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Marcos sticks to 'unity' as term starts, salutes workers as plans remain undetailed

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Marcos sticks to 'unity' as term starts, salutes workers as plans remain undetailed
New Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., along with family members, watch as members of the military parade past during his inaugural ceremony at the National Museum in Manila on June 30, 2022.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — A promise to rid the country of drugs and criminality in three to six months catapulted former President Rodrigo Duterte to the Malacañang from the Southern city of Davao. His successor, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also made a broad campaign vow: Unity.

The promise, as vague and all-encompassing as analysts have said, may be argued as something Marcos’ UniTeam realized: His rise to power—more than 30 years after his late father’s ouster—saw prominent and political families come together to support one tandem that secured a historic majority votes of more than 31 million, respectively.

As early as 6 a.m., supporters started flocking to the Intramuros Golf Course despite a threat of rain from the gloomy skies. But just as VIPs—who were expected to have been more than a thousand—stated arriving, supporters clad in red were allowed to get nearer the stage and stand behind the barricades, and the weather improved.

Speaking before his supporters, Marcos marveled at his call for unity that "started to resonate with you, it did so because it echoed your yearnings, mirrored your sentiments, and expressed your hopes for your family, for the country, and for a better future.”

But right after stressing about unity, the president took a swipe at his rivals, accusing them of “politics of division” while claiming to have similar plans as they did.

“By your vote, you rejected the politics of division. I offended none of my rivals in this campaign. I listened instead to what they were saying and I saw little incompatibility with my own ideas about jobs, fair wages, personal safety, and national strength and unending want in a land of plenty.”

Marcos then went on to discuss proposals for the administration in broad strokes, but went back to hitting at his rivals in the middle of his 24-minute speech. He said he did not talk much in the campaign and did not bother rebutting his rivals, and instead searched for solutions.

Marcos vowed he will bare plans at the joint session of Congress in July when he is set to deliver the State of the Nation Address, or SONA.

“I did not lecture you, who has the biggest stake in our success. And the forthcoming State of the Nation will tell you exactly how we shall get this done,” he added.

Marcos opted out of debates and forums where he would face other presidential candidates, and while his supporters online continued to pile on his rivals. Fact-checking coalition Tsek.ph, meanwhile, found that former Vice President Leni Robredo, his closest competitor, was at the receiving end of fake news detrimental to her campaign.

A nod at workers

Part of the inauguration program at the National Museum is a 30-minute military and civic parade where the naval, air force and army assets were exhibited.

The show of force was followed by a “civic parade,” that included medical frontliners, Overseas Filipino Workers, athletes, transport workers, laborers, street sweepers, farmers and fisherfolk. They wore red face masks stating they are part of the 31 million who voted for Marcos.

At this point, Marcos stood up and went closer to the edge of the stage, alternating between clapping enthusiastically and saluting the members of different sectors on parade.

The president heaped praises on Filipino nurses as the “best in the world” as he promised to fix the shortcomings in the government’s pandemic response but concrete plans were lacking. He has yet to name the next health secretary.

But in his speech, University of the Philippines Political Science professor Maria Ela Atienza pointed out that plans for local workers remain unclear.

"He and his administration should be able to have long-term plans to strengthen the educational system but at the same time focus on retooling, retraining and protecting the welfare of those currently in the labor force. He should also provide more opportunities for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic," she said in a message to Philstar.com.

Peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas called Marcos' inaugural speech "superficial and empty," as it pointed out the lack of plans in his statement.

"As in his electoral campaign, Marcos Jr. repeatedly mentioned agriculture but only talked bout in platitudes. Although he spoke against importation and for food sufficiency, there is still not a single concrete step or plan laid out," the KMP added.

For OFWs, Marcos said he will give them “all the advantages” for them to survive, but again, concrete plans were not yet bared.

Atienza said Marcos recognized OFWs rightly for their contribution to the economy, but "he did not address the reasons why many Filipinos go abroad to work, i.e. poverty, the limited opportunities and low pay here, among others."

She also pointed out that while the president cited instances of maltreatment for OFWs, he "did not directly talk about how they could be protected and how their rights and welfare abroad should be linked with our foreign policy and relationship with receiving countries."

Marcos kept his speech mostly in English and while he elicited cheers from VIPs, it was when he spoke in Filipino did his supporters resumed cheering for him. — with report from Dawn Danielle Solano, intern

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