Transition: The overwhelming responsibility that came with Bongbong Marcos’ 31M votes | Inquirer News

Transition: The overwhelming responsibility that came with Bongbong Marcos’ 31M votes

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 10:27 AM December 23, 2022


MANILA, Philippines—When the elections drew to a close on May 9, “BBM na ‘yan (It’s BBM for sure)” was the sentiment that reverberated in almost all regions in the country, especially Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, and Central Visayas.

The 31,629,783 votes that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. received was the conclusion of the election-related surveys where he maintained a massive lead since last year.


READ: Bongbong Marcos exceeds Duterte number of votes in 2016 elections

Based on data from Pulse Asia, Marcos Jr. got a 53 percent preference rate in December 2021, 60 percent each in January and February 2022, and 56 percent each in March and April 2022.


This, even if looking back, the late president Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who was chief executive for over 20 years, was ousted by the 1986 bloodless revolution of Filipinos who hit a government marred with corruption and rights violations.

So how did Marcos Jr., 36 years later, manage to get a 61.47 percent electoral mandate?

It all started with a promise of bringing back a “unifying leadership,” something that heartened millions of Filipinos to stand behind him—the one they believed is best fit for the presidency.


Marcos Jr., son and namesake of Marcos Sr., declared his bid for Malacañang last year, Oct. 5, competing against seven presidential candidates, including then Vice President Leni Robredo.

He lost his vice presidential bid in 2016, but this year, he received an overwhelming support, making him win with a massive lead of 16,594,136 votes against his closest rival—Robredo, who received 15,035,773 votes.

READ: Marcos, Duterte head for landslide win

As stressed by Dr. Froilan Calilung, a political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas, Marcos Jr. got 31,629,783 votes in the May 2022 elections because of his “simple” message of unity.


READ: Up to last day of campaign, Bongbong Marcos sticks to unity message

He told state-run PTV-4 that Filipinos got “sick and tired” of the divisiveness that has defined politics in the Philippines for a “very, very long time,” then “in the midst of this, the message of unity from Marcos Jr. came.”

Landslide win


But concerns confronted his promise: Will it be enough, especially for a country still recovering from the consequences of one of the world’s harshest COVID-19 lockdowns that lasted for two years?

As stressed by Marcos Jr., “what we need to do is hard, there are a lot of things that we have to do, but with your help, if we stand united […] the dream of making people’s lives better will be a reality.”

Sol Iglesias, an assistant professor at the Department of Political Science of the University of the Philippines (UP), pointed out, however, that the simple unity message “should also be viewed in consonance with his campaign strategy of avoiding debate.”

Inheriting problems

The think tank Ibon Foundation had said problems, like joblessness and inflation, reflect the “deteriorated state that the Duterte administration has left the economy in, and which the Marcos government should seriously address.”

Looking back, the government’s outstanding debt hit the P12.79 trillion mark in June, with local debt and foreign debt reaching P8.77 trillion (68.5 percent) and P4.02 trillion (31.5 percent), respectively.

It was likewise in May when the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced that 2.93 million Filipinos were unemployed, higher than 2.76 million jobless Filipinos in April.

As stressed by the Ibon Foundation, the said PSA data indicated that the Philippines has the “worst” unemployment rate in Southeast Asia, pointing out that six percent is higher than Indonesia’s 5.8 percent and Malaysia’s 3.9 percent.

Then the inflation rate likewise hit 6.1 percent in June, the highest since the rice crisis in October 2018, when the readout was 6.9 percent, the PSA said, stressing that the value of P1 eroded to P0.87—the lowest then.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Felipe Medalla had said consumer prices will “in all likelihood” exceed the government’s target this year and take “many months” to sink back to the level deemed manageable and conducive for economic growth.

The poor had been hit hardest, the Ibon Foundation said.

As revealed then by the Social Weather Stations (SWS), 12.2 million Filipino households felt “poor” in the second quarter of 2022, higher than the 10.9 million households that considered themselves “poor” in the first quarter.

