Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Imee Marcos says President ‘too kind’ toward smugglers, downplays differences with him and First Lady

Bea Cupin

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Imee Marcos says President ‘too kind’ toward smugglers, downplays differences with him and First Lady

THOROUGH SCRUTINY OF BSKE 2023 BUDGET: Sen. Imee Marcos presides over the hybrid hearing of the Finance Subcommittee “I” on the proposed 2023 budget of various government commissions and the Cooperative Development Authority, Thursday, October 20, 2022. As the chairperson of the Committee on Electoral Reforms, Marcos scrutinized the proposed P5.2 billion budget of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for FY 2023 and zeroed in on the agency’s preparation for the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) in October 2023. The senator took note of the possible “double counting” of voters on the part of the Comelec when it prepared the budget of the BSKE. Data showed that the total number of Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) voters is 29.9 million while the number of regular voters is 69.3 million. Marcos wondered whether the 29.9 million SK voters are only those belonging to the 15-17yrs old age bracket. “I don’t think so. They’re the ones from the 15 to 30 (years old bracket). We will be doubling then the count of the age bracket of 18 to 30,” Marcos pointed out. In response to the senator’s inquiry, Comelec Chairman George Garcia said the poll body will recompute and give the Senate committee its final computation. (Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB)

Joseph Vidal/Senate PRIB

Asked about her relationship with her brother and First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, the senator says their 'styles' differ

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Imee Marcos, older sister to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., said her brother, who is concurrent agriculture chief, is being “too kind” toward smugglers despite concerns that the smuggling of basic food items is behind their rising cost.

In an interview on News5Everywhere’s Ted Failon at DJ Chacha sa Radyo5 on Monday, February 27, Senator Marcos said her brother’s decision to take on the agriculture department in concurrent capacity made sense at first. President Marcos had said he would stay on as Agriculture Secretary since some government officials would only listen to him, since he’s President.

Ang problema, sa palagay ko… ay kapatid ko mabait, ‘di nagagalit. Lahat ng media, inilabas na ang pangalan…. lahat nabunyag na, pero wala pang nahuhuli (The problem is that my brother is too kind, he doesn’t get mad. The media has reported on the names of these alleged smugglers. It’s all out there yet nobody has been apprehended),” she said.

The senator was also asked why she abstained from voting in favor of ratifying Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade agreement between members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Marcos administration has lauded its ratification.

She said she could not be in favor of it, because the agriculture sector – already struggling from the economic shutdown at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, and smuggling issues – would be adversely affected.

The senator said she’s had discussions with the President. “Oo naman, nagkaka-diskusyon kami. Ang background kasi ni Bongbong, economista yun.. nagbibilang ng numbers… ako naman ang tao sa bukid ang inaalala ko, ang mangingisda,” she said. (We’ve have discussions. Bongbong’s background is economics, so he’s counting the numbers. Me, I think about the farmers, the fishermen.)

Senator Marcos is the eldest child of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr. and former first lady Imelda Marcos. The President is the only son in the family, and the second child. The senator and the President have two other siblings, neither of whom joined electoral politics.

Marcos-Marcos dynamics

Asked about her relationship with President Marcos and his wife, First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos, Senator Marcos said their “styles” differ. “Ako, high blood sa mga smuggler. Si Bongbong, nagtitimpi pa rin, mabait pa rin. ‘Di ko maintindihan. Yun, nagkaka-deperensya kami sa ganyan (I have no patience when it comes to smugglers. Bongbong, he still stays quiet, he’s still kind. I don’t understand why. There, we have differences),” she said.

She said the First Lady, being a lawyer, was “very proper.” “[Mas gusto niya] lahat nakasulat pero ako naman syempre, iba din ano kasi galing ako sa pulitika, galing sa sine so ayon (She wants everything on paper, but I come from politics, movie-making, so there’s that),” she added.

As a general rule, I hope na nakikinig naman kahit busy-busyhan. At the same time, kapag nagkakamali… sa manang, di ba? Yan ang role ng ate, talagang papatusin ka at talagang sabi ko nga, tiisin mo nga, gano’n talaga ang papel ng manang, talagang babatukan ka,” she added.

(I hope they listen even if they’re busy. At the same time, when they make mistakes… that’s an older sister’s role, right? To call you out. So you have to understand, that’s the role of an older sister, she scolds you.) “Manang” is a term of endearment for older sisters in many regional groups in Philippines, including Ilokanos.

Senator Marcos added that she was “shocked” to hear of claims that relatives of the First Lady, or her in-laws, had links to smuggling operations. The senator said given the allegations, investigations should not cease.

Nakakasira ng pangalan sa pamilya ko, yan talaga dapat kinakasuhan kaagad (It ruins the reputation of my family, those people need to be sued right away),” she said.

Neither President Marcos nor First Lady Liza Araneta-Marcos have commented on allegations that the latter’s relatives were involved in smuggling. “Mas mabuti sa pamilya ko, mas mabuti sa lahat… na imbestigahan na ang lahat (It’s best for the family, it’s best for all, that everyone is investigated),” she added.

Remembering the revolution

Their relationship has been put under the spotlight since Marcos Jr. assumed the presidency, with many observing that unlike other Marcos relatives in government, the senator was not always seen alongside the President. There have been persistent reports from government officials dealing with them that the senator lacked easy access to Malacañang.

While their cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez has been to all of President Marcos’ trips abroad, for instance, Senator Marcos has only joined the state visit to China. The senator’s nephew, newbie lawmaker and Presidential son Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos, has been a constant in trips both domestic and overseas.

Most recently, Senator Marcos was absent from an Ilocos Norte festival that was held on February 24, the day before the anniversary of the People Power Revolution, which finally ousted the dictator and his family after decades in Malacañang Palace. She said she scolded her son, Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Marcos-Manotoc, for scheduling the festival on that day.

Hindi nag-iisip kasi bagets, yung mga millennial wala nang pake sa EDSA. Anak, hindi ako nag ce-celebrate, hindi ko kaya. Hindi muna ako pupunta, hayaan niyo na ako,” she said, recalling her conversation with her son Matthew, governor of Ilocos Norte. (In his mind, the millennials don’t care about EDSA. I told him I can’t celebrate. I just can’t. I won’t go, just let me be.)

A December 2022 poll by Social Weather Stations that was released only on February 24 showed that 62% of respondents still believed the “spirit of the EDSA People Power Revolution” was still alive. The same survey, which did not disclose the age and location breakdown of respondents, showed 57% of those surveyed believe it’s still important to commemorate the revolution. – Rappler.com

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.