Castle in the air       

By Artchil B. Fernandez

The selling of illusion continues. Fantasy politics brought the Marcoses back to power and it is apparent they intend to rule in the same manner. This is laid down in the first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of Bongbong Marcos (BBM).

In his first Sona, BBM was clearly building a castle in the air. In the same way he deceived the public during the campaign by vowing to bring back a non-existing “Golden Age,” BBM foisted once again upon the nation a fantastic future to conceal the current reality. He began his Sona by projecting a prosperous future under his rule, painting a bright prospect ahead and blatantly ignoring the dark and ugly predicament of the country at present.

Focusing primarily on the economy, BBM launched his Sona again with a promise of rosy life in store for the country. He unveiled his Medium-Term Fiscal Strategy (MTFS) for the next six years proclaiming that at the end of his term the country will reach the “Land of Promise” overflowing with milk and honey.  Consider the targets of MTFS.

For 2022, BBM promised that the gross domestic product (GDP) will grow by 6.5 to 7.5 percent. Between 2023 and 2028, the GDP he vowed will grow by 6.5–8.0 percent.  The poverty rate will be single digit by 2028 at 9 percent. There will be a 3 percent national government deficit-to-GDP ratio by 2028 and less than 60 percent national government debt-to-GDP ratio by 2025. Incredibly, BBM vowed that by 2024 the Philippines will attain upper-middle-income status with at least $4,256 income per capita.

These are ambitious projections. Beyond making promises again, BBM did not lay out how to attain this fanciful future. How BBM will bring the country to a fantasy land, he never said in his Sona. The “devil is in the detail” and Filipinos are left to wonder in the dark.

It is worth repeating that what BBM said is not the current state of the nation but his projection of the future under his regime. The speech should be aptly called a future state of the nation address (F-Sona). BBM capped the deception by ending his speech with a superfluous claim that “the state of the nation is sound.”

The truth is the present state of the nation is not sound but dark and foul. For a start, the current debt of the country is Php 12.5 trillion. With a population of 110.9 million today, it means the debt of every Filipino is Php 112,678. It also implies that every Filipino family has a debt of Php 474,543. How can a nation buried deep in debt be in a sound state?

Data from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reveal that 2.93 million Filipinos were jobless in May, slightly higher than the 5.7 percent, or 2.76 million jobless Filipinos in April. The unemployment data Ibon Foundation said signifies that the Philippines has the worst unemployment rate in Southeast Asia which is 6 percent higher than Indonesia’s 5.8 percent and Malaysia’s 3.9 percent. Underemployment also rose from 14 percent in April to 14.5 percent in May.

Inflation in June hit 6.1 percent according to PSA. This is the highest inflation rate since October 2018. Under the current inflation rate, the value of 1 peso was eroded to Php0.87. The 0.87 purchasing power of the peso indicates it can now buy fewer goods and services compared to Php 1 in 2018.

The latest survey by Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that 10.9 million Filipino families considered themselves “poor” in the first three months of 2022 – 43 percent were “poor,” 34 percent were “borderline poor,” while 23 percent were “not poor.” Is this a sound state of a nation?

While Filipinos are groaning at the skyrocketing prices of goods and services, BBM in his Sona ignored this reality. He never said how his administration will address the current inflation or what his administration will do to arrest inflation. What are the concrete policies or programs of BBM to deal with inflation and ease the suffering of the nation? BBM never said anything about the present reality but instead dabbled with fantasy. He is hoping fantasy will trump reality, keep Filipinos in dreamland and make them forget their current miserable plight.

During the campaign, BBM vowed that if he becomes president the price of rice per kilo will drastically go down – Php 20/kilo. He never mentioned this promise in his Sona. BMM did not discuss how he will bring down the price of rice acting as if the promise never existed. Such patent intentional amnesia shows BBM has no intention of honoring his word. He instead regaled Filipinos with an illusion that by 2024 each Filipino will have a yearly income of at least $ 4,256 and live in an upper middle-income country where there is no poverty and they have equal opportunities to succeed.

Building a castle in the air and feeding a hungry nation with fantasy and illusion is a classic Marcos tactic. During the dictatorship of Marcos senior, his regime would bombard the public with “bomba” or sexy films which act as tranquilizers amid rising prices of goods and services. The style has not changed only the kind of sedative injected into the public.

It is interesting to see how BMM can govern the nation by building castles in the air. How far can his troll farms, army of vloggers and loyalists roughshod the mirage to the nation and bully people to accept the daydream? In the case of Marcos senior, reality in the end punctured the fantasy and the “new society” crumbled. Will the son succeed where the father failed – defy reality and rule through fantasy?

The country is headed towards the exciting part. Good luck everyone!

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