Bongbong presidency begins

·6 min read

FERDINAND “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. was sworn in as Philippine president Thursday, June 30, in one of the greatest political comebacks in recent history but which opponents say was pulled off by whitewashing his family’s image.

His rise to power, 36 years after an army-backed “People Power” revolt booted his father, Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to global infamy, upends politics in the Asian democracy, where a public holiday, monuments and the Philippine Constitution stand as reminders of his father’s tyrannical rule.

Activists and survivors of the martial law-era under his father protested Marcos Jr.’s inauguration, which took place at a noontime ceremony at the steps of the National Museum in Manila. Thousands of police officers, including anti-riot contingents, Swat commandos and snipers, were deployed in the bayside tourist district for security.

Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and US Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Doug Emhoff, were among foreign dignitaries attending.

“Wow is this really happening?” asked Bonifacio Ilagan, a 70-year-old activist who was detained and severely tortured by counterinsurgency forces during the elder Marcos’s rule, before the inauguration. “For victims of martial law like me, this is a nightmare.”

Such historical baggage and antagonism stand to hound Marcos Jr. during a six-year presidency beginning at a time of intense crises. The Philippines has been among the worst-hit countries in Asia by the two-year coronavirus pandemic, after more than 60,000 deaths and extended lockdowns sent the economy to its worst recession since World War II and worsened poverty, unemployment and hunger. As the pandemic was easing early this year, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent global inflation soaring and sparked fears of food shortages.

Last week, Marcos Jr. announced he would serve as secretary of agriculture temporarily after he takes office to prepare for possible food supply emergencies. “I think the problem is severe enough,” he said and added he has asked his key advisers to brace for “emergency situations, especially when it comes to food supply.”

He also inherits decades-old Muslim and communist insurgencies, crime, gaping inequality and political divisions inflamed by his election. Congress last month proclaimed his landslide victory, as well as that of his running mate Sara Duterte, the daughter of the outgoing president, in the vice- presidential race.

“I ask you all, pray for me, wish me well. I want to do well because when the president does well, the country does well,” he said after his congressional proclamation without taking any questions.

Marcos Jr. received more than 31 million votes and Sara Duterte more than 32 million of the more than 55 million votes cast in the May 9 election—massive victories that will provide them robust political capital as they face tremendous challenges as well as doubts arising from their fathers’ reputations. It was the first majority presidential victory in the Philippines in decades. During the campaign, he and Sara Duterte avoided controversial issues and focused on a call for national unity, although their fathers’ presidencies opened some of the most volatile divisions in the country’s history. Marcos Jr. appealed to be judged “not by my ancestors, but by my actions.”

His father was forced from power by a largely peaceful pro-democracy uprising in 1986 and died in 1989 while in exile in Hawaii without admitting any wrongdoing, including accusations that he, his family a nd cronies amassed an estimated $5 billion to $10 billion while in office. A Hawaii court later found him liable for human rights violations and awarded $2 billion to more than 9,000 Filipinos who filed a lawsuit against him for torture, incarceration, extrajudicial killings and disappearances.

WISHES

Cebuanos want Marcos to lower prices of fuel, rice; continue drug war; stop corruption

SOME ordinary Cebuanos have urged the new administration to deliver on its promises during the campaign period, one of which is lowering the price of rice to P20 per kilo. They also want the President to seek remedies that can help in lowering the fuel prices in the country.

Others also want Marcos Jr. to continue President Duterte’s programs, including the drug war.

Tricycle driver Jimboy Villar, 44, said he will be supportive of Marcos Jr., believing the new President could lift the economy battered by the pandemic and the soaring fuel prices exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

‘Good’ drug war

He also wants the new President to continue former President Duterte’s war on drugs, saying “morag nindot kaayo to (it seemed good).”

However, Villar said in Cebuano that Marcos’ focus should be on the rising fuel prices “kay tanan palitonon apektado, mumahal sad og apil (because all commodities will be affected, their prices will also increase).”

Narciso Dizo, 61, also expected Marcos Jr. to prioritize the lowering of fuel prices. He also hoped that the new President would fulfill his promise to bring the kilo of rice to P20.

He said if fuel prices become cheaper, all commodities, not just rice, will become less expensive.

Dizo also wants Marcos Jr. to solve the corruption in the government as it is the country’s foremost problem.

“Corruption is the number one problem in the Philippines... the first thing the new President must do is to stop corruption even in small institutions,” he said in Cebuano.

Members of militant group Bayan Muna-Central Visayas and other cause-oriented groups held a protest outside the Cebu Provincial Capitol in Cebu City, echoing the sentiments of Villar and Dizo.

John Ruiz, the protesters’ spokesperson, said they doubt Marcos Jr. can bring down the price of rice, saying the new President has not stated a clear program for agriculture.

The protesters, he added, also want Marcos Jr. to acknowledge the wrongdoings of the new President’s father, the late dictator.

ADVICE

Local spiritual leader urges leaders to be faithful to God, people


As elected government officials officially started their term at noon of June 30, 2022, a top official of the Roman Catholic Church in Cebu reminded them to be faithful to God and the people.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma told reporters Thursday, June 30, that the people have spoken through their votes and the Church considered this as “God’s will.”

Now that the newly elected leaders will assume office, Palma said that being elected is a great honor and privilege but it also comes with responsibility.

The archbishop also reminded officials, especially those who are serving Cebu, to have a strong faith in God.

“Because Cebu is a very religious place, the people have great faith. The officers should be people who have faith, and therefore they should be prayerful,” Palma said.

Palma also said leaders should be mindful that they are public servants since they were selected by the people. (AP, CNU Interns Irish Delima and Ryan Megabon, IRT)

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