The Philippine Star Life : Bongbong Marcos Jr: 'My message is about unity'

25 January 2022

By The Philippine Star Life

Former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. discussed his stand on various issues and his campaign platform in his one-on-one interview with “Asia’s King of Talk” Boy Abunda.

Below are key excerpts from the interview collated by The STAR and PhilSTAR L!fe.

ON MINING & THE ENVIRONMENT
Where do you stand on the issue of sustainable versus a total ban on mining? Why?

Mining talaga is very controversial, and it’s also a very valuable source of revenue for the government. We have sufficient regulations and sufficient monitoring, but hindi nasusunod — that’s always the problem. We have the laws but we are not able to implement, we are not able to fully enforce them sometimes. So if we can do better, if we can take care of making sure the environment is in accordance with the law, then I think we can carefully exploit the natural resources and help with the recovery of our economy.

When it comes to open-pit mining, I think I’m a bit wary of that. Because it’s very difficult to control pollution, which is caused by mining, the leaching that occurs. There are many occurrences where even after the mining has been closed and they have covered it up and planted trees, or built houses on it, may lumalabas na chemical na bad for the health of the people around it.

Everyone should be allowed to be president. But not everyone can be a good president. So the fix, if you want to call it that, is not to amend the Constitution and amend qualifications; it is to change the political system in terms of our choice of candidates.

ON COVID-19 AND THE PANDEMIC
Given the unpredictability and viciousness of this virus, what would be your program to combat COVID-19?

Very simply, we call it “Jabs for Jobs.” What we first had to do is to get vaccinated. We had to roll out the vaccines properly, be sure they were safe, handled properly, and the last statistic I saw was 54 million Filipinos had been fully vaccinated.

Once we get ourselves in a safer condition, that we manage the pandemic, we now have to be thinking, even now, while we’re slowly working our way through the pandemic.

So we have to come back to get our people back to work. How do we do that? We do that, in my way, by revitalizing our SMES, the small businesses, which comprise 95% of our businesses and 62 of our employment. They have been very hard hit. The government can help with lower taxes, tax holidays, amnesties, etc.

We cannot force people to be vaccinated. It will also limit their options in everyday lives. But rather than punish them, I think we should convince them that this is important, it’s important to your work, your community, your family.

Hindi na tayo Filipino lockdown. It is too hard, they’re going through too much hardship already, they just cannot do it.

ON POVERTY
How will you deal with the urgent problems of joblessness and hunger in the country if you become President?

We have to create jobs. We cannot leave the situation the way as is. Also, nag-uwi tayo ng mga OFWs, we are up to about 700,000. Those people will come home, and wala na silang trabaho dahil nawala ang kanilang trabaho sa abroad. Tapos mga gina-graduate natin na estudyante; talagang ang pinaka-importante ay maparami natin ang trabaho at pasiglahin natin ang ekonomiya.

Agriculture is a big creator of jobs, so if the government invests publicly in agriculture, marami kaagad ang ma-iinvolve diyan. It would also take care of the other problems we saw during COVID, the lack of food supply.

The other area where we have a big advantage is tourism. Because we have a beautiful country, Filipinos are beautiful people, and it’s very easy to bring the Philippines to foreigners and explain to them this is a good place to be.

I think the solution will involve many sectors of society. In this case, I think the private sector has to be involved, the government cannot do it itself. Kailangan din naman ng private sector ang mga SMEs, kailangan din naman ang magandang agrikultura. Pareho tayo ng ninanais; we can create synergy between the two forces that are helping the Philippines.

ON OFW/ MIGRANTS
How will you balance the economic contribution of OFWs and the unquantifiable social cost of migration?

The idea is that nobody one has to go, that we have enough jobs in the Philippines. At least not by necessity. That they have a choice to remain here in the Philippines,

The ideal is to bring them all home, if they want to come home. But of course, we are a long way from that. And you are very right, there is a tear in the social fabric, because of the situation of OFWs and all the problems that it brings.

Again, it boils down to jobs. The only way to bring our workers home is to provide them with jobs. The 700,000 or so who have been repatriated from other countries, they left the Philippines because they could not find jobs. Now we have to find them jobs here.

ON SOCIAL MEDIA, PROLIFERATION OF PORNOGRAPHY
How will you handle the issue of cyberporn?

They have to understand that this is not normal. Maybe you’ll find (such websites) entertaining, especially with all your hormones raging as a teenager. But this is not real life. This shows — for you to indulge in that level, that shows a little bit of lack of self-worth.

You know, what is being done, while you are watching pornography, is really violence against whoever is involved. It’s a form of violence. And that is why we have been lucky in that we were able to have a talk with our children when they were younger, and I hope that other parents will take that example.

We have the same problem with violence. There’s too much violence in games. People think that’s normal, that people go around shooting each other. Or in the case of pornography, people go around doing the things they see in pornographic films. And so again, it’s a social problem. And the parents have to be involved in explaining that this is harmful.

We have to go to the parents, teachers are involved, all the mentors of children have to tell them have to explain to them that this is not the way we live.

ON RAPE-RELATED ABORTION
Is it time to enact a law on abortion that would allow pregnant rape victims the choice of legal and safe abortion?

I think for very severe cases, the majority of cases of rape victims, if it can be shown that they were raped, and it was not consensual sex that got them pregnant, then they should have the choice to abort or not.

The other is incest, perhaps if the mother, who is usually quite young, is not capable, has mental deficiencies or is not emotionally or mentally capable to take care of and have a child. Maybe those are the cases where we can say that abortion might be justified.

I think that we should treat addicts as patients, people in need of a cure.

