Tiffany Geluz

“Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions.”
After winning the 2022 elections, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos told the people to let his actions, not family history, define his presidency. However, his campaign rhetoric and actions as president resemble many of the promises – and pitfalls – of his father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr.

During Marcos Sr.’s presidency, there was early economic growth and a focus on national identity. Economist Gerardo Sicat even asserted that “the projects were interrelated and complemented sector-development objectives” with his Bagong Lipunan ideology.

These contributions, however, were countered when the Philippines endured a dark chapter under his dictatorship. The economy did not just collapse, with inflation peaking at 50.3% in 1984, but rampant cronyism and corruption saddled the Philippines with immense debt.

Meanwhile, Filipinos faced human rights violations – thousand were subjected to killings, massacres, disappearances, detentions, torture, rape, abduction and involuntary exile. Despite this well-documented history, Marcos Jr. continues to defend his father’s “legacy,” praising his “success” and vowing to carry it forward.

Price ceilings

In May this year, the Department of Agriculture, led by Marcos Jr., also its chief, powered the KADIWA Program, a flagship program that aims to address high food prices. Serving through retail and online selling, its retail stores also differ depending on their location, according to its three sub-categories – Kadiwa stores, which are permanent; pop-up stores, which are only temporary; and on wheels, which are mobile stores. It promised to sell rice at P29 per kilo in specific areas and other commodities such as fish, egg, onions, garlic, vegetables, and fruits. According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Kadiwa Program served 1.82 million households in 2022 through 34,794 selling activities, generating P621 million in sales. Solita Winnie Monsod, a former socio-economic planning secretary, was “unimpressed” by the program's reach and distinguished it as a “management illusion” due to the inflation in onion prices spiked to as much as 700 pesos last December. The KADIWA Program is very similar to the program that originated from Marcos Sr. and Imelda Marcos (then designated National Food Authority head) due to the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 that caused food prices to increase. The program is specifically inspired by the 1979 “rolling stores” project of the Metropolitan Manila Commission implementation. It used to offer low-cost necessities such as rice, sugar, cooking oil, coffee, milk, and noodles and operated mobile and retail stores. Marcos Sr. also implied price ceilings on other commodities, which led to shortages. According to a perception study published in October 1984 by Leandro Viloria and Dolores Endriga, the program could have been more effective. However, it caused long queues that discouraged low-income families from buying. The stores were also far from the households, while other localities had no Kadiwa stores. Hence, people opted to visit nearer wet and dry markets and sari-sari stores due to lower transportation cost discounts as preferred customers. Marcos Sr. also simulated a price cap with the Oil Price Stabilization Fund (OPSF) under the Republic Act 6174 by the defunct Oil Industry Commission. Attempts at price stabilization were made by “subsidizing the oil importation of government entities (including that of the National Power Corporation and Philippine National Oil Company) to ensure adequate supply at regulated prices.” Due to rice inflation, Marcos Jr. capped the retail prices of rice at P41 with a P45 price ceiling in September 2023 through Executive Order 39. Regardless of this order, rice prices remained high in Metro Manila. After 30 days, Marcos Jr. lifted the imposed price ceilings on a joint recommendation made by the DTI and DA. He promised to fix the agricultural sector while helping the poor and hungry.

Agricultural promises

The Republic Act 11953, or the New Agrarian Emancipation Bill, was signed by Marcos Jr., which condones all loans incurred by agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) under the PD 27 of his father, RA 6657 and RA9700. Electronic titles were also mass-distributed to ARBs across the provinces and regions in the country. In the past, Marcos Sr. signed Presidential Decree 27, which “emancipates tenant farmers in the Philippines, transferring ownership of the land they till to them, with specific size limits and cost determined by average harvest, aiming to address land ownership concentration and promote social reform.” Marcos Jr. aims to implement Executive Order 75, similar to PD 27, which focuses on distributing the government's unused agricultural lands to qualified Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program beneficiaries. Moreover, Marcos Jr. promises to support the productivity and lives of farmers by providing credit facilities and support services. He also pledges to enhance the agrarian case resolution systems and revitalize the agricultural industry by training new generations of farmers.

Foreign alliances

Marcos Jr.’s independent foreign policy is similar to his father’s alliances with the United States (U.S.), wherein they stayed connected with the US and other countries against the U.S. Marcos Sr. also maintained relations with China and Russia, similar to Marcos Jr.’s neutral relationship with China, which is a rival of the U.S. in terms of geopolitics. However, in favor of stopping China from encroaching on the Philippines' maritime rights, he favors ties with the U.S. Due to geopolitics, similarly to his father, Marcos Jr. strengthened U.S. alliances through military modernization, joint military and training exercises, and the grant of four more bases access to the U.S. under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Furthermore, the U.S. also had military bases in the country that were used to deploy troops to the Vietnam War. Marcos Sr. utilized the importance of these bases for the U.S. by using this as a threat and for them to compensate him with personal support. Marcos Jr. also clarified his intention to emulate his father’s foreign policy during his inauguration. He stressed that the country is a “friend to all and an enemy to none.”

