A quick look at Bongbong Marcos and his 'unity' campaign

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
A quick look at Bongbong Marcos and his 'unity' campaign
Former Philippine senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, greets supporters after filing his candidacy for the country's 2022 presidential race, at Sofitel Harbor Garden Tent in Pasay on October 6, 2021.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa
This is part of a series of articles about the top presidential candidates and their policy views. Read the rest in the series:

Ping Lacson
| Bongbong Marcos | Isko Moreno Domagoso | Leni Robredo | Manny Pacquiao


MANILA, Philippines — Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is gunning for the country’s highest seat in the land, marking his family's second attempt to return to Malacañang after the ouster of the clan patriarch.

Marcos’ presidential bid was met with the strongest criticism from across all sectors — the loudest, from victims of his father’s brutal regime — and was met with a slew of legal challenges at the Commission on Elections. He has been cleared for nearly all of these legal challenges at the poll body, but the fight is expected to come up to the Supreme Court.

Initially, he picked President Rodrigo Duterte as his running-mate but, after a flurry of withdrawals, Marcos ended up with presidential daughter and Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as his vice-presidential bet.

Their tandem, dubbed as UniTeam which is also a play on their proposed unity campaign, saw the gathering of the country’s biggest and oldest political clans, through the parties they founded.

Here’s a cheat sheet on the survey frontrunner and Partido Federal ng Pilipinas standard-bearer:

Marcos' team

Running-mate: Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, the president's daughter, has more than a decade of experience in local government under her belt.

Spokesperson: Vic Rodriguez is a lawyer by profession, and has served as Marcos’ spokesperson even during the pendency of their electoral challenge against Vice President Leni Robredo’s win.

Campaign manager: Benhur Abalos resigned from being Metro Manila Development Authority chairperson to return to Marcos’ campaign. In the 2016 polls, Abalos served as Marcos’ campaign manager for Metro Manila.

UniTeam senators

The Marcos-Duterte tandem, among the last to bare their slate, is backing the bid of ten senatorial candidates. Rodriguez described them as a “mixture of seasoned and proven political personalities who have excelled in their respective endeavors.”

Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta (Sagip party-list)

UniTeam referred to their top pick as the lawmaker “known for slashing the budget of the Commission on Human Rights to P1,000 in 2017.” Marcoleta is also known for distributing anti-parasitic drug ivermectin despite warnings that there is not enough evidence to support its use to prevent or treat COVID-19 and opposing the franchise bid of network giant ABS-CBN.

He was on the Senate slate of the initial administration PDP-Laban party ticket that had Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa as presidential candidate. 

Suspended lawyer Larry Gadon

Gadon, who “had been helping Marcos team for years,” is on indefinite suspension from practicing law and at risk of disbarment over his vulgar remarks against a journalist. He also cursed at supporters of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom he wanted to be impeached but failed.

Majority Floor Leader Miguel Zubiri

The re-electionist’s addition to the slate “has bolstered the unity ticket’s already sturdy position in Mindanao, which is his family’s bailiwick,” the UniTeam said. Zubiri’s senatorial bid is also endorsed by four more presidential aspirants, but, on February 8, when proclamation rallies were held simultaneously, he showed at the Philippine Arena.

Former Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar

The scion of the powerful Villar clan is one of the three former Duterte Cabinet members on the UniTeam slate. He led the department that took charge of the current administration’s flagship "Build, Build, Build" program.

He was on the Senate slate of the initial administration PDP-Laban party ticket that had Sen. Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa as presidential candidate. 

Rep. Loren Legarda (Antique)

Legarda is eyeing a return to the upper chamber, where she previously chaired the finance, foreign relations, economic affairs, environment and climate change committees.

Former Palace spokesperson Harry Roque

This is Roque’s second attempt to run for a Senate seat. He ran in 2019 but later withdrew his bid. Twice appointed as Duterte’s spokesperson, Roque is a former public interest and human rights lawyer. During the UniTeam proclamation rally, he mentioned prominent cases that he handled — including that of Jennifer Laude, whose killer the Duterte administration has given an absolute pardon. 

Former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada

 A child of president like the top two candidates f the UniTeam are, Estrada is seeking a return to the Senate after failing to get in the winner’s circle in 2019. He is out on bail over charges of plunder and graft related to the “pork barrel” scam, where he is accused of amassing P183 million worth of kickbacks.

Former Defense Secretary Gibo Teodoro

Teodoro is a former defense secretary — a post that he said, during the proclamation rally, he owes to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. After losing in the 2010 presidential elections, Teodoro stayed under the radar until he was seen meeting Duterte-Carpio in Davao in June 2021. He was briefly among the potential candidates for vice president.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian

The re-electionist currently chairs the committees on education and on energy at the Senate. His senatorial bid also has the backing of the Pacquiao-Atienza tandem, and although he personally attended the UniTeam rally, he was represented by his girlfriend Bianca Manalo at the GenSan event.

Former DICT Secretary Gringo Honasan

Although he was a key figure in the 1986 People Power Revolution, Honasan in 2022 finds himself allying with the son of the dictator he used to work for and later helped unseat. Another Duterte Cabinet member, he seeks a return to the Senate.

