[EDITORIAL] Logos won’t cover up failed leadership, Marcos Jr.

Three weeks before his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. forced an absurd pill down our throats: the Bagong Pilipinas campaign “characterized by a principled, accountable and dependable government.” 

A July 3 memorandum from the president’s office stated that the move was anchored on promises toward steering the country’s economy “back to a high-growth path,” reducing poverty and promoting agriculture, among others.

The administration’s new “brand of leadership” launched a logo that national government agencies are now mandated to plaster on their social media accounts and documents “pertaining to the flagship programs of the government.”

But hasn’t Marcos been in office for more than one year already?

Twelve months should have been enough time to lay the foundations for curing the nation’s ills. With mere promises, Marcos’ leadership has only driven the country into a downward spiral of economic turmoil and a shrinking democracy that no amount of rebranding can conceal.

The son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. took the presidency mid-last year when millions of Filipinos were still reeling from the effects of the pandemic. The agriculture sector is one that has seen the worst as productivity was significantly stunted.

With food self-sufficiency as one of his priorities, Bongbong Marcos assigned himself as agriculture secretary despite bearing no stellar background in this crucial sector. 

But only half into his first year, the president already mishandled two food crises that drove food inflation as high as 10.6% by the end of 2022. It was at 6.4% when he became president.

Marcos, who vowed to appoint the “best in the field” as cabinet members, jacked up imports. While  a viable solution for the onion crisis, the late order of this directive was criticized as further detrimental to already suffering farmers.

As for the sugar crisis, a botched importation order triggered resignations in and a reorganization of the Sugar Regulatory Authority. Importation still ensued as a renewed order was made.

The president further pinned the crises to hoarding and smuggling. Only this month— almost a year after he identified the possible culprits in August—he officially ordered an executive-led probe, one without a set deadline.

Marcos’ bungled decision-making spills over to the labor sector. 

During his presidential campaign, Marcos promised to strengthen labor export policy that would “retrain” returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to seek jobs abroad. He has since jet off to numerous countries to “foster stronger ties” that could guarantee migrant workers’ safety and security.

But amid all his efforts to stir opportunities abroad for workers, the president had failed to tackle pressing labor issues during his maiden SONA,

While job fairs and cash assistance to small businesses help decrease the unemployment rate, Filipinos are still forced to bring their skills elsewhere as exploitative working conditions are left to fester in this country.

What ever happened to his promise of revisiting the anti-endo bill?

While Filipinos’ lands and wallets bleed dry, our coffers experience the same. This is no surprise given the overwhelming amount of debt incurred by the Duterte administration during the onslaught of the pandemic.

As of May 2023, Philippine debt stands at P14 trillion, or about 95.08% of the expected debt by the end of 2023.

The problem, however, lies with a president hell-bent on establishing a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) despite our insufficient resources.

The Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) — proposed by the president’s cousin and son who are both  in Congress — was touted as a “vehicle for economic growth” by Marcos’ economic managers.

A country’s surplus normally finances SWFs, but the existing funds in government agencies would back up the MIF, supposedly to stimulate the administration’s priority programs.

UP economists, however, have struck down the MIF as a fund with confused goals and alarming provisions, ultimately “[violating] fundamental principles of economics and finance and [posing] serious risks to the economy and the public sector.”

After being railroaded in Congress, and amid protests against its passing, the “urgent” MIF bill was signed into law last Tuesday, July 18.

Calling this government “dependable” and “principled” would be deceitful when it clearly fails to heed the concerns of its people. Nor can it be deemed accountable when it has allowed and caused hundreds to suffer, disappear and die without justice.

The menace of Duterte’s drug war has seeped into Marcos’ administration. In the president’s first full year, the UP Third World Studies Center recorded at least 342 drug-related killings.

Similarly, the critical press continues to be assailed. The Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility has tallied 75 incidents of threats and attacks during Marcos’ first 10 months alone. State agents rank first as alleged perpetrators, its data show.

With tactics out of a dictator’s playbook, the government also turns to forced disappearances of activists to further silence criticisms.  Since Marcos claimed the presidency, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines has documented 21 cases of alleged abductions by state forces. 

Like his tyrannical father, Bongbong Marcos tramples on  human rights which, like other issues like corruption and the transport crisis, weren’t even mentioned in his SONA last year.

“Mahal ang Pilipinas,” the tourism department’s new campaign slogan crudely translates (They have recently rebranded, too.). It’s true. We increasingly shell out more for basic necessities; we pay with our lives to survive and protect our rights every day.

Meanwhile, the government easily wasted three million pesos on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation’s new controversial logo.

Conjuring up flashy emblems and parroting the same promises only worsens the problems that have been ravaging our country. 

Not only is it an abuse of taxpayers’ money, it is also an embarrassing admission of failure by Marcos who clearly lacks the competence and the will to revive our ailing nation.

Indeed, a bagong Pilipinas is needed. But we would be fools to believe that it will materialize from a government which thrives on lies and breeds impunity.

Genuine change rests on the Filipinos who fight for their rights by spearing through masks of logos and exposing the marks of failure beneath.