Infrastructure Marcos Sr. is undoubtedly known for the infrastructures built during his long reign, such as hospitals, the San Juanico Bridge, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Folk Arts Theater, the Philippine International Convention Center, the National Arts Center, Nayong Pilipino, and the People’s Park in the sky. However, as recorded by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, these infrastructures were built on foreign loans. They caused the plunging debt of $28.3 billion by 1986, a product of overspending. Comparably, Marcos Jr. will continue former president Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build Build” program with his “Build Better More” infrastructure campaign with a P1.418 trillion budget. “Huwag nating patapusin ‘yung golden age of infrastructure. Ipagpatuloy natin ang golden age of infrastructure ngayon dahil naman kailangan na kailangan ng ating mga kababayan,” he said during his keynote speech. Arts and Culture With the creation of multiple cultural sites, Marcos Sr. and Imelda were able to weaponize arts and culture through the infrastructure they built “to show that they were patrons of art.” Artist Pio Abad once said, “The Marcoses’ support for art was never in the service of art; it was always in the service of the Marcoses,” as it aided in shifting the local perspectives to art from the economic instability and human rights violations being experienced by the country. Take, for instance, when the Manila Film Center was one of the infrastructures built by Marcos Sr. Due to the rushed construction initiated by their family, an estimated 168 people, who were mostly workers, were killed building the infrastructure. Marcos Sr. has influenced public perception as they exploit mythology in fashioning their image and reputation, specifically with their representation as Malakas and Maganda, and they portray themselves as the mother and father of the country due to the strong family values of Filipinos. Moreover, strong family values wherein fellow countrymen were viewed as “brothers” were utilized to impart unity and nationalism to citizens. Likewise, Marcos Jr. calls for unity “as brothers and sisters under one nation.” The Marcos family utilized art in the specific form of films even before the presidency of Marcos Jr. in efforts of historical revisionism. Contrary to facts about the Marcos family, the film “Maid in Malacañang,” which was co-produced by Imee Marcos, highlighted humanizing their family through misrepresenting events and people. They were portrayed as an overwhelmed family in crisis and framed the presidency of Marcos Sr. as the “golden era,” contrasting the harsh reality of the country at that time. Recently, Marcos Jr. ordered the recitation of the “Bagong Pilipinas Hymn and Pledge” during flag ceremonies of national agencies and state universities. This order is again an illustration of arts and culture in the daily lives of Filipinos being utilized to promote the Marcos administration as it is in line with their brand of governance and leadership. Attacks on the press Many news organizations such as ABS -CBN Broadcasting Corporation and Associated Corporation, Signs of the Times, The Communicator, Ang Bandilyo, DXBB, DXCO, and WE Forum were shut down during the presidency of Marcos Sr., and the “crony press” composed of his relatives and friends overran the closed organizations. Journalists were threatened and jailed while political propaganda of the Marcoses became prevalent. Journalists were also killed, and there were 71 recorded cases. In modern times, Marcos Jr. seizes journalists by favoring vloggers and influencers, especially during his campaign, by accrediting vloggers as a Palace media priority in covering briefings. Pro-Marcos troll farms have been widespread in social media in boosting the image of Marcos Jr. Currently, attacks against media workers persist with a record of approximately 135 incidents. Term extensions The term of Marcos Sr. was supposed to last until 1972, according to the 1935 Philippine Constitution. However, Proclamation 1081 allowed him to declare martial law, and he could extend his authority for 21 years. This term extension provided ample time for Marcos Sr. to fulfill his abuse of power. Now, an amendment to the 1987 Philippine Constitution is being pushed. Aside from its economic implications, it also holds political implications that may result similarly to the prolonged power of Marcos Sr. Despite the proposed decrease of one year for each term in the Resolution of Both Houses 1, it aims to permit Presidents and Vice Presidents to run for two terms. Despite the decrease in years per term, allowing two terms would result in a possible extension that would last ten years, which may open the possibility of prolonging the term of Marcos Jr. as well. Lavish lifestyle Marcos Sr. and Imelda became wealthy and lived such a grand life through state funds that his presidency was recognized as the “Greatest Robbery of a Government.” This was evident with the museum-worthy art collection, designer-filled wardrobes, and extravagant jewelry. Throughout the presidency of both Marcoses, a large sum of the state budget has been spent on their private life, such as Marcos Jr.’s use of state property for his transportation and the use of the military as a private army by Marcos Sr. For the year 2024, a grand budget amounting to P1.408 billion was granted for the travels of Marcos Jr. while spending P398 million for the year 2022. Throughout his presidency, he has had 26 grand trips abroad that were claimed to be for diplomatic purposes and the country’s development. When accused by former president Rodrigo Duterte of traveling for leisure during the “Laban Kasama ang Bayan” prayer rally for Apollo Quiboloy in Manila, Marcos Jr. responded by revealing a copy of his Germany trip schedule. “Where’s the leisurely travel? None. You know, we don’t come here for strolling, even in the places I spent a lot of time in. I can’t go to the usual places I go to because we’re here,” he said. According to the Department of Trade and Industry, Marcos' foreign trips also yielded P294 billion worth of investments and 200,000 job opportunities. Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro criticizes the expenditure on Marcos’ trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, citing the Philippine delegation reaching over 70 and describing it as “lavish” due to the expensive cost of transportation, food, and hotel rates. Nevertheless, there have been instances where state property, such as the presidential helicopter, was used for personal use, like his attendance at a concert of the British rock band Coldplay, which is clearly outside his state duties. For Marcos Sr., it was recorded that $100 million in American military aid was spent on luxury helicopters whose purpose was claimed to be for “combatting a guerilla insurgency.” Philippine military commanders and declassified documents also claim that the Philippine armed forces were utilized to protect the family and friends of Marcos Sr., which highlights how the Marcoses used state properties for their private lives.