ANALYSIS: President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s silence on key issues is deafening

·3 min read
A man watches President Bongbong Marcos deliver his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on television at a barber shop, in Quezon City, Philippines.
A man watches Philippine President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on television as he gets his haircut at a barber shop, in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, July 25, 2022. REUTERS/Lisa Marie David

At around 3:30 pm on Monday (July 25), President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. arrived in Batasang Pambansa for his first-ever State of the Nation Address (SONA) as president of the Republic.

Carried by a helicopter and escorted by three others, one couldn’t help but notice the precise timing of everything as mandated by the Constitution, a whiff of fresh air after so many delays in the previous administration’s conduct of the speech in Congress, whether because of a power play among members of the House, or sheer lack of sense of urgency from the previous occupier of the presidency, who “likes to sleep in” and starts the business of his day “late.”

Upon arriving at the complex, Marcos was greeted by some members of both houses of Congress, led by the newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives and his cousin, Martin Romualdez, and Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, who then escorted him to the briefing area where First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos and their children were waiting for him.

And after Romualdez and Zubiri gavelled the joint Congress to session, Marcos stood before the podium bearing the seal of the highest office in the land, and for more than an hour, he droned on and on about his plans for the country.

This is the most eloquent and clear-cut Marcos had been since the campaign period. Unlike his inaugural address which sounded like a rehash of his tiresome “unity” rhetoric, for an hour and 14 minutes, reading through a teleprompter, he laid down some concrete plans and actions his administration will do to save the country from the brink of economic and political crisis.

But more than the big infrastructure projects and initiatives he wants to get done and the legislative priorities of his administration, his silence and seeming indifference on other issues critical to the country is just as deafening – human rights, justice, peace, press freedom, among many others.

Cristina Palabay, Secretary-General of Human Rights group Karapatan, said in a statement that Marcos Jr.’s silence on these key issues only meant a continuation of the previous administration’s “draconian policies.”

“When there’s eerie silence on these issues, we surmise that there are no significant shifts in the draconian policies of the previous Duterte administration,” Palabay said. “The impact is a more threatening environment that encourages further closing of democratic spaces.”

Sure, 70 minutes will not suffice to list down all of the country’s problems, and the solutions to it. But for a country under an international court’s investigation due to several human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity, one could expect mere mention, even if only in-passing, about the new government’s plan on how to protect the rights and freedom of its citizens.

“There is much to be vigilant on the Marcos Jr.’s plans as outlined in his first SONA,” Palabay added. And with that, we all agree.

Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments on politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. Follow him on Twitter at @marvs30ang for latest news and updates.

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