Proposed platforms

During the official launch of the UniTeam on February 8, Marcos hammered on their “unity” campaign in the entirety of his 15-minute speech, leaving their discussion on their platforms wanting.

He has shunned a couple of forums where he could have expounded on their platforms, and kept participation in interviews where, their campaign said, they could better enunciate their programs as opposed to programs where they are pitted against other candidates.

The Marcos campaign however has been releasing a steady stream of press releases with limited quotes.

Pandemic response

Marcos dubbed his COVID-19 response program as jab to job.” Meaning, get jabbed against the coronavirus and get the people back to their jobs.

“We do that, in my view, we do that by revitalizing the MSMEs, the small business… The government can help them with lower taxes or tax holidays, amnesties etc. the private sector can come in with microfinancing,” he said in a one-on-one interview with Boy Abunda.

For Marcos, there will be no more lockdowns because the Filipino cannot do another round of it.

Will he order mandatory vaccination? Marcos, in a January 24 interview with the ALC media group, said he will continue the vaccination drive but “you cannot force anyone to get vaccinated.” 

Human rights

If elected, Marcos said he will continue Duterte’s "war on drugs" with the same vigor, but would take a different tack to it, stressing prevention and rehabilitation.

Noting that the bloody "war on drugs" focused only on the enforcement side, he said he will also focus on prevention, educating the youth on the ill-effects of drugs and improving rehabilitation centers, he said in an October 2021 interview with CNN Philippines.

How about Duterte officials accused of committing crimes against humanity over the bloody "war on drugs" before the International Criminal Court? Marcos takes the same stance as Duterte that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the country.

In an interview with Boy Abunda, he said: "We have a functioning judiciary, and that’s why I do not see the need for a foreigner to come and do the job for us, to do the job for our judicial system. Our judicial system is perfectly capable of doing that."

Education and youth

Marcos proposes a program called “National Education Portal,” an online platform to be developed by the government and I.T. experts that will be "accessible to students and teachers to simply and secure e-learning for both public and private institutions."

The NEP will be a central hub "to allow students and teachers to communicate securely and provide digital learning materials,” he said in a release dated Nov. 15, 2021.

He says in the same release that he will continue Duterte’s flagship "Build, Build, Build” program" and include in it digital infrastructure to strengthen internet connection. He adds he will seek the support of Telecommunication companies and internet providers to ensure the success of NEP.

His running mate, Duterte-Carpio, said she wants mandatory military service for all 18 years old Filipinos.

Jobs creation and retention

The UniTeam targets jobs creation in "business, agriculture, tourism and infrastructure" industries, Marcos says in a January 16 release.

Among their priorities is focusing on micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. In an interview with Boy Abunda, he said the government can help small businesses with "lower taxes, tax holidays, and amnesties."

Asked on "endo" or the practice of using short labor contracts that skirt laws on security of tenure, Marcos meanwhile told the DZRH panel that he would talk to big corporations to curb it. In Filipino, he answered: "We will talk to them. We are friends with them, anyway, and we will tell them to be fair, make [the workers] permanent and change the system."

The practice of labor contractualization started in the country when the Marcos patriarch signed the Philippine Labor Code in 1974 in a bid to address an elevated jobless rate amid a shaky economy at the time.

In a release on February 23, Marcos said he is open to making the Security of Tenure bill a priority if elected, and would push for streamlining processes for workers locally and abroad.

For Overseas Filipino Workers, Marcos said in an ALC Media Group interview that he proposed a return to "the old system that when the worker comes home, when their contracts end, that there will be a program of re-training, especially for those that have come home and are hoping to go back for a new contract," an echo of his father’s policy of "Development Diplomacy."

But in a separate interview with Boy Abunda, Marcos said the ideal is to bring all Filipinos home, if they want to. "It boils down to jobs. The only way to bring our workers home is to provide them with jobs," he added.

Public services and social safety nets

Marcos says he wants to do more for the cause and welfare of persons with disabilities, and if elected, he said in a January 27 release that he will "ask local government units and business sector to help and do their share to help our PWDs by giving jobs and other means of livelihood."

The UniTeam also proposed the modernization of ferry transportation system and committed to support the proposed Pasig River Ferry Convergence Program.

In a release on January 13, they said the team “plans to construct new and disaster-resilient ferry stations, improve on existing ones, and launch safe, sleek and state-of-the-art ferries to encourage commuters in patronizing them.”

A separate statement from the Marcos campaign said the presidential aspirant said they aim to intensify urban planning and revisit the country’s spillway system.

Following the aftermath of the destructive and deadly Typhoon Odette, Marcos recalled his father's move to "intensify urban planning.”

In a December 29 release, Marcos said: "Agad iniutos ng aking ama, na regular linisin ang mga estero at maglagay ng mga spillway para makontrol kung saan puwedeng lumabas ang tubig sa panahon ng tag-ulan."

(My father immediately ordered that gutters and sewers are regularly cleaned and to put up spillways to control where water will go during the rainy season)

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