For me, the bottom line when it comes to the subject of abortion is it is the woman’s decision because it is her body. In usual cases, hindi rape, they keep the child and they raise them as their own. Again, they must be given the choice. And I think all the women in my life, always when we talk about this subject and we talk about abortion, they say “It’s my body. I can decide.”

And I subscribe to that notion. And I think that’s correct. But we do not go and get stuck in the moral issue of playing God of when life begins.

ON DRUGS
Are we already a narco country? What is your program to counter the drug problem?

The problem continues to exist. I don’t know what a narco state is, but I think everybody can see the influence of the drug lords in our everyday lives, political lives, economic lives. And so, it’s insidious. It’s not just regional. President Duterte said himself he didn’t imagine how big the problem was.

I think we’re beginning to realize that enforcement only takes you so far. There has to be prevention and cure. It’s not a problem solved only by the police, maybe the military. We see the example of the United States. Trillions trillions, na.

For me, I think that we should treat addicts as patients, people in need of a cure. It becomes a crime when you are involved in the distribution, the sale of illegal drugs.

I don’t think we’re there yet (becoming a narco state). We’re not, but we could be if we do not do something quite effective in the next few years.

ON PHILIPPINE DEBT
If you win as President of the Philippines, how will you tackle the payment of our national debt?

We have to create value in our economy. And that value will be what we use to service those debts. We find ourselves in this quandary now because of COVID, and we really had to fund a lot of what we were doing to battle COVID by borrowing funds. Now the only way we can recover from that is to revitalize the economy.

We’d have to tighten the checks and balances to make sure that the money that we are getting and paying interest on is used for good things, that it’s handled properly.

We must continue to engage with China.

You just need to minimize (corruption). But it cannot be totally eradicated; just minimize it, mitigate it. Corruption is not a Philippine condition, it’s a human condition. There are dishonest people wherever you go. And there will always be somebody who is trying to finagle the accounts and cook the books. The idea of SOP, that also comes from the efficiency of government. Why do I say that? If the government is very efficient, very streamlined at trabaho, walang fixer. Di ba?

ON THE WEST PHILIPPINE SEA
If all diplomatic efforts fail, as president, do you think the Philippines is strong enough and prepared to fight a defensive war against China to protect our territorial soil?

We must not allow diplomacy to fail. It is the only option that we have. There are three ways where territory can be gained or lost. One is through arbitration with the agreement of both parties. So that arbitration, if there’s only one party, is no longer available to us. The second way is through war. Now, that option we must dismiss outright because it is a completely ludicrous assertion that going to war with China is going to be advantageous to the Philippines or even China. China doesn’t want to go to war, the Philippines doesn’t want to go to war.

The third way is by natural agreement. And that is what we are left with, bilateral agreement with China. We must continue to engage with China. So if you talk about pure military capability, I think we all know that to compare military capability with the Philippines, even if we are modernizing our AFP and military, with China when it comes to men and material and capability to fight a shooting war, that’s not an option. We must continue to engage the Chinese.

ON PRESIDENTIAL QUALIFICATIONS
Is it high time to amend the Constitution on the qualifications to run for President of the country?

The way the Constitution has approached the qualifications of president is to come from the point that anyone can be allowed to be the president.

I agree, everyone should be allowed to be president. But not everyone can be a good president. So the fix, if you want to call it that, is not to amend the Constitution and amend the qualifications for the president; it is to change the political system in terms of our choice of candidates.

I was a great proponent of the multiparty system because of my experience studying abroad where I see that it has worked, but it has not really been a successful system in the Philippines, I think because we lack the political maturity yet in the Philippines to understand that ideology must play a part in a multiparty system.

That’s why I think we should start thinking about going back to the old simpler system, that we can always guarantee that whoever is elected — I’m not talking only about the president, but anybody who’s elected to any position all the way down to mayors and councilors at the lowest level, lahat yan ay may pinagdaanan na, may kakayahan na.

ON PERSONAL ISSUES
According to Amnesty International, during your father’s presidency from 1972 to 1981, about 70,000 to 72,000 were imprisoned, 30,000 were tortured and 3,200 people were killed.

BM: Well, I do not know how they generated those numbers. And I haven’t seen them. But let us ask Amnesty International to share that information that they have and maybe it will help us make sure the system works. And that alleged abuses occurred will not occur again. I think that’s the only way that we can remedy that situation.

FAST TALK
Q: Senator Bongbong, bakit hindi dapat iboto si VP Leni Robredo?

A: I am very hesitant to answer that, because I do not believe and I do not indulge in negative campaigning. But I will go this far, and I will say that I believe that none of the other candidates have yet come to the conclusion that unity – ang pagkakaisa – ang ating pangangailangan, at doon magsisimula ang ating pagbalik mula dito sa krisis ng pandemya. Because they have not seen that unity is a critical part, they have not been able to come up with a specific program, a detailed program for what we will do in the next years to recover from the pandemic.

Q: Bakit ikaw ang dapat iboto?

A: Well, it’s the converse of that, because my message is about unity. And it is my true and honest belief na ang una nating dapat na gawing adbokasiya ang pagkakaisa ng Pilipinas para tayo ay makaahon dito sa nangyari sa atin sa pandemya.


Q: On Duterte and the ICC desire to investigate crimes against humanity, for the sake of the victims. Will you allow ICC?

A: We have a functioning judiciary, and that’s why I do not see the need for a foreigner to come and do the job for us, to do the job for our judicial system. Our judicial system is perfectly capable of doing that. It also raises a great many questions about jurisdiction and sovereignty. What is their jurisdiction to come here into the Philippines and conduct an investigation? Is that not a violation of our rights as a sovereign nation in the community of nations? Those questions need to be answered before they can be allowed any investigation.