The SWS said out of the 12.2 million households, 48 percent were “poor,” while 31 percent were “borderline poor,” which is the line that divides the “poor” and “not poor.” Some 21 percent considered themselves “not poor.”

Likewise, the June 26 to 29 survey on involuntary hunger, the last in the Duterte administration, showed that 11.6 percent of Filipino households, or 2.9 million, experienced being hungry and not having anything to eat at least once.

While the said hunger rate was 0.6 points below the 12.2 percent in the first quarter of 2022, it was still 1.6 points higher than the 10 percent in the third quarter of 2021 and 2.3 points higher than pre-COVID yearly average of 9.3 percent.

Economic recovery ‘not for all’

But Marcos Jr., who was already proclaimed then as the one who won in the elections, had a sigh of relief as the PSA said the gross domestic product (GDP) grew to 8.3 percent in the first quarter of 2022.

RELATED STORY: Bongbong Marcos retakes Palace today

“This is a significant reversal from the 3.8 percent contraction in the same period last year. We have surpassed the pre-pandemic gross domestic product level,” Duterte’s economic managers said.

However, GDP growth slowed down to 7.5 percent in the second quarter as rising inflation weighed on consumer spending, with the PSA saying that the growth rate was slower than the 12.1 percent a year earlier.


Despite the slowdown, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said it was still optimistic that the economy will meet its growth targets this year even with the effects of inflationary pressures, limited fiscal space, and slowdown of demand.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan had said the domestic consumption and investment on the demand side, as well as the services sector on the supply side, has propelled the economy forward.

“The most recent data show us that household consumption contributes a significant 85 percent of economic growth on the demand side, while the services sector contributes about 67 percent to growth on the supply side.”

Both components, he said, grew faster than the overall economy, “indicating that their shares in GDP are expected to increase further [while] gross fixed capital formation or investment is also exhibiting a solid performance.”

But last June, Ibon Foundation said while the government claimed that the economy is on its way to recovery, the over one million drop in employed Filipinos, especially in April, reflected a “stumbling” economic recovery.

“The jobs crisis and inflation have worsened due to the lack of production sectors that can provide steady employment and incomes and deliver the requirements for national development,” Ibon Foundation said.

It stressed that “the recent hyped rapid growth is clearly not creating enough jobs and the jobless growth from before the pandemic is reasserting itself in a worse way after the harsh and over-long lockdowns.”

Defending PH sovereignty

Marcos Jr. was likewise confronted with challenges regarding Philippines’ sovereign rights, with Pulse Asia saying that 89 percent of Filipinos believed that he should assert sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea.

Pulse Asia said this was strongly supported by all socio-economic classes in all regions, with 95 percent from class ABC, 88 percent from class D, and 91 percent from class E. Nine percent were not certain of their view, while only 1 percent disagreed.

“It reflects the Filipino people’s desire for the new government to assert our rights based on our arbitral victory in 2016,” said Prof. Dindo Manhit, president of Stratbase-ADR Institute.

Looking back, the Pambansang Lakas ng Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas, a fisherman’s group, said Marcos should discuss plans to assert sovereign rights in the West Philippine Sea, empower local fisheries production, and protect coastal communities.


This, as Duterte, in his six-year presidency, had been heavily criticized for his policy on China’s aggression in the West Philippine Sea. In one instance, he described the Philippines’ legal victory against China as a “worthless piece of paper.”

That “piece of paper” was the Philippine victory on July 12, 2016 in the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled that the Philippines has exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea and China’s nine-dash line invention has no legal basis.

Shrinking space for human rights

Duterte’s six year presidency, as stressed by rights activists, was marred with attacks on human rights, including the relentless red-tagging by officials of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

His war against the Reds, which was consistently hit because of the “dangerous” practice of tagging activists as rebels, had seen 442 activists killed and 591 activists arrested since July 1, 2016, the first day of Duterte’s six year presidency.

