part, even using extra constitutional means, as alleged by its detractors.

 

The Challenge

The challenge facing BBM is this—how does he spend the enormous political capital Filipinos gave him thru the ballot? With all these challenges, BBM must rely on the best intelligence and prevent himself from being isolated or boxed in by his clique.

BBM must exercise judiciousness. He must seriously consider a unity government—an administration composed of only the brightest and the best regardless of political color, ideology, etc.

The president-elect must involve members of the academe. Put experts per industry. Involve stakeholders in policy making to avoid having policies always questioned by sectors affected.

BBM must try to prevent appointments based solely on personal considerations. Of course, critical posts such as the Office of the Executive Secretary and other departments should be handled only by close political associates. Positions in business, trade, and economy should be left to economic experts.

BBM must introduce a new culture within the bureaucracy, a structure based on norms of decency, honesty, a people-oriented perspective, and civil society involvement. A service culture must be implemented. BBM must likewise be tough on graft and corruption. Just a whiff of corruption must be exposed and expunged because the very survival of this administration will always be at stake.

BBM faces the same social, economic, and political conditions former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino faced last 1986. For the first 100 days, the public will surely know the difference. Failure is not an option for BBM. He may have won this election, but the challenging task of rebuilding this nation once more based on what his father envisioned before remains.

Whatever happens in the next few years under BBM, this new development marks the sure closure of the Aquino-Marcos narrative, possibly leading to a new story for the Filipino people.

[1] Susan Berfield and Antonio Lopez. Imelda’s Fortunes: The Former First Lady claims that the Marcos family owns most of the Philippines Inc. www.cnn.com see link: http://edition.cnn.com/ASIANOW/asiaweek/99/0115/nat1.html

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