No honeymoon for Marcos

Published July 4, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Tonyo Cruz


Tonyo Cruz

In his inaugural speech, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. politely praised and thanked his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte.

Surely, Marcos owes a lot to Duterte for paving the way for his family’s triumphant return to Malacanang Palace, starting with the 2016 burial of the remains of the Marcos patriarch at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. The other is the indirect, but powerful endorsement by way of allowing Sara Duterte to run as Marcos’ vice president.

Duterte however left Marcos a big challenge: the national government’s debt rose from ₱5.9-trillion in 2016 to ₱12.7-trillion in 2022. Unemployment is up from 2.4 million to 3.7 million. The number of poor Filipinos increased from 23.7 million to 26.1 million. Rice importation dependency is up by a lot: from 5 percent to 15 percent. Ibon Foundation gathered these verifiable figures from official sources.

Duterte refused to give up the excise tax and VAT on petroleum products, even temporarily, to provide relief to consumers. Yes, we face not just the big oil companies purportedly engaged in overpricing and transfer-pricing. We also face government’s stand: The higher oil prices go, the higher the tax revenues government gets.

Public mass transport is in near-total shambles, as the previous regime took advantage of the pandemic to bankrupt jeepneys and city buses in favor of “newer modes” and traffic plans that unduly favor private motorists.

Education at all levels remains in suspended animation. While business operations, games, concerts and public gatherings have been allowed, schools remain non-operational in the truest sense. Education policy based on ineptitude and pseudo-science have failed teachers and students for over two years now; the Philippines is the only remaining major country not to reopen schools.

To be fair to us Filipinos, this would be the exact same crisis situation Leni Robredo, Manny Pacquiao, Isko Moreno or Ka Leody de Guzman would have faced, had any one of them won the highest number of votes and emerged as the winner.

We could be certain by now that Marcos and his new administration are only beginning to realize the full extent of the country’s problems. Whether he still sincerely thanks Duterte, we cannot be sure. Whether Marcos would complain loudly about the problems he inherited from Duterte, we cannot be sure too. The vice president and the newly-formed vice presidential security group are there to guard the so-called Duterte Legacy.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro, Kabataan Rep. Raoul Manuel and those who would join the opposition in Congress have an obligation to fiscalize the new administration’s plans and to forward alternatives.

What can we do? A lot. It all starts with resetting our mindset.

With the elections and mourning the results over, we could focus on educating, organizing and mobilizing ourselves for important causes. We have a lot to learn from workers, farmers, fisherfolk, professionals and entrepreneurs. They don’t ask for charity. They ask that we fight alongside for them. Any improvement on their conditions benefits everyone.

There’s a lot to defend too: history and the entire bill of rights, especially due process, press freedom and freedom of expression. We must keep Rappler, ABS-CBN, Bulatlat, Pinoy Weekly and the entire Philippine internet free from disinformation, censorship and takedowns.

Former Vice President Leni Robredo’s Angat Buhay NGO is a welcome development in promoting volunteerism and civic action. Hopefully, volunteers would graduate into leaders, ready to contest future elections. From an NGO into movements and parties eager and ready to offer our people new leadership, new narratives, and new vision.

The gravity of the nation’s problems may not give Marcos a honeymoon period. He has to hit the ground running, to prove to those who voted for him and the entire nation that he has what it takes to lead. Neither is the public in a celebratory mood. Despite Manila, Pasay and San Juan declaring holidays last June 30, only a few thousands bothered to attend the inauguration and the planned thanksgiving party at Mendiola.

Public transportation’s so bad, prices are high, and people need to work. Their president and their government should work harder.

Fact check: Marcos (58.77 percent) and Duterte (61.53 percent) did not win the largest majorities in Philippine electoral history.

Manuel L. Quezon won as president with 81.78 percent share of the vote in 1941, while Ramon Magsaysay coasted to victory with 68.9 percent of the vote in 1957.

Sergio Osmena won as vice president by a stellar 92.1 percent in 1941. Carlos P. Garcia (62.9 percent) and Fernando Lopez (62.75 percent) also scored higher than Duterte.

That is according to the Philippine Electoral Almanac.