Bagong Lipunan 2.0

By Artchil B. Fernandez

The Philippines is once again the largest rice importer in the world, according to a projection by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Latest Social Weather Station (SWS) survey shows 46 percent of Filipino families rated themselves poor. Peso-US dollar exchange rate is almost 59 pesos to 1 US dollar.  The solution of the present administration to this gloomy situation – sing.

Out of the blue, Bongbong Marcos (BBM), through Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, issued this week Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 52.  The circular mandates that: “To instill further the principles of the Bagong Pilipinas brand of governance and leadership among Filipinos, all national government agencies and instrumentalities, including GOCCs and educational institutions, such as SUCs (state universities and colleges), are hereby directed, and LGUs are hereby encouraged, to integrate the recital of the Bagong Pilipinas Hymn and Pledge in the conduct of weekly flag ceremonies, subject to existing laws, rules and regulations.”

The Presidential Communications Office said, “The move aims to instill the principles of Bagong Pilipinas among government workers.”  The office was instructed to “communicate and disseminate the Bagong Pilipinas Hymn and Pledge to all government offices and the public.”

This move of BBM eerily recalls his dictator’s father, Bagong LipunanBagong Pilipinas is nothing but Bagong Lipunan 2.0.  Ferdinand Marcos senior called his martial law regime Bagong Lipunan, or new society, a revolution from the center.

To foist his iron rule on the nation, the elder Marcos mandated that everyone sing his Bagong Lipunan hymn.  Like Marcos Junior’s MC No. 52, Marcos senior tried to impose his martial law ideology on Filipinos through subtle psychological manipulation using the song as a tool.  Subliminal conditioning is a favorite psychological weapon of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.

Bagong Pilipinas of Marcos junior simply mimics and apes Bagong Lipunan of Marcos senior.  An intellectual pygmy compared to his father, BBM has not outlined Bagong Pilipinas brand of governance or spelled out its ideology.  The elder Marcos undergraduate thesis on constitutional authoritarianism gave a foretaste of his martial law regime and his book “Revolution from the Center” provided it with ideological underpinning.  With no undergraduate degree, BBM has to rely on his father’s works.

The Philippines can be great again; that was the promise of Marcos senior Bagong Lipunan.  He vowed to restructure society, fight the oligarchs, and empower the masses.  The opposite happened.  Marcos Senior replaced the old oligarchs with his cronies who did a better job of robbing the national treasury.  Poverty worsened, corruption was a way of life, human rights violations were widespread, and the economy tanked.  That was the state of the Philippines under Marcos senior Bagong Lipunan.

Under martial law, 70,000 people were arrested, mostly without warrants; 34,000 were tortured, and 3,240 were killed. During the 20-year rule of the Marcoses, US$10 billion was stolen from the Filipino people by the conjugal dictatorship. Six in ten Filipino families were poor during martial law, and GDP growth was –7.3 percent in the dying years of Marcos Senior’s dictatorial regime.

If Bagong Pilipinas is Bagong Lipunan 2.0, God helps the Philippines.

Mel Sta. Maria, former dean of Far Eastern University Institute of Law finds the order to sing the hymn of Bagong Pilipinas “illegal, punitive, unconstitutional.” MC No. 52 cited Republic Act (RA) No. 8491, also known as the “Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines,” as its legal basis.  Dean Sta. Maria said this reliance is flawed and cited four reasons why.

“The memorandum is in violation or goes beyond the mandate of RA No. 8491,” Sta. Maria argues.  “Nowhere in the said law is it provided, expressly or impliedly, that the Office of the President has the authority to create and add a new ‘hymn and pledge officially’…The requirement is ultra vires and illegal,” according to Sta. Maria.

While RA 8491 provided a punishment for violations, Sta. Maria contends, “There is nothing in RA No. 8491 punishing the refusal to recite a newly created ‘hymn and pledge.’ In effect, the directive provided in the memo added a new punishable act or omission. No rule or mere memorandum can make additions to the law. That is illegal.”

Sta. Maria asserts that MC No. 52 “transgresses the fundamental right to free speech and expression” since it is designed to inculcate BBM’s “Bagong Pilipinas brand of governance and leadership.” What “if a state college professor does not support such ‘brand of governance and leadership’ because of what he/she thinks is the leadership’s failure to curb inflation, ineptness in employing the 2.15 million unemployed Filipinos, absence of economic sense evidenced by the record high P14.93 trillion Philippine national debt, and decides to manifest his protest by not reciting the ‘hymn and pledge,’ will the professor be publicly censured?,” Sta. Maria asks.

Lastly Sta. Maria considers the order to sing the hymn and pledge of Bagong Pilipinas “polarizing.  A flag ceremony must be neutral, not having any political undertones even if it were so slight, because patriotism, loyalty, and fidelity to the flag must unite all for the love of country,” he points out.

The creeping return of Bagong Lipunan via Bagong Pilipinas is the hidden agenda of BBM’s latest move.  Issuance of MC No. 52 is a subtle and silent way for BBM to restore the detested past of his family.  This is still part of the overall scheme of Marcos’s restoration.  Like a thief in the night, the Marcoses are inserting the dark past of the country into national life while Filipinos are distracted with their current economic woes.