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The Manila Times
Rep. Edcel C. Lagman’s
Weekly Thursday Column

THERE are serious apprehensions and grave trepidations from responsible and reputable institutions and personalities on the perils of a Ferdinand Marcos Jr. presidency.

Expressing these grim concerns are Pantheon Macroeconomics, a United Kingdom-based think tank; Japan’s Nomura Global Research; and American Credit Rating Agency Fitch Solutions and Country Risk and Industry Research, among others.

Pantheon said: “Elections in the Philippines as rarely fought on economic policy. But they still carry significant event risk, particularly if Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the current frontrunner and the son of an ex-dictator, wins.”

Nomura shares the same fear that a Marcos Jr. victory will be a bane to the Philippines’ economic recovery. It explained that Marcos Jr. “will be regarded as less market-friendly than Robredo, particularly when it comes to experience at the national level and articulating a strategy for the country to recover from the pandemic.” Robredo has a “strategic roadmap that focuses on vital sectors, such as health and education”, it added.

Nomura also gave the presidential and vice-presidential tandems scores based on five categories: continuity/good governance, infrastructure progress, fiscal discipline, national experience, and business friendliness. The team of Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan got a perfect score of five in national experience and business friendliness and registered four out of five points in the other categories. On the other hand, the duo of Marcos Jr. and Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio rated between 1 to zero on national experience and zero in business friendliness, and got lower scores in the other categories compared to Robredo and Pangilinan, except for a tie at 4 apiece on infrastructure progress.

Fitch Solutions underscored that the next president faces the awesome fiscal challenge of an escalating budget deficit since the country has yet to fully recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, a major problem which Marcos Jr. is not prepared to confront, much more surmount. It also raised the alarm that a Marcos Jr. presidency poses the risk of strongman rule. It said that he “appears to favor Duterte’s strongman leadership and has shown support for his father’s rule, posing risks of increased authoritarianism.”

To a credit rating outfit, the prospects of a despotic regime is a disincentive to international financiers and investors, particularly those with strong human rights advocacies and have firm aversion against plundering despots, a scenario which increases the risk of debt default.

The Philippine government borrows a significant amount of money from international lending institutions, aid agencies, and foreign governments. In fact, to respond to the pandemic, the Philippines incurred substantial foreign borrowings which significantly contributed to our national debt ballooning to P11.7 trillion as of Dec. 2021. Funders and grantors base their willingness to give out loans and grants based on indicators like the ratio of the national debt to the gross domestic product (GDP) since the higher the percentage of debt to GDP, the riskier it is for an institution to dispense a loan. In this connection, Fitch forecasts that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio, a measure of an economy’s ability to pay its obligations, will expand to 62.9 percent this year, up from 39.6 percent back in pre-pandemic 2019, while forecasting a higher fiscal deficit equivalent to 7.9 percent of the GDP in 2022.

Another indicator is the country’s sovereign credit rating (SCR) as assessed by a credit rating agency. The SCR gives financiers insights on the risks of investing on the debt of a country, including political risk. A Marcos Jr. presidency aggravates this political risk because of the apprehension, as stated above, of his becoming an authoritarian in the mold of President Rodrigo Duterte whose despotic policies he endorses. He also glorifies the dictatorial rule of his dictator-father. This is not to mention the inordinate plunder committed by the elder Marcos which could happen again in a Marcos Jr. presidency, thus further alienating funders and investors.

The quest to completely recover the Marcos ill-gotten hoards will be scuttled without any doubt and remorse during a Marcos Jr. presidency. If ever Marcos Jr. assumes the presidency, the dictum that “crime does not pay” will be jettisoned to cavort with the remaining Marcos ill-gotten wealth with only the Marcos kin having unrestrained access and enjoyment of the unrecovered billions of US dollars. The pomp and power of the Marcoses will again reign, while the masses of our people will suffer want, repression and misrule, reminiscent of the Marcos martial law years.   

We must not allow the Marcos pillaged wealth to be forfeited in favor of the dictator’s heirs. The Filipino people are the rightful claimants of the enormous amounts the Marcoses marauded from the Philippine treasury and profited from the proceeds of behest loans and corrupt contracts.

Both the Swiss Federal Supreme Court and our own Supreme Court have confirmed the existence of the ill-gotten wealth of the dictator Marcos and his immediate family.

In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruled that “there was little doubt about the criminal provenance of the secret Marcos accounts and securities hidden in the Swiss banks.” Accordingly, it ordered that the clandestinely deposited amounts “be transferred to the Republic of the Philippines and that their disposition be determined by a final enforceable judgment of the competent Philippine court.”

Consequently, in Republic v. Sandiganbayan (July 15, 2003), our Supreme Court held that “The Swiss deposits which were transferred to and are now deposited in escrow at the Philippine National Bank in the estimated aggregate amount of US$658,175,373.60 as of January 31, 2002, plus interest, are hereby forfeited in favor of petitioner Republic of the Philippines.”

In the leading case of PCGG v. Peña (April 12, 1988), the Supreme Court upheld the legality and need to sequester and recover the stolen wealth of the Marcoses. The rationale of this decision subsists.

The foregoing trepidations are cogent and critical because they imperil the state of the nation if ever Marcos Jr. captures Malacañang. He has to debunk and traverse them with candidness and competence. If he fails to convincingly dispel these prognoses, then he does not deserve the people’s mandate.


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