For 2016, the most qualified president of the Philippines is another Marcos, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., 57.
It’s may be a curse or a blessing, but next year’s election will be another dynasty play. Just like the presidential races in 2010 when Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, the only son of President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr., won, and in 2004, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the daughter of President Diosdado Macapagal, was elected.
Post-1986 dynasties need not be bad. Cory Aquino “restored” democracy. Her son Noynoy Aquino pursued Matuwid na Daan (Straight Path), removed a sitting chief justice, jailed three of the most powerful senators of the land for alleged graft, and placed under hospital arrest his predecessor, for alleged plunder and electoral fraud, both charges still unproven. As president, Mrs. Arroyo tripled per capita income and presided over the longest economic expansion in this country’s history, 38 quarters of consecutive economic growth.
For 2016, up to four major political dynasties will contest the presidency—Jejomar Binay, Manuel Araneta “Mar” Roxas, and Bongbong Marcos. The fourth dynasty could be that of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the current Manila mayor. Estrada’s wife, Dr. Loi Ejercito, is a former senator. Two of his sons, Jinggoy Estrada and Joseph Victor (JV) Ejercito, are incumbent senators.
Jejomar Binay is the current vice president and the logical successor to BS Aquino. He is already the second-highest official of the land, one heartbeat away from the presidency, and the most experienced among the current crop of presidential aspirants, having been mayor of the premier business city Makati for 23 years and vice president for three years, with responsibility for housing and overseas workers welfare under the present administration.
Jojo heads a formidable dynasty. His son and namesake, Jejomar Binay Jr. is the incumbent mayor of Makati. A daughter, Abigail, is a congressman, representing one of the two Makati districts. Another daughter, Nancy, is senator of the land. If you believe reports, the Binay dynasty is one which is well-entrenched and well-endowed financially, amid allegations of massive graft. That is precisely the problem with Jojo Binay. He has not fully explained his so-called unexplained wealth, part of which has been uncovered by 22 hearings in 20 months by the Senate anti-graft committee called Blue Ribbon.
Meanwhile, Mar (from Manuel Araneta) is the grandson is a famously pro-American president, Manuel A. Roxas, and son of a popular senator in the 1960s and 1970s, Gerardo Roxas who was narrowly defeated by another dynastic scion, Fernando Lopez, in the elections of 1969. Educated at Wharton and a former investment banker, Mar is an heir to the vast Araneta urban hacienda fortune. He is actually the man behind the call center and business process outsourcing (BPO) boom, having authored the law for it and executed it when he was a Trade and Industry Secretary to President Joseph Estrada and President Arroyo.
Mar has never been associated with any large-scale corruption but he sometimes is perceived as a bumbling bureaucrat, having mismanaged the government’s two most important cabinet departments – the Department Transportation and Communications, where incompetence, corruption and red tape are the new normal, and the Department of Interior and Local Government, where incompetence, corruption and red tape, was the original norm.
Against Jojo and Binay, Bongbong Marcos can easily hold his own and has nothing to apologize for. He trained at the feet of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos, who by today’s reckoning should be the best president the Philippines ever had, in terms of intellectual heft (bar topnotcher), heroism (the most bemedalled soldier of World War II), vision (he said this country can be great again), and love for country and people (he rejected the bombing of Camp Aguinaldo to end People Power of 1986 that ousted him from office).
As president, Marcos achieved rice sufficiency, built more infrastructure than all previous presidents before him, enforced an honest to goodness agrarian reform, solved the most serious energy crisis and the most serious foreign currency crisis, prevented the communists and Muslim separatists from dismembering the republic, and gave his countrymen a sense of purpose, vision, and their place in the family of nations.
Marcos recognized China and the USSR far ahead of the United States. He reduced the 99-year lease on the US bases to 25 and made the Americans pay up to $2.5 billion per year for their use. This bases deal plus the end of the Laurel-Langley parity agreement that gave Americans the status of Filipinos, ultimately prompted the US to help plot his removal.
Bongbong named his first born Ferdinand Alexander, now 21, after he says, “the world’s best two leaders.” Learning from the best, Marcos, by osmosis, is Bongbong’s education. Add of course, the political savvy of his mother, the legendary Imelda Romualdez Marcos.
Bongbong himself has had excellent formal education – business administration at Wharton (1979-1981), political science, philosophy and economics at Oxford, England (1975-1978); high school at Worth boarding school, England, 1970-1974; elementary school at La Salle Greenhills; and pre-school in what is now Poveda. He trained himself to be a mathematician and a scientist but his dad forced him to enter politics, “as a matter of duty to the nation”.
Bongbong’s best achievement, he says, was being governor for 12 years (1983-1986) and (1998-2007). As CEO of Ilocos Norte, FM Jr. achieved energy self-sufficiency (with 50 windmills producing 150 megawatts), rice self-sufficiency (harvest per hectare was as high as 12 tons, he says, vs. the 4 tons average), promoted cooperatives (200 of them), and gave his people additional income, with tobacco, garlic and other cash crops, and tourism.
“As governor,” he says, “you don’t talk and talk. You just do it.” He winces that the Philippines today suffers from three major problems – massive unemployment and massive poverty, lack of infrastructure, and one of the worst income inequality ratios in the world.
Remember INRI – the letters on Jesus’s cross? It stands for Ilocos Norte, Region I. Quite possibly in 2016, Marcos could just mean salvation.