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Bongbong Marcos inaugurated as 17th president of the Philippines

Thirty-six years after Ferdinand Marcos Sr. and his family fled the Philippines amid a popular revolution that forced him out of power, his son and namesake will return to Malacañang a Chief Executive elected by more than 31 million Filipinos.

The 64-year-old Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Thursday took his oath as the 17th President of the Philippines.

In his journey to the presidency, the former senator dominated pre-election surveys, solidified his lead by choosing Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte as his running mate, and on May 9 received 31,629,783 votes to defeat Vice President Leni Robredo and eight other presidential bets.

With 58% of the votes in Eleksyon 2022, Marcos is the first Philippine president to be elected by a majority since the EDSA Revolution.

In the days since his proclamation on May 25, other countries have acknowledged Marcos’s victory, with foreign emissaries paying courtesy calls on him to congratulate him on his win.

After a military and civic parade which also saw the country's jets and choppers fly by, Senate President Vicente Sotto III read out the proclamation of Marcos electoral victory.

Moments later, Marcos put his hand on the Bible held by his wife Liza and took his oath before Chief Justice  Alexander Gesmundo.

"We've been through times of bitter division but united we came through to this when we shall begin again. But better," Marcos said in his inaugural address.

"I've listened to you and this is what I have heard. We all want peace in our land. You and your children want a chance at a better hope in a safer and more prosperous country," he added.

"All that is within reach of a hard-working, warm and giving race. Your dreams are mine. Ang pangarap n'yo ay pangarap ko," the new President declared.

Who is Bongbong?

Before being elected as the highest official of the country, Marcos served as senator from 2010 to 2016, as 2nd District Representative of Ilocos Norte from 1992 to 1995 and 2007 to 2010, governor of Ilocos Norte from 1983 to 1986 and 1998 to 2007, and vice governor of the province from 1981 to 1983.

He is married to Attorney Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos and they have three sons: Ferdinand Alexander III (“Sandro”), a neophyte lawmaker; Joseph Simon; and William Vincent.

The new first family stayed in front and center of the steps of the National Museum—Marcos in barong and gray pants, his sons in barong and black. The new First Lady wore a terno.

In his biography posted at the Senate of the Philippines’ website, it is stated that he authored the landmark law establishing the Philippine Youth Commission.

Marcos was also credited with advancing the welfare of cooperatives in his home province by devoting most of his Countryside Development Fund (CDF) to organizing teachers and farmers’ cooperatives.

“During his tenure, he transformed Ilocos Norte into a first-class province of international acclaim, showcasing its natural and cultural destination areas. It was also during his stewardship that Ilocos Norte became a pioneer in wind power technology which, to this day, serves as an alternative source of energy not only for the needs of his province, but for the other parts of northern Luzon as well,” the biography also states.

Marcos also ran in the 2016 vice presidential race but lost to Leni Robredo. He filed an election protest but it was junked by the Supreme Court for lack of merit.

Unity campaign

But the 2022 polls were a different story, as Marcos zoomed to an early lead in the surveys shortly after the filing of the certificates of candidacy for the presidency, a lead that seemed to grow insurmountable after he sealed his team-up with Duterte last November.

He carefully nursed that advantage during the campaign period, skipping most  presidential forums aired on mainstream media networks — including the Commission on Elections’ official debates — even as critics derided his lack of a detailed platform save for a call for “unity.”

However, nothing seemed to dent Marcos’ lead: neither the historical issues of his family’s ill-gotten wealth and his father’s human rights record; nor the question of whether he really graduated from Oxford University as he claimed (he was instead given a “special” diploma, the university said); nor his family’s unpaid estate taxes that have supposedly ballooned to more than P203 billion.

On Thursday, Marcos recalled how he rejected what he called "the politics of division."

"By your vote, you rejected the politics of division. I offended none of my rivals in this campaign. I listened instead to what they were saying and I saw little incompatibility with my own ideas—about jobs, fair wages, personal safety, and national strength and ending want in a land of plenty," Marcos said.

"I believe that if we but focus on the work at hand and the ward that will come to hand we will go very far under my watch you believe that too," he added.

"At pinakinggan ko ang tinig ninyo na ang sinisigaw ay pagkakaisa, pagkakaisa, pagkakaisa. We will go further together and against each other. Pushing forward not pulling each other back, out of fear, out of misplaced sense of weakness but we are the farthest from weak," he added.

According to fact-checking group, massive online disinformation that mainly promoted him and targeted his main rival Robredo helped Marcos as well; he has repeatedly denied that he used troll farms.

Petitions against his candidacy were filed before the Commission on Elections for his failure to file income tax returns from 1982 to 1985. The Comelec dismissed the suits, prompting the petitioners to file their case before the Supreme Court.

The High Tribunal on Tuesday junked the petitions, resolving the last obstacle to Marcos’ ascent to power.

Rice and other issues

Among the things Marcos promised during the three-month campaign period were lower country’s electricity rates, sufficient energy supply, and P20/kilo rice.

This last promise has already created some bumps for Marcos as he sets forth on his path as president. The current Department of Agriculture leadership says that low a price is not doable, while rice farmers have raised concerns about what would be left for them at such a low price.

Last week, Marcos announced that he would take the post of agriculture secretary amid the severity of issues hounding the sector, including a looming global food crisis. He also said that the P20/kilo promise was more of an “aspiration.”

Marcos’s choices for his economic team have been met with approval by the business community, with central bank governor Benjamin Diokno heading to the Finance Department and former president Benigno Aquino III’s socioeconomic planning secretary Arsenio Balisacan returning to the NEDA, among other appointments.