Likewise, Duterte’s war against illegal drugs, which persisted throughout his presidency, claimed the lives of 6,252 drug suspects as of May 2022—deaths, which rights groups said, could be as high as 30,000.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency said aside from the over 6,000 deaths, 345,216 suspects were arrested in the 239,218 total drug operations started by the police since 2016.

Meanwhile, 10,112 barangays have yet to be “cleared” of illegal drugs, while 25,361 have been proclaimed “cleared.” Some 6,573 barangays were tagged by PDEA as “drug unaffected.”

Based on a 48-page report released by the Commission on Human Rights, it was concluded that police officers involved in the “drug war” showed “intent to kill” and used “excessive force” in its anti-illegal drug operations.

‘It’s Marcos for us’

When Marcos Jr. was still campaigning, was able to talk to some of the clan’s loyalists, including 71-year-old Saturnino Velasco, who stressed that the son and namesake of Marcos Jr. is the only one fit for the presidency.

Based on Comelec data, there were 10 candidates for president last May—Marcos Jr., Robredo, Manny Pacquiao, Isko Moreno, Panfilo Lacson, Faisal Mangondato, Ernesto Abella, Leody de Guzman, Norberto Gonzales, and Jose Montemayor Jr.

But Velasco said he was firm on his stand: “It’s only Marcos Jr. for me and the rest of my relatives here as we believe that he has the heart to serve us, like what his father, Marcos Sr., did.”

This, even if the 20-year rule of the late Marcos Sr., which included the nine-year martial law period, is considered one of the darkest years in the history of the Philippines.

As stated by Amnesty International, the martial law years “unleashed a wave of crimes under international law and grave human rights violations, including tens of thousands of people arbitrarily arrested and detained, tortured, forcibly disappeared, and killed.”

But Pulse Asia executive director Ana Tabunda said “obviously, he has captured the imagination of a good percentage of our voters,” stressing that he “also has more than adequate resources to sustain his presence in social media, his caravans, his campaign.”

“Plus, his name of course and the association with his father has definitely benefited him from that,” she told ANC when the Feb. 18 to 23 survey, which yielded a 60 percent preference rate for Marcos Jr., was released.

Robredo, his closest rival, only received a preference rate of 20 percent in December 2021, 16 percent in January 2022, 15 percent in February 2022, 24 percent in March 2022, and 23 percent in April 2022.

Pulse Asia said the rest of the presidential candidates, like Pacquiao, Moreno, and Lacson, only received single-digit preference rates since last year—two percent to 10 percent.

With five days remaining before the May 9 elections, Tabunda said Pulse Asia was convinced that most of the 65 million registered voters had already decided who to vote for as the next president.

READ: Pulse Asia believes latest survey showing Bongbong Marcos lead could reflect result of May 9 polls

Tabunda told radio station DZRH that she believed that the result of the April 16 to 21 survey could also be the result in the elections of May 9: “The rest will really have a difficult time coping up in the race.”

Based on official results from the National Board of Canvassers, Marcos Jr. won by a landslide with 31,629,783 votes, while Robredo, Pacquiao, Moreno, and Lacson trailed with 15,035,773 votes, 3,663,113 votes, 1,933,909 votes, and 892,375 votes.

READ: From 2016 to 2022: Provinces’ flip key to Marcos win

Thinking beyond the box

As pointed out by Maria Ela Atienza, a political science professor at UP, Marcos Jr.’s election “may be surprising for outsiders, but if we look at trends in Philippine politics, he began the campaign with a lot of advantages.”

She said while Marcos Jr. had a “not so impressive” background, he thrived in an “environment where political parties are weak, party programs are not seriously examined, and political clans and wealth are dominant.”

Atienza told that Marcos Jr., likewise thrived in an environment where “personal images are more dominant than substance, fake news thrive, especially in social media.”

