Marcos Jr.’s attempt at legitimacy.
Winning the vote may give someone the legal right to assume elective office, but it does not automatically give the winner the legitimacy they need to govern effectively. Legitimacy is the public acceptance of one’s right to rule, something some elected leaders must earn almost throughout their term of office.
During the last three years of his presidency, Ferdinand Marcos Sr. struggled to overcome the loss of public confidence in his ability to govern after the Philippine economy plunged into its deepest crisis in 1983 and 1984. Economic activity fell by almost 10% during this two-year period. International creditor banks refused to lend more money to finance the country’s imports. Interest rates have reached unprecedented levels. The peso has lost its value considerably.
The crisis had deeper roots in the mismanagement of the economy over the years. However, it exploded after the brazen murder of the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. on August 21, 1983 at Manila International Airport. With the country mired in debt, Marcos Sr. sent the most prominent of his technocrats to plead with foreign banks and the International Monetary Fund to restructure the Philippines’ foreign debt. But to no avail, as members of the country’s business community had joined the clamor in the streets, denouncing not only the regime’s repression, but the excesses of crony capitalism.
It is fitting, therefore, that one of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s first actions as the country’s president-elect is to assure investors and key economic players here and abroad that he intends to be worthy of the second chance that the Filipino electorate has given his family. This is, for me, the essence of his attempt at legitimacy.
People have rightly hailed his careful selection of individuals known to be knowledgeable and experienced in their respective fields to make up his economic team. The mere announcement of their names had an immediate calming effect on the markets. But they are less optimistic about his candidates for education and justice.
The first, because his choice of Vice President-elect Sara Duterte as Secretary of Education seems oblivious to the serious problems currently facing the education sector. Sara does not have the experience or expertise, or even a long history of interest, in this area. It could probably do more for housing or social protection and development. The second, because Cavite representative Crispin Remulla, Marcos Jr.’s nominee for the Justice Department, has a reputation as more of a combative political supporter than an impartial lawyer.
But that’s only as far as the new Cabinet is concerned. There is also considerable interest in how Marcos Jr. will exercise governmental authority regarding unresolved issues that directly relate to his legal issues and those of the Marcos family. Foremost among these are the intertwined issues of Marcos’ estate tax and the ongoing cases of unexplained wealth.
We can get a glimpse of how the new president intends to handle these sensitive topics in his picks for the internal revenue post and the President’s Commission on Good Government. Similarly, the appointment of a credible figure to head the Human Rights Commission would be indicative of the seriousness with which a presidency of Marcos Jr. views the institutions that were created during the post-democratic restoration – Edsa.
As a political concept, legitimacy is not guaranteed by mere respect for the law or other normative obligations. Rather, it is conferred by the political system because of a leader’s observable compliance with those specific expectations that are generated by his or her own definition of self. Allow me to elaborate.
Marcos Jr. sought the presidency based on his self-projection as a unifying figure who would restore the nation to its former glory. Without explicitly acknowledging the mistakes and abuses committed during his father’s rule, he vowed to rule differently and pleaded to be judged on his own actions.
He anchored his quest for acceptability on the promise to unite a fragmented nation and do what is necessary to prevent what happened in the past from happening again. It will therefore now be measured according to this chosen self-image.
It should be noted that this is not the position of a populist like incumbent President Duterte, who from the start campaigned to put the elites in their place and, in his inaugural speech as president, asked for sufficient legal leeway to enable it to solve the national drug problem. Far from presenting himself as the vengeful heir to a fallen monarch, Marcos Jr. seems determined to present himself – in words and in demeanor – as the avatar of a controversial family that is grateful to have another chance. to show themselves worthy, ready to do things right and willing to be accepted by the whole nation and the rest of the world.
For 36 years, the Marcos have escaped responsibility. Now that they are back in power, they find themselves in the ironic position of having to be reminded of their duty to right past wrongs.
It is not an easy burden to bear, given the horror and disbelief with which the foreign media and a significant part of the domestic intelligentsia have greeted the return of a Marcos to the presidency. But, if Marcos Jr. approaches it with grace and serenity, there’s no reason he can’t.
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