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Opinion

Doing right by the D&E

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

The D&E socioeconomic classes were Marcos’ strongholds in this election. Critics believe the masses were influenced by disinformation. That is only partially true. While it is true that the retelling of history and the demolition jobs of political opponents influenced the masses’ minds, there were enough counter-narratives out there to help them make an informed decision.

Bottom line, the D&E chose Marcos. They did so despite the baggage of human rights abuses and economic collapse under martial law. They did so despite the mountain of corruption charges that hound the family.

I believe the masses chose Marcos for three reasons. First, however successful the Aquino and Ramos reforms were to re-establish democracy and re-boot the economy, it fell short to uplift the lives of the poor. Even if the economy multiplied in size by 13 times since the EDSA Revolution, those poor in 1986 remain poor today – and they represent 14.6 million households. Meanwhile, a narrow elite of some 143,000 families corners the country’s wealth. The wealthy are composed mostly of political and economic dynasties. As far as the D&E are concerned, a vote for Marcos is a rebellion against the status quo and a clamor for sweeping change.

Second, a large part of the Marcos-Duterte campaign was based on the abasement and humiliation of their strongest threat, VP Leni Robredo. The demolition job started as early as 2016. Hate and resentment are emotions that fester among the masses, given the injustice of acute income inequality. Thus, when presented with an object of hate, it was natural for them to join the hate fest as a release of their outrage. For those consumed by bitterness, hate is easier than radical love.

Third, the D&E vote was personal. The majority views the A, B and C classes not as employers, allies or friends but as oppressors. Knowing full well that the middle and upper classes are largely Robredo supporters, they supported her antithesis to mock them.

The romantic illusion of a Marcos presidency will soon fade as the real work of governance begins. Will Marcos be the agent of radical change that the D&E hope for or will he exacerbate income inequality? Time will tell. One thing is for sure, there will be no hiding this time. The presidency will expose the president’s abilities, values, work ethic and sincerity.

Marcos will be inheriting a nation fraught with problems. Needing immediate attention is the gaping budget deficit and a distressing debt load amounting to 60.5 percent of GDP. A manufacturing and agricultural sector which have eroded to a point that we are now import dependent for practically all our needs, including rice and flour. As if those aren’t enough, unemployment stands at 6.4 percent while 23.7 percent of the population lives from hand to mouth.

Job creation cuts across most of our economic woes. Jobs translate to wealth aggregation for individuals and the entire economy. It spurs economic activity and generates revenues, both of which can ease budgetary pressures and debt dependence. But job creation is a function of investments – and realizing investments is a function of confidence. Confidence is the heart of it all.

The fact that Marcos has not articulated his vision nor presented a leadership agenda does not inspire confidence. No surprise the stock market lost P160 billion in value on the day following the quick count.

Marcos must give investors reason to believe in him. Fundamental is a credible Cabinet composed of the best and brightest. The appointment of low caliber individuals who are obviously political accommodations will only debase his credibility. Vital too is a credible vision and economic roadmap. But, more importantly, we must receive cues that tell us that corruption and cronyism will not be the order of the day but a level playing field. We must receive signals that the rule of law will be held supreme and no one will be exempt from prosecution, including the houses of Marcos and Duterte. Both must face their civil and criminal charges like any other citizen. To drop charges or interfere with due process will only confirm that impunity and entitlement are back. It will confirm that the administration is not worthy of confidence.

As mentioned earlier, the thorn on the side of the D&E classes is income inequality. The causes of income inequality are not family-owned conglomerates who provide economic activity and jobs – rather, its enemies are political dynasties. Dynasties hog the most lucrative business opportunities in their bailiwicks – from power distribution to franchises of fast-food chains. Private businesses are unable to compete, given the dynasty’s political and economic sway. Local industries are choked and less jobs are created. Worse, dynasties are generally populist and averse to enacting reforms that erode political equity or decentralize power.

Does Marcos have the political will to quash political dynasties, most of whom are his allies? Will he have the wherewithal to enact the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill? We shall see. Not to do so, however, is tantamount to abetting the status quo. It will be a betrayal of the D& E classes who supported him.

We all know that corruption exacerbates income inequality. Will Marcos lead by example and adhere to the tenets of good governance and transparency? Will he enact the Full Disclosure Policy Bill? Again, not to do so will betray the masses.

The national budget is a tool to foster growth and make investment in our future. Will Marcos use the budget to gain the loyalties of the armed forces, police and LGUs at the expense of education, health care and housing? Will he be willing to pass the Participatory Budget Process Bill to increase civil society’s participation in budget deliberations? Let us see.

There is so much uncertainty in the air. Let’s hope Marcos does right by the D&E classes who supported him. Doing so will make him a good president to all of us.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook @Andrew J. Masigan and Twitter @aj_masigan.

MARCOS

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