She stressed that progressive groups and post-Edsa and 1986 elites likewise failed to strengthen democratic institutions, values and culture, build alternative programs and policies of government, as well as improve the lives of many people.

“The post-1986 administrations failed to solve the problems of the country, including poverty and inequality,” pointing out that the opposition failed to unite and present a strong alternative to elite politics,” Atienza said.

As a result, “they have not been able to convince most people in the grassroots that their programs have relevance to their everyday needs.”

“Coming from multiple crises in the last few years also made many sectors more vulnerable to vote buying and fake news. The multisectoral coalition behind Robredo’s candidacy came a bit late in the game,” she said.

She, however, stressed that the multisectoral coalition could be nurtured post-May elections because of the many lessons from the campaign.

Missed chance?

Iglesias told that Marcos Jr. rose to power in the aftermath of six years of “intense deterioration” of democracy in the Philippines with a promise of continuity rather than reform.

“Marcos Jr. has been waiting for this moment for a long time. Certainly, any major candidate—especially once they see that their victory is probable—would have a plan for transitioning into office, assembling a cabinet, and pursuing priority policies.”

“Slowness gives an impression of a lack of preparedness, an inability to attract expertise into public service, or perhaps an underestimation of the dire situation the country faces, especially the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the economy and the need to manage the current phase of the pandemic,” Iglesias said.

Atienza, meanwhile, said because it looked like “he had all the advantages based on many polls, he actually did not prepare to seriously address the challenges of the country.”

“It actually worked in his favor to disrespect the process of deliberation and electoral competition by not participating in many public debates,” she stressed.

“His vague message of unity without specific programs and promises coupled with the huge resources of his campaign and the big interests that supported him kept his campaign going.”

There’s still reason to hope

Asked how Marcos Jr. fared in his first months as president, Iglesias said his work was “not as bad as I feared, [but] not as good as many hoped.”

“One relative strength of the current administration is a willingness to re-engage with international processes,” she said, citing as an example how Marcos “has a better, although flawed, human rights stance than [what] Duterte had.”

“Marcos, Jr. has allowed the UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking to examine the local situation and UN experts on Extrajudicial Killing as well as Freedom of Expression will be visiting soon. These are all welcome signs after Duterte’s hostility,” she said.

For Atienza, “there is not much that has changed from Duterte to Marcos Jr., except in terms of possibly making the Philippines visible again in diplomatic regional and international activities and working with allies again. “

However, Iglesias pointed out that Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla’s performance at the UN Human Rights Council review in Geneva—particularly the denial of red-tagging in the Philippines—was “deplorable.”

“The government needs to correct this and address the problem head on. Former Senator de Lima and other political prisoners remain unjustly detained.”

“While the convictions of the surviving killer for Carl Arnaiz and Reynaldo de Guzman are welcome, the conviction along with those of Kian delos Santos’s killers are also the exceptions that prove the rule: impunity for thousands of victims of the so-called “war on drugs,” she said.

While she stressed that the high profile attention that the government is giving to radio broadcaster Percy Mabasa’s murder is welcome, she asked about the other journalists, especially those outside Manila, whose murders are awaiting justice.

What Marcos Jr. should realize

As stressed by Atienza, one of Marcos Jr.’s strengths for now is that publicly, many politicians, elites, and political families appear to continue standing behind him.

She explained that in the absence of strong political parties and programs, “what we have is a large coalition behind him with varying vested interests.”

“This can break up anytime,” Atienza said.

Because of this, Marcos Jr. should prioritize getting capable people to help him govern. However, “right now, the Cabinet is not yet complete.”

Iglesias said the President has failed to appoint a Health Secretary, while he took on the Agriculture portfolio, which became a “mess right at the beginning and a chorus of voices is growing that he should appoint someone to take over instead.”

For Atienza, Marcos Jr. should genuinely work at making his promise of “unity” a reality for all Filipinos by being more inclusive in decision-making and implementation.


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