The Philippine Star : Looking towards a Marcos Jr. presidency

By Ambassador B. Romualdez | The Philippine Star

Thirty-two days from now, Filipinos and the whole world will witness the swearing in of Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. as the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines, proclaiming to the world our flourishing democracy.

During my interview last Thursday at CNN’s The Source with Pinky Webb, I said that the overwhelming mandate the president-elect received will be the biggest motivation for him to do well, and give back to the people his best service ever in earning their trust. It made me recall what he told me when he first joined government at the young age of 23 as vice governor of Ilocos Norte: “It’s time to give back to the people who put us here” – which undoubtedly is his mantra as he begins his presidency.

Those who are accusing Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of being a “revisionist,” or that he wants to “rewrite” history – they got it all wrong. History is judged by those who write it – Bongbong Marcos is about to write history.

No doubt there will always be what I would call the hardliners who will never change their minds or their attitude towards BBM – perhaps as a matter of conviction or principle, but worse, out of vindictiveness or bitterness – even if he does well. One can continue to argue about the things that happened in the past but whichever way one looks at it, the overwhelming majority of people – all 31 million of them who cast their votes for Bongbong Marcos – have made their judgment loud and clear: they are willing to give him the chance to prove his worth with hope and prayers for his success.

I have known the president-elect for a long time and I know that when he puts his mind into it – he can do it. How he worked very hard during the campaign is a preview of how hard he will work twice over as president.

As BBM himself said, “Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions.”

He promised to be a president for all Filipinos – which is in keeping with his core message of unity that has resonated very well with millions of Filipinos during the campaign. I know he was not merely paying lip service because as we are beginning to see, he is already looking for people from different political persuasions, who are prepared to work with him – certainly a good way to start as he charts the course of our country under his leadership.

One of the issues the president-elect tackled during his press briefing following his proclamation in Congress was foreign policy, particularly our country’s relationship with the United States and China.

It is obviously clear that we will continue to pursue a truly independent foreign policy that would truly benefit the Philippines. There is no question that a country should always look out for its own national interest while continuing to forge bilateral relationships with all nations.

“We have to find an independent foreign policy where we are friends with everyone; that’s the only way. We have to be good neighbors and ask them to be good neighbors to us as well. It is of mutual benefit to us,” he affirmed.

People certainly welcomed BBM’s statement that we will not compromise our sovereignty in any way. “We are a sovereign nation with a functioning government. We do not need to be told by anyone how to run our country. There is no room for negotiation there. It is sacred, inviolable,” he said.

On the issue of the 2016 Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling, Bongbong Marcos assured that it will be used to continue to assert our country’s territorial rights. “It’s not a claim, it’s a territorial right. That’s what the arbitral ruling can do to help us,” he said, promising that we “will not allow a single square millimeter” of our maritime rights to be trampled upon.

That being said, I believe that our relationship with other countries that have conflicting maritime claims, among them China, will continue along the path started by President Duterte who reached out not only to resolve issues but to have strong economic ties with them.

While we value our friendship with old allies like the United States, we certainly want to reach out to other nations – and this is not a motherhood statement but a fact that we need to accept.

During our meeting with US embassy chargé d’affaires Heather Variava who paid a courtesy visit to the president-elect at his campaign headquarters, BBM reiterated his continuing belief that the United States, a longtime ally and friend of the Philippines, must continue to work together not only in regional security but more on economic cooperation for the recovery of the global economy. “No one country can do it alone,” he said.

Needless to say, the White House was very pleased with the telephone conversation between President Joe Biden and president-elect Marcos. During my private meeting with him last week after I arrived from Washington, he requested me to stay on in Washington as his ambassador. Of course, I am more than honored to be his ambassador, but more than that – to do whatever I can in helping him succeed.

By noon of June 30, we will witness another historic occasion that should make us proud that our democratic system – while not perfect – is very much functioning. Once again allow me to reiterate: For those who have strong doubts about the incoming president, judge him not by the past but by what he intends to do for our beloved country.