The Manila Times
NO HOLDS BARRED
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman’s
Weekly Thursday Column
FERDINAND Marcos Jr. balked at participating in an interview featuring five leading presidential candidates by multi-awarded broadcast journalist Jessica Soho on the contrived belief that Soho is “biased against the Marcoses” without specifying the reasons for his suspicion of Soho’s partiality.
Even granting that Soho is biased, which she is not, then with more reason Marcos Jr. should have participated in the interview to unmask Sojo’s alleged bias and project his position on important national issues. He was again a no-show in another scheduled interview with radio station DZBB on Jan. 28, 2022. His staff claimed he could not be reached in Davao City.
Did Marcos Jr. shun the interviews because of his incapacity to articulate his advocacies or due to the dire dearth of advocacies?
He purposely avoided the Soho interview fearful of the possible repetition of the aftermath of the 2016 vice-presidential debates when his survey ratings plummeted compared to the irreversible rise of Leni Robredo’s numbers. In the 2016 elections when both ran for vice president, Leni’s greatest percentage increase in all surveys was after the two live Comelec-sponsored vice presidential debates where she bested Marcos Jr.
Why is he afraid to articulate and clarify his views on the following overriding electoral issues in a free-wheeling and unscripted live media interview: a) Covid-19 pandemic response and recovery; b) protection and promotion of human rights; c) fiscal challenge of national growth versus a ballooning debt service; d) stamping out corruption; e) upholding Philippine sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea; and f) cooperation with the prosecutors of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Verily, unarticulated “policies” are anathema to a democratic discourse.
Unless Marcos Jr. admits with unequivocal contrition the cardinal sins committed against the Filipino people by his late dictator-father on unabated human rights violations, inordinate corruption and profligacy, and runaway national debt, he cannot address with candor and conviction the issues of human rights violations, official corruption, and escalating debt service.
The international watchdog Human Rights Watch stressed that the next Philippine president should make human rights a priority concern in order to reverse the “unmitigated disaster for human rights” under President Rodrigo Duterte. It urged that “the next administration should stop the killings, ensure accountability, and support laws that protect basic rights.” How can Marcos Jr. prioritize human rights when he is openly defending Duterte’s wayward policies as he seeks the President’s support? Duterte, like the elder Marcos, is a flagrant violator of human rights.
With respect to corruption, he has no credibility to pontificate on eradicating graft after corruption and plunder reached unprecedented heights during his father’s regime. The Marcoses reportedly amassed ill-gotten hoards proximate to $10 billion, much of which have not been recovered and possibly still under the control and access of Marcos kin.
The country’s foreign debt soared to $28.3 billion in 1986 from a low of $1 billion in 1965 due to insatiable availment of odious and behest loans under the dictator Marcos. Enormous portions of the loan proceeds fattened the pockets of the despot and his cronies. The most infamous was the scandalous $2.1 billion loan for the acquisition and construction of a secondhand nuclear facility, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), which has been mothballed without ever having been operated for being hazardous. Post-martial law administrations improvidently continued to pay the loan until fully paid even as BNPP is a monument to graft and greed.
Marcos Jr. justified that the loans funded the “golden age” of Philippine development. He is utterly oblivious to the reality that the interest payments and principal amortizations of the corrupt loans were serviced at the expense of national growth, which largely contributed to the sinking of our Gross Domestic Product to the abyss of negative 7 percent.
This ominous backdrop reveals the inability of Marcos Jr. to face the fiscal challenge of a galloping debt service.
The recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic must be foremost in the next president’s agenda. However, Marcos Jr. does not have the experience in combatting the contagion and has no blueprint on how to restore the people’s health and revive the nation’s economy. His only recorded help in the fight against the pandemic was a donation of 13,000 rapid antibody test kits to the First District of Quezon City. Unfortunately, Marcos Jr. does not have the ability and resolve needed for the crucial pandemic response and recovery.
Marcos Jr., sarcastically said that he would allow ICC prosecutors to enter the Philippines as mere tourists, not as investigators of Duterte’s alleged crimes against humanity consequent to his brutal campaign against suspected criminals and drug users and pushers as Davao City Mayor and now as president.
Marcos Jr. defies the Supreme Court ruling in Pangilinan vs. Cayetano which a) recognized ICC’s jurisdiction over Duterte; b) rejected Duterte’s posturing that the Philippine withdrawal on Mar. 16, 2018 from the Rome Statute ousted the ICC’s jurisdiction over him; and c) confirmed that under Article 127 of the Rome Statute, the Philippine withdrawal became effective only on Mar. 17, 2019 after the ICC had taken jurisdiction.
Marcos Jr. follows Duterte’s policy of servile accommodation to China by refusing to enforce, with the help of the UN and the world community, the decision of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration recognizing the country’s sovereignty over the vast and resource-rich West Philippine Sea against the spurious claims of China. He has no qualms forfeiting Philippine sovereignty as he shares Duterte’s fear of an imagined war with China if we pursue the award.
Marcos Jr. must not depend on his brigades of mercenary trolls to communicate for him or his spokesman to speak on his behalf. He must personally address the people and face probing media interviews because the public has the right to know his views. Marcos Jr. is reminded that silence is not a virtue when one is called on to speak. It is a sign of indolence, a symptom of ignorance, scarcity of advocacies, and the stigma of cowardice.
One who fears to enter the lion’s den of public scrutiny is devoured by his own fears.