In four days, Ferdinand Marcos Junior will become the 17th president of the republic.
I view a Marcos’ leadership with both trepidation and hope. Trepidation because Marcos Junior comes with the stigma of martial law and all the atrocities associated with it. Hope because a Marcos presidency can remedy the structural and cultural defects in government — the defects that impeded our development since EDSA 1986.
Despite the doubts of naysayers, I would like to believe that Marcos Junior can become the transformative president we need and pine for. Let me enumerate a few of the reforms needed to transform the country from a perennial underachiever into a strong, future-ready republic.
The Rule of Law. No nation can progress without the firmament of the law. President Rodrigo Duterte weakened our legal institutions by discounting the law and bamboozling due process whenever expedient. He did so by propagating extrajudicial killings and when he ordered his cabinet not to attend the senate hearings following the Pharmally heist. He imposed the rule of law selectively. We still remember how Sen. Koko Pimentel was given a free pass for breaking COVID-19 rules while others were accosted for the same infraction. We recall, with acrimony, how Gen. Ricardo Morales went scot-free following the P15-billion PhilHealth scandal. All these sent the signal that the rule of law is dispensable.
Marcos Junior must re-establish the sanctity of the law and this is best accomplished by leading by example. However painful it may be, he must allow the wheel of justice to take its course on the corruption and tax evasion charges that plague his family. To drop these charges or interfere with due process will only confirm that impunity and entitlement remains the order of the day. It will cement our culture of privilege.
Income Inequality. Income inequality was the great failure of EDSA. It is what compelled the D and E classes to abandon post-EDSA personalities in favor of the Marcoses. Marcos Junior simply cannot let the masses down by failing to redistribute wealth.
Contrary to common belief, the country’s conglomerates and the entrepreneurial class are not the cause of income inequality. In fact, they are the ones who provide jobs and economic opportunity to the common Filipino. Political dynasties are the culprits. Dynasties hog economic opportunities and lucrative rent-seeking businesses in their respective bailiwicks. They edge out the working class and distort the playing field to their favor.
Solving income inequality starts with breaking the stronghold of political dynasties through the enactment of the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill. Will Marcos have the political will to break the economic stronghold of dynasties considering that most of them are his allies? It will be a test of character on his part.
The Truth. Let’s be honest, this election was won not in a small part by disinformation and the re-framing of history. The milk is spilled and the deed is done.
But as we move forward, the truth must prevail in a Marcos presidency. It is vital for our survival as a nation. Why is the truth important and why are lies destructive? Because lies distort our realities. But remember, our realities are the basis of our laws. So, if our reality is twisted by lies, how can the rule of law prosper?
It takes a real man to tell the truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Now that Marcos bagged the presidency, I could only hope that the disinformation will stop.
Truth be told, Marcos Junior need not revise history to sanitize the Marcos brand. All he has to do is do so well that his contributions towards nation building cannot be denied.
Decency in Government. There is no place for invectives, personal attacks and crass talk in the highest office of the land. It does not display strength but rather, an inability to articulate. It shows a pandering character and a penchant for theatrics. Unfortunately, our society is patriarchal and we emulate the behavior of our father figure. No surprise, Filipinos in and out of government have been emboldened to cuss and attack people with vile and vitriol. Duterte made indecency “acceptable” and this is fatal because it erodes our humanity and turns us into a mob.
Marcos was raised as a gentleman. I am confident that he will not go the way of Duterte as far as decency is concerned. But what I would like to see is for him not to tolerate public servants who display such behavior. The signal must be sent that indecency will not be tolerated in our “civilized” society. The same for misogyny, racism, sexism, and hate.
Political Reform. I have no problem changing the form of government from a bicameral system to a parliamentary system for two reasons. First, because our bicameral system is a farce, what with the low quality (academically and experientially) of many legislators. Second, because the legislative branch has ceased to serve as a check and balance of the executive and the judiciary. Rather, the executive has subsumed the legislative to bend to its will without consequence.
The absence of a credible political party system has caused legislators to flit across parties whenever expedient. Most legislators vote according to their political agenda, not according to philosophy or principles.
Political reform must be instituted to correct these defects. The Anti-Political Turncoatism Bill must be enacted into law. In addition, stiff academic, experiential, legal, and moral qualifications must be imposed to ensure that our elected officials are indeed our best and brightest. A one term limit must be sustained too.
Corruption. The Marcos brand is associated with corruption. As incoming president, Marcos Junior has the opportunity to turn this narrative on its head and prove that Marcos stands for good governance. It will not be painless as it would necessitate settling the family’s tax obligations and walking the straight path.
After displaying magnanimity in this manner, Marcos will do well to plug the loopholes in the Anti-Graft & Corruption Act, the Anti-Plunder Act, and the Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials Act. The passage of the Full Disclosure Policy Bill is equally important to foster greater transparency.
Marcos can either confirm the stereotypes about him and his family or prove everyone wrong by being the transformative leader we need. Let us hope he goes the way of the latter.
Andrew J. Masigan is an economist