By Artchil B. Fernandez
When Bongbong Marcos (BBM) won the election last year, the question in everyone’s mind is, “what will the Marcos restoration look like?”
To those who voted for BBM, a Marcos restoration is the return of a fictional “Golden Age.” One particular “fake news” the Marcos campaign cultivated and propagated is the myth that there was an era in the past, particularly the 20-year rule of the dictator Marcos senior, where the Philippines was rich and prosperous. The lie claims the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship through the People Power Revolt in 1986 ended the golden age. BBM vowed to bring back the non-existing blissful past.
Rice at 20 pesos per kilo perfectly sums up the Marcos restoration in the eyes of those who supported BBM. His presidency will rise and fall on the basis of this promise.
Those who dread the return of the Marcoses to power are haunted by the nightmare of a corrupt and brutal dictatorship, particularly the Martial Law period. A Marcos restoration is viewed by those who know the dark era of the country as a way of the Marcoses to evade responsibility for their high crimes against the Filipino people and rehabilitate themselves.
A year after BBM sits in Malacañang, what is the picture that is emerging from the Marcos restoration? Is the mythical “Golden Age” dawning? During BBM’s inauguration, a video of his rejoicing supporters gleefully exclaiming that with him as president, “prices of goods and services will go down” went viral.
The Marcos “miracle” of bringing down prices of goods and services has not happened yet. Instead, the first year in office of a Marcos is marked by a record 14-year high inflation at 8.7 percent. Although inflation eased a little in recent months, prices of goods and services remain high. A quick visit to the supermarket will confirm there is no downward trend in prices of basic commodities.
Worse, with BBM as agriculture secretary, a kilo of onions, a key ingredient in Filipino cooking skyrocketed to astounding 700 pesos. This never happened before. Smuggling was pointed to as the culprit. BBM ordered an investigation to the anomaly only last week, months after the incident.
As to the price of rice, it remains high. A kilo of rice in wet markets ranges from P36.73 to P80.69 per kilo depending on the quality. Only in government KADIWA centers where a kilo of rice is sold at P25. It must be noted that the KADIWA price is heavily subsidized by the government and not a market price. KADIWA centers are few and located in selected urban areas serving only a miniscule portion of the population.
The vast majority of Filipinos buy their rice at current market price which is far from 20 pesos. Looking at the current market situation, bringing the market price of rice to P20 per kilo is not possible in the coming months or years. BBM has to dig deeper into his bag of magic tricks to deliver on his promise before his term ends.
Then there is the highly controversial and infamous Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF). Using limited government money to create a sovereign wealth fund goes against the very nature of such fund where surplus fund, abundant excess fund, and huge income from in-demand commodities are the requisites. Philippines has none of these.
But BBM is determined to create the MIF. Maharlika is an emblem of the Marcoses and the use of the name is another way to revive the family’s “legacy.”
On the political front, BBM’s appointments mirror that of his dictator father but in an inferior way. Cronyism and nepotism are the hallmarks of the Marcos dictatorship and the administration of BBM is cloning these ignominious trademarks of his father.
The appointment of disbarred lawyer Larry Gadon highlights the cronyism of the Marcos restoration but in the worst form. Marcos senior appointed his buddies and sycophants to government posts who became his cronies. Though ruthless in their plunder of the country’s resources and national treasury, the cronies of the elder Marcos have pretensions of decency in public.
In contrast, the cronies of BBM like Gadon are filthy, indecent, and vulgar. Here BBM failed to live up to the standards of his dictator father. There were no Larry Gadons in the regime of Marcos senior that was not likely to appoint a disbarred lawyer as presidential adviser. The junior is indeed a cheap imitation of the senior.
The fiasco in the Department of Tourism (DOT) promotion campaign is the rotten fruit of Marcos cronyism and nepotism. Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia-Frasco is a close ally of BBM. She is the daughter of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia, BBM’s key supporter. Garcia-Frasco got the post not due to her expertise in tourism but as a reward for her family’s support of BBM in the last election.
Despite the grave error in the plagiarized campaign ad of DOT, BBM even praised Garcia-Frasco as an “inspiration” for the department. She got away with the scandal due to politics. Laziness and incompetence are ignored and even rewarded under BBM. In Lithuania, a similar incident led to the resignation of the tourism chief.
The Marcos restoration is turning out to be business as usual for the Marcoses and their cronies. Restoration is beginning to look like the feasting on public posts and funds, a standard practice in the regime of Marcos senior, continuous.
Public service is self-service in the Marcos restoration. As in the old Marcos regime, public office is treated like a private property where the holders enjoy the perks and benefits rather than a vehicle to serve the people and attend to their plight. Serving the Marcos interest and the cronies is shaping up to be the face of the restoration.