Call it a birthright.
Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. knows his pedigree gave him a head start in the complicated world of politics.
“I’ll be the first to admit that being a son of a former president (the late Ferdinand E. Marcos, Sr.) helps me capture the imagination of the public,” said Bongbong, who is eyeing a seat in the Senate this coming national election.
But don’t fault him. The youthful solon from Ilocos Norte has done great to carve his own niche in local politics.
“I’m proud of what my father was able to accomplish. But I will not do any good just by basking on his glory,” said Bongbong.
He’s talking from experience.
Bongbong started out young in public service. Maybe, too young to make a significant impact.
He was only 23 and still completing his thesis in Master’s in Business Administration at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania in the United States when he got elected in absentia as vice governor of Ilocos Norte in 1980. Three years later, he became the governor of his home province.
He was loaded with theories and ideas having earned his bachelor’s degree in Political Science, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University in England after finishing his elementary and secondary education at De La Salle Greenhills and Worth School in England, respectively.
But he’s obviously unripe for the job.
Of course, his initial foray in public office ended abruptly in 1986 when the EDSA Revolution installed a new president in the late Corazon C. Aquino.
“It’s like a blur,” said Bongbong, referring to his time as local executive during the reign of his father. “I was raw and inexperienced back then.”
But he’s learning on the fly. And given another chance, he affixed his own signature in governance.
Bongbong was elected as governor of his home province for three consecutive terms beginning 1998. He achieved the following milestones in nine productive years:
· Transform Ilocos Norte from third-class province into first-class (based on income) within his first term.
· Raise agricultural productivity in his province by focusing on rice production and cash crops like vegetables and tobacco; Invest resources in hybrid seedlings production that underpinned the agricultural transformation.
· Set up a successful program for cooperatives development in his province that greatly helped in the economic development.
· Turn his province into a major tourism destination by improving infrastructure, developing the province’s special natural attractions, and capitalizing on being an international gateway into the country of Laoag City.
· Turn his province into a model for public health care by providing 100% of his constituents with health insurance.
· Harness wind power as an alternative source of energy for his province, making Ilocos Norte a model for other regions.
By the end of his three terms in 2007, Ilocos Norte stood tall as a progressive medium-sized province, a cohesive community, and a highly popular destination for foreign and domestic tourists.
Bongong also made his mark as legislator, representing the second congressional district of Ilocos Norte.
During his first stint in Congress from 1992 to 1995, he championed the cause of the Filipino youth and spearheaded the passage of the Philippine Youth Commission Act. The law empowers Filipinos at an early age to take an active role in the civic and political life of the nation.
The historic act reflects a fundamental part of Bongbong’s vision and understanding of the local society.
In his view, the Philippines is a predominantly young country – young in population, young in outlook, and with its eyes turned towards the future rather than the past. This young population gives the nation a large human resource base that can propel Philippine society into the heights of modernization and development.
The population phenomenon – called “the demographic dividend” by David Bloom of Harvard University – has accounted for the economic miracle in Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong in the ‘80s, and now in China and India. In Bongbong’s view, the same will drive the Philippines to full modernization and development.
He is also the largest contributor to the cause of cooperatives development. He devoted almost all his Countryside Development Fund (CDF) to organizing cooperatives of teachers and farmers in his home province.
But his best moment during that period happened outside the Session Hall.
On April 17, 1993, he tied the knots with lawyer Louise Araneta. They’re blessed with three children – Ferdinand Alexander (15), Joseph Simon (14) and William Vincent (12).
After serving out the maximum tour of duty as governor of Ilocos Norte, Bongbong returned to Congress in 2007.
He became the deputy minority leader and took major initiatives such as:
· The passage of the Philippine Baselines Act, which defines the boundaries of the national territory according to international law while retaining the country’s claims to lands under dispute with other nations.
· The adoption of English as the principal language of instruction in the Philippine educational system, and as tool for Filipino competitiveness in education.
· The adoption of a comprehensive infrastructure modernization program as key to full economic development and as a major part of the national strategy amidst the global recession.
· The focused development of Philippine tourism as another major strategy for enabling the country to cope with the recession.
· The accelerated development of alternative sources of energy to address Philippine dependence on foreign oil and the volatility of oil prices.
· The upgrading of the Filipino overseas workers program, which was originated by President Marcos and has become a major component of Philippine economic growth and resiliency amidst the global economic crisis.
His education and experience as local executive and legislator can make Bongbong an effective senator. But it’s his pedigree that will make him one.
It’s very evident in his sorties during the warm-up for the campaign.
He is drawing huge crowd even in southern provinces, thanks partially to his Waray blood. His mother, former first lady Imelda R. Marcos, is from Leyte.
But there’s no denying the fact that Marcos is the magic word that bolsters his innate charisma. It’s a gift and it’s in his name.
Some say he’s the anti-thesis of his father. Some think he lacks the swagger of the former dictator, that he’s not tough enough to impose his will in the political lore.
He’s soft-spoken, yes. He’s basically calm and calculating, yes. But beyond those cool eyes of his is an intense soul with a burning passion to serve his mother land.
Just like his father.