Marcos also vowed to continue President Rodrigo Duterte’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program and prioritize the development of digital infrastructure in the country.

When it comes to territorial issues in the West Philippine Sea, Marcos said his administration would defend the country’s sovereignty by talking to China “with a firm voice.” Beijing has not recognized the international tribunal’s ruling that invalidates its massive claims over the resource-rich region.

He also believes that the Philippines could not afford to go to war against China, a stance similar to that of his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte. He added that the government should continue to pursue bilateral contact and communication with the Asian Superpower as he branded China the Philippines’ “strongest partner.”

Marcos also said he would continue the anti-illegal drugs campaign, but in his own way, as Duterte had asked him to continue eradicating narcotics for the benefit of the youth.

On the part of human rights, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez has said Marcos guaranteed a “high level of accountability” on the matter, and that the latter is already making consultations regarding his administration’s human rights agenda.

The old Marcos era was marred by human rights abuses, cronyism, and corruption. At present, victims of the elder Marcos’s Martial Law regime continue to seek justice for these atrocities.

Cabinet, key posts

The Marcos administration is already taking its shape with the announced Cabinet appointments so far. Before the inauguration day, Marcos named these personalities who will hold key government posts and help him in his governance:

• Victor Rodriguez - Executive Secretary
• Benjamin Diokno - Department of Finance
• Arsenio Balisacan - National Economic and Development Authority
• Jesus Crispin Remulla - Department of Justice
• Emmanuel Bonoan - Department of Public Works and Highways
• Sara Duterte - Department of Education
• Bienvenido Laguesma - Department of Labor and Employment
• Susan Ople - Department of Migrant Workers
• Alfredo Pascual - Department of Trade and Industry
• Erwin Tulfo - Department of Social Welfare and Development
• Christina Garcia-Frasco - Department of Tourism
• Ivan John Enrile Uy - Department of Information and Communications Technology
• Benhur Abalos - Department of the Interior and Local Government
• Jaime Bautista - Department of Transportation
• Amenah Pangandaman - Department of Budget and Management
• Conrado Estrella III - Department of Agrarian Reform
• Jose Faustino Jr. - Department of National Defense
• Clarita Carlos - National Security Adviser
• Juan Ponce Enrile - Presidential Legal Counsel
• Menardo Guevarra - Office of the Solicitor General
• Felipe Medalla - Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas
• Anton Lagdameo - Special Assistant to the President
• Maria Zenaida Angping - Presidential Management Staff
• Trixie Cruz-Angeles - Presidential Communications Operations Office

A day before his inauguration, Marcos’s camp also announced that outgoing Solicitor General Jose Calida will sit as chairperson of the Commission on Audit in the new administration while Jose Arnulfo “Wick” Veloso would be the president of the Government Service Insurance System.

Family resurgence

Marcos took his oath at the steps of the National Museum, a building that once housed both the Senate and the House of Representatives before his father declared Martial Law in September 1972 and padlocked Congress.

While he was somber and wearing military fatigues on Malacañang’s balcony on February 25, 1986 before his family and their cronies fled, Marcos on June 30, 2022 was smiling and wearing a rayadillo-inspired barong Pepito Albert designed for the occasion.

As he said he would be, Marcos was surrounded by family — his wife and children; and the 92-year-old family matriarch Imelda. 

The new President and sister Senator Imee Marcos earlier expressed surprise at how the win seemed to rejuvenate the elderly former First Lady. On May 25, she appeared to shake off age and weakness to climb the steps to the House rostrum and join the ceremonies on May 25 when Congress, sitting as the board of national canvassers, proclaimed Bongbong the winner of Eleksyon 2022.

“Marami talagang nakapansin na ‘yung mother ko, ‘yung hagdan na ‘yun ay naakyat pa rin niya,” Marcos said in one of his vlogs.

“Paglingon ko ulit, nandoon na siya. Sabi ko, ‘Papaano nakaakyat ito?’ ‘Yun pala noong tinutulungan siya, sasakay siya sa wheelchair, sabi niya, ‘Hindi kaya ko ito... I can do it, I can do it,’” he added. “Nandoon, umakyat siya nang nakatayo... nakangiti nang malaking-malaki, nakakatuwa naman...” Marcos added.

Bongbong, Imee and Irene grew up in Malacañang during Marcos Sr.’s 20-year reign, from 1965 to 1986. However, Imee on several occasions over the past weeks said the Marcoses weren’t keen on again making Malacañang their home.

She instead focused on the aim to burnish their father’s legacy.

“[A]ng importante ‘yung maahon namin ang pangalan namin, ang apelyido namin. ‘Yung legacy ng tatay ko mabalikan at tingnan nang maigi, ‘yan ang importante,” she said.

“‘Yung Malacañang, ang yabang namin ha, pero sa totoo lang, nanggaling na kami doon e. Labis-labis na ang paninirahan namin doon,” she added.
In February 1986 the dictator and his family fled to Hawaii on a United States Air Force C-130, taking with them $717 million in cash, $124 million in deposit slips, and other valuables.

They left behind a country in political and economic crisis, after a Martial Law regime in which 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed, according to figures from Amnesty International.

Marcos Jr.’s National Security Adviser Clarita Carlos, a longtime professor of political science at the University of the Philippines, said it would be unfair to compare the new leader with the late strongman.

“He is his own person also. It’s unfair to compare him to his father.” Carlos said. —NB/BM/JST, GMA News