By Lito Monico C. Lorenzana | The Manila Times
THIS week's column introduces the antecedents behind last week's memo to the president-elect Ferdinand "Bongbong Marcos Jr. (BBM). To recall, that memo centered on the political restructuring of the Philippine system of governance as seen through the prism of Centrist Democratic (CD) principles and concepts. Our basic premise is that unless systemic changes are applied to correct our dysfunctional concepts of governance, the Philippines will perpetually be condemned to stark poverty, corruption and social injustices. To reiterate, CD advocacies and guiding principles hinge on essential sets of doctrines which we refer to as the four pillars of our dogma, springing forth from our core value of human dignity, to wit: 1) We must strive to create a truly functioning democracy and adherence to the rule of law; 2) we must endeavor to establish a thriving social market economy (SOME), the reliance on free markets imbued with social responsibility; 3) we must work for the adoption and practice of subsidiarity in all structures of government and the principles of decentralization leading toward an eventual Parliamentary-Federal Republic of the Philippines; and 4) we must help build up strong and sustainable political parties.
BBM's strategic campaign thrust
In contrast, during the whole campaign period, BBM's core beliefs, his political and economic agenda, revealed scant specifics except in two strategic areas: vaguely perpetuating his father's legacy hinting of an alternative narrative different from the realities of the martial law regime. His avoidance of public debates save for sloganeering and motherhood statements of "Unity for all" reinforced these speculations.
BBM's safe stance has proven to be an effective counterfoil to the toxic and incompetent campaign strategies of the puerile, destructive and bungling opposition — particularly the vice president's pronouncements that her candidacy was primarily personal against the Marcos family, framing the election as a contest between the entitled Marcos and Aquino clans and nothing much else in between.
The second strategy was simply to entice and hold on to President Duterte's supporters, preferring instead to cloak himself with vague, feel-good platitudes and staying above the fray, earning for himself the title "Teflon candidate," political muck and dirt not sticking to his persona — a posture that gained traction among millions of voters. And with his recruitment of Sara as his vice president, he has exquisitely projected himself as the co-inheritor of the Duterte legacy, perpetuating his predecessor's populist policies and programs promising to adopt and continue his successful Build, Build, Build initiatives, a critically important backbone of the Deegong's economic thrust — investments that will reap rewards in the future.
It may be recalled that Ferdinand Marcos the father had put in place similar initiatives that eerily produced a mixed bag of infrastructure projects, catapulting the country to the ranks of rising economic stars in Asia, creating the impression of progress. But many were likewise constructed as monuments to the Marcos family's proclivities. The press in the 1970s described this as an "edifice complex," referring more to the exploits of the other half of the conjugal dictatorship. The current crop of voters may now only see and appreciate the obvious evidence of the dictatorship: the Cultural Center Complex (1966), the San Juanico Bridge (1969), the Philippine International Convention Center (1974), the Philippine Heart Center (1975). In retrospect, these burnished the country's image abroad — but admittedly also were useful for the citizenry. In the same breath, Marcos also produced the overpriced Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) and countless other "white elephants" funded by foreign loans where billions of US dollars were siphoned off, lining his cronies' pockets — leaving the country holding the bag, paying interest long after Ferdinand and his cronies were gone.
Suggested BBM agenda
But BBM can't simply continue Duterte's legacy. He has to originate his own, selling the specifics and building a consensus for a kind of governance separate from his filial responsibility toward remaking his father's image of the dark days of martial law. To help him see his way through, the CD presents for his review the initiatives of his predecessors and perhaps extract from them valuable lessons.
The overarching policies of each administration run the gamut from Cory's "simply restoring democracy" to the Deegong's elimination of the illegal drug menace averting the country's slide toward a narco-state. The post-Cory government of President Fidel V. Ramos (1992-1998) saw the iniquities of the 1987 Constitution surfacing. Perhaps FVR's greatest legacy was his "Philippines 2000 platform" — a set of socioeconomic programs that envisioned the Philippines achieving newly industrialized country status by 2000. He tried to break the monopolies (PAL, PLDT and the energy sector), freeing the economy, hurling the Philippines into the ranks of the emerging Asian Tigers through the privatization of power plants and the construction of new ones. This spurred additional FDIs into Philippine shores. And a peace treaty was signed between the Philippines and insurgent Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) — ending the 30-year Mindanao conflict was gravy.
An interim Marcos wannabe, the superstar actor Joseph "Erap" Estrada who succeeded FVR, touted his populist leanings during his short-lived regime, particularly on his "Angat Pinoy 2004" and vague poverty alleviation measures that reflected mostly his screen fantasy image as the champion of the masses — alienated from the realities of governance. He brought to the Palace his uninhibited appetite for hedonistic life. A Marcos loyalist, he had Ferdinand's charisma but not the brains; a proclivity to steal, but not the elegance of a Robin Hood. Ousted in a coup — misnamed EDSA 2 — he was deposed by the old seething Cory forces.
The penultimate post-EDSA, Cory-bred government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) improved on FVR's economic policy. An economist herself, Arroyo focused on the economy through her 10-point program under a "Strong Republic," producing a high annual economic growth rate of 4.5 percent, more than her three predecessors (Cory's 3.8 percent, FVR's 3.7 percent and Estrada's 3.7 percent). But she was saddled by corruption and a public electoral cheating scandal — the "Hello, Garci tapes." She spent time in hospital jail but was eventually exonerated by the Deegong.
These three post-Cory governments perceived the problems besetting the country as the result of systemic anomalies in governance. Charter change (Cha-cha) through People's Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (Pirma) was the method chosen by FVR, but his regime was suspected of doing a Marcos, Ramos' cousin, as a veiled attempt to extend his term through parliamentary government. Cardinal Sin and Cory shot down this initiative. FVR's initiative utterly failed.
President Erap's Constitutional Correction for Development (Concord) was a half-baked push to lift the restrictions on foreign ownership of business. This died in vitro.
GMA mounted a more serious attempt to shift from a unitary-presidential to a parliamentary-federal government. She created in 2006 the Consultative Commission (ConCom) and Advocacy Commission (AdCom), with a parallel "Sigaw ng Bayan" employing a people's initiative. In the end, the Supreme Court struck this down.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd prevented any attempt to revise his mother's constitution through his "Daang Matuwid."
It is ironic that President Duterte who was born out of the 1986 EDSA revolution also ended Cory's flawed legacies personified by an incompetent son. Thus, a full circle: the eclipse of a Marcos through a series of interim Cory legacy governments to the rising of the son — a full cycle.