OF TREES AND FOREST
On a gloomy day, noon of June 30, 2022, Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. became president of the Republic of the Philippines. In simple but refined ceremonies, Bongbong Marcos took his oath of office before Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, representatives of world leaders, government officials and the Filipino people. It caps a triumphant journey for Bongbong Marcos from a heartbreaking defeat in 2016, the unrelenting attacks on his family, to a historic and landslide victory in the May 2022 elections.
Marcos’ positive and hopeful inaugural speech cut through the dreary Thursday weather. He continued his message of unity from the campaign: “By your vote, you rejected the politics of division. I offended none of my rivals in this campaign…We will go farther together, than against each other; pushing forward, not pulling each other back.” This was, I believe, the key to his success in the last election campaign—no matter what, no matter how much they baited him, he never diverted from his campaign’s message of unity. He knew that our people were sick and tired of the kind of divisive politics that have animated our discourse.
And this will also be the key to his success as the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines. Can he sustain this message of unity all throughout his term? By unity, I do not mean that everyone will agree with him. Ours is a diverse and democratic society and if we go by the rhetoric of his political opponents during the campaign, they are unlikely to agree with him even if he is right. But that is to be expected from the opposition. And perhaps, that serves an important function in a democracy.
By unity I mean forging a consensus on where we need to be as a country. People might disagree with former President Rodrigo Duterte, for instance, but we can all agree that infrastructure development — the key philosophy behind his “Build, Build, Build” program — is critical to achieving prosperity.
Marcos’ speech was also confident and reassuring. I have had countless of discussions with Bongbong and I can assure everyone that he has a very good grasp of issues, both local and international. He understands the problem of the country. He tells us in his speech: “I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility that you’ve put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I am ready for the task…I will get it done…You will get no excuses from me” (underscoring mine).
I like this part of the speech because this is what a leader should be: ready, confident and optimistic. I have always known Bongbong to be a confident man. When he talks about issues, you can tell that he knows what he is talking about. He discusses issues not as if he was reading from notes prepared by his staff but as someone who has studied the issue thoroughly.
But for me, there is one part of the inaugural speech that clearly shows us what kind of leader we have elected. Marcos said, in his confident tone:
“I did not talk much in this campaign; I did not bother to think of rebutting my rivals. Instead, I searched for promising approaches better than the usual solutions. I listened to you. I did not lecture you who has the biggest stake in our success. And the forthcoming State of the Nation will tell you exactly how we shall get this done.”
Rather than engage in pointless debates, Marcos prefers a careful study of the issues and the solutions available. He is a thinker not a talker. I am looking forward to his first State of the Nation Address to understand what his plans are for the country.
I urge our people, including those who did not vote for Bongbong and those who are vociferously against him and the Marcoses to give him a chance to succeed for the country. His success is our success. He has promised to listen to all sides: “We shall seek, not scorn dialogue; listen respectfully to contrary views; be open to suggestions coming from hard thinking and unsparing judgment.” Maybe we should accord him the same respect. Listen to his plans. You may disagree but give him the opportunity to succeed.
We should not be slaves to our political colors or ideology. Our common goal is a prosperous and peaceful Philippines we can all be proud of.
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