Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

[OPINION] If Marcos wants genuine unity, he can start by smashing the Duterte playbook

Inday Espina-Varona

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[OPINION] If Marcos wants genuine unity, he can start by smashing the Duterte playbook
'At his inauguration, there were hints of his mother Imelda Marcos’s Visayan lilt and charm, and little of the stentorian delivery of his father and namesake, the late dictator'

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. hewed close to his campaign persona in his first speech as the Philippines’ top official. 

At his Thursday, June 30 inauguration, there were hints of his mother Imelda Marcos’s Visayan lilt and charm, and little of the stentorian delivery of his father and namesake, the late dictator. 

His speech had none of his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte’s jeers and slurs. 

Marcos Jr. also said he didn’t want to rest on nostalgia. 

That’s an interesting claim, as his family’s rehabilitation strategy depended on a false, brushed-over version of a regime that killed, and maimed, and jailed dissenters while undertaking grand theft of the nation’s coffers.

“I once knew a man who saw what little had been achieved since independence, in a land of people with the greatest potential for achievement, and yet they were poor. But he got it done. Sometimes, with the needed support, sometimes without.”

The new President’s charming way of summarizing his father’s rule glosses over a few critical facts. 

Faced with dissent, the father declared Martial Law, ushering in mass closure of the Philippine press, arrests, torture, killings, and disappearances.

By the time Filipinos ousted the two-decade dictatorship, the Philippines was known as “the sick man of Asia.” Corruption and brutality spawned one of Asia’s longest-running insurgencies, pushed down individual incomes, brought starvation and famine to lush provinces, and saddled the nation with huge debt. 

[OPINION] If Marcos wants genuine unity, he can start by smashing the Duterte playbook
Unity call

Marcos Jr. may have refused to engage rivals and critics, but his apologists blanketed social media with layers of lies – to tar opponents and to cover-up his father’s ugly legacy.

That game plan worked, with Marcos bagging 31.6 million votes – 58.77% of the total presidential votes. It’s a mandate that can’t be ignored.

“By your vote, you rejected the politics of division,” Marcos told a cheering audience. 

Right there is where ground zero lies in evaluating his presidency.

For instance, Marcos said he would listen to contrary views, even unsparing judgment. But then, a twist: “but always from us, Filipinos.”

“We can trust no one else when it comes to what is best for us. Past history has often proven that.”

Those words are not just the sentiments of the son of a father who caved in to foreign allies’ urgings for a snap election, claimed to have won it – only to be told to “cut and cut cleanly” at the height of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolt.

That view could affect major issues left on Marcos’ plate.

The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court has asked for the reopening of the investigation into Duterte’s human rights record linked to his war on drugs.

United States officials will be glad to replace testy relations with Duterte for guarded but civil engagements with the new administration, but are still expected to balance security needs in Asia with human rights concerns. The European Union has also called on the Philippines to clean up its human rights records or lose trade perks.

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Shadow of tyranny

Marcos’ speech was silent on human rights, a key requirement in peace-building. And his appointees to the Department of Justice and the Commission on Audit, and his presidential legal counsel, have roots in tyranny and oppression.

Justice Secretary Crispin “Boying” Remulla has been known to red-tag groups and individuals, and was among the legislative leaders who killed ABS-CBN’s franchise on orders of Duterte.

Jose Calida heading the COA is especially worrisome since Marcos is cool to pursuing corruption cases and will not want to challenge his predecessor, given his vice president’s even bigger margin of victory. 

At stake is the P11-billion Pharmally scandal involving contracts for COVID-19 pandemic needs. Calida as solicitor-general was gung-ho in weaponizing the law to help Duterte run after his enemies like jailed senator Leila de Lima, former chief justice Lourdes Sereno, and Rappler, which was handed down a last-minute Securities and Exchange Commission revocation of its business permit.

Calida’s record for blocking access to important drug war records bodes ill for future whistleblowers and good governance advocates, and raises several scenarios, the chief one being that legal oversight powers will be wielded like a hammer against politicians and bureaucrats who don’t fall in line with the new regime — while friends and cronies waltz merrily to the bank.

Many of the 15 million Filipinos who voted for Robredo, Marcos’ main rival, are activists, non-governmental organization workers, and members of traditional opposition groups.

It has been reassuring to hear the new National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos slam red-tagging, which even Robredo faced, as a strategy. Now she has to untangle the National Telecommunications Commission’s blocking of 28 websites, including those belonging to media outfits Bulatlat and Pinoy Weekly. 

Her predecessor Hermogenes Esperon, co-chair of the Anti-Terror Council, accused the two media groups and other legal activist organizations of supporting terrorism without offering any basis. His move was typical of the Duterte government’s playbook of attack and attack, discarding truth for raw displays of power.

Juan Ponce Enrile, the new presidential legal counsel and architect of the late dictator’s Martial Law is no stranger to this kind of theatrics. In fact, he has signaled that the young Marcos’ version of unity could be anything but that.

“Instead of making soft and [pacifist] statements seemingly intended to quiet and to gain the cooperation, trust, and confidence of the habitual trouble makers in this country, I suggest that they should sharpen their intelligence information,” Enrile wrote as an unsolicited piece of advice to other new security officials.

Unless Marcos shows he can match words with action, then we’re back to where we started with Duterte, whose playbook took inspiration from the late dictator’s mailed-fist rule. – Rappler.com

1 comment

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  1. GY

    Callida has made his first shot across the bow by falsely accusing Leni. That was probably a subtle warning to public officials to toe the line or else.

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