By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, Reporter
FERDINAND “BONGBONG” R. MARCOS, JR. became the 17th president of the Philippines on Wednesday when Congress declared him the winner of the May 9 election, succeeding Rodrigo R. Duterte whose six-year term ends next month.
“We proclaim Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio as the duly elected president and vice-president,” Speaker Lord Allan Q. Velasco told a joint session of Congress that validated election results.
Mr. Marcos ran in tandem with Ms. Duterte-Carpio in the national elections, which academics considered as a make-or-break moment for the Philippines.
Both came from political clans with a national following and joined forces to secure the first landslide victory in four decades, although observers said it remains to be seen if they can stay united in the next six years.
Mr. Marcos, who secured a remarkable comeback for his family after they fled a mass uprising decades ago, had refused to participate in major presidential debates. He offered a message of unity during the campaign, amid opposition from various groups, including Martial Law victims.
Ador R. Torneo, who teaches political science at De La Salle University (DLSU), said Mr. Marcos should allay the fears and concerns of civic groups and the international community for him to have a stable government, as the country recovers from the pandemic.
The president-elect should guarantee that his administration will protect human rights, preserve democratic space and ensure the proper functioning of institutions that promote check and balance, Mr. Torneo said in a Messenger chat. “He needs to mend fences, build bridges, and tone down the highly polarized political environment.”
During his campaign, Mr. Marcos promised to lower prices of basic goods and continue an infrastructure plan similar to that of Mr. Duterte.
“With him vowing to continue many of Duterte’s programs, I expect basically the same projects, particularly the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program,” said Leonardo A. Lanzona, who teaches economics at the Ateneo de Manila University.
“While these programs had a measure of success during Duterte’s time, it can prove disastrous when the same programs are applied during this period,” he said, as the country grapples with inflation and rising debt.
Emy Ruth D. Gianan, an economist at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, said the public should expect an economic recovery that is highly reliant on a labor export policy and consumer spending.
“Filipino labor export could worsen our brain drain suffering, while prioritizing infrastructure over equally important human capital investments is also not good,” she said in a Messenger chat.
Ms. Gianan said Mr. Marcos might also continue Mr. Duterte’s tax reforms that include the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) which lowered corporate income tax.
“But lower corporate taxes may mean greater burden for individual taxpayers as we would incur much of the economic heavy lifting,” Ms. Gianan said, noting the CREATE law has yet to generate significant new foreign investments.
Mr. Marcos on Monday said a new stimulus measure would be part of his priority legislation for the incoming Congress, although potential revenue sources were still being studied.
Public finance experts have since asked the president-elect to clarify if the stimulus measure would entail more foreign borrowings. As of end-March, National Government debt stood at a record P12.68 trillion.
“Marcos Jr. did not really lay down a platform of governance. To what criteria can we make him accountable if there is no benchmark to begin with?” Ms. Gianan said.
Mr. Marcos will face major economic challenges once he assumes office on June 30.
The Philippine economy grew by 8.3% in the first quarter, which may give Mr. Marcos some breathing room. However, analysts said the growth outlook may be uncertain as rising inflation will likely hurt consumer spending. The ongoing war in Ukraine and aggressive tightening by the US Federal Reserve are also expected to dampen global economic recovery.
Mr. Marcos needs “more career personnel in the higher rungs of the bureaucracy,” said Francisco A. Magno, who teaches political science and development studies at DLSU.
In an e-mail, Mr. Magno said the next leader should enhance government effectiveness by fully implementing a national e-government roadmap to enable interoperability of government data and processes to boost efficiency in the delivery of services.
He said rightsizing the National Government would be a key policy measure to improve public services.
“The program will require agencies to rationalize their staffing pattern with their mandate and functions, and in consideration of other agencies’ mandate and functions to eliminate duplication,” Mr. Magno said. “It will also address the growing number of contractual personnel in government.”
With old names being tapped to be part of Mr. Marcos’ Cabinet, economists and political analysts worry that the incoming administration might not be dynamic and might not be able to respond to emerging needs.
“Unfortunately, it seems that the basis for choosing the member of the Cabinet is one’s proximity to the people in power,” said Arjan P. Aguirre, who teaches political science at Ateneo. “The closer or more loyal you are to the president the higher you get into the political ladder.”
Mr. Marcos has allied with personalities from powerful clans and political blocs across the country. “Expect that this government will not be that serious in supporting political reforms such as anti-political dynasty bill, electoral system reforms, among others,” Mr. Aguirre added.
Jan Robert Go, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines, said Mr. Marcos is unlikely to pursue political reforms that could address the concerns of various sectors given the huge mandate he received in the May 9 polls.
He will have a “legitimacy ticket” to do anything he wants, Mr. Go said in a Messenger chat. “He might initiate some policies, but these would not or less preserve the status quo, if not exacerbate the deeply oligarchic nature of our politics.”