Unity

The only post-EDSA president who genuinely promoted national unity was the one who garnered the smallest plurality of votes, with less than 24 percent: Fidel V. Ramos.

“Team Philippines” was no empty slogan for the Ramos administration.

Maybe it was easier for FVR to truly reach out to all sectors, considering his background: an EDSA hero whose defection to the opposition camp was a critical element in the success of the revolt, he was also part of the Solid North and a second cousin of the deposed dictator.

Ramos reached out not only to rival political camps but also to the communists, Islamic secessionists and right-wing extremists. As Corazon Aquino’s military chief, he had reaped flak for “punishing” the incorrigible coup pals with just 30 push-ups.

Thanks to the country working as a team, Ramos managed to make the people swallow several bitter pills for economic liberalization, which helped the country avoid the worst of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Having won by a narrow plurality, perhaps the determination to create a united national team was greater for FVR. Unity is always easier for efficient governance.

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I think of Team Philippines as the UniTeam victors prepare to take over the reins of government, with unity as the avowed theme.

Experience tells us that an overwhelming majority of the House of Representatives will unite behind the winning camp, especially since it looks like Ferdinand Marcos Jr.s’ cousin will be the new HOR speaker. Even the minority leader for sure will again be an ally of the majority bloc.

The Senate is less predictable, even if nearly all the winning “Magic 12” are currently allied with the Marcos-Duterte axis. There are too many big egos with tenuous and opportunistic loyalties in that chamber, and several are believed to be eyeing the presidency (of the country, not the Senate) in 2028.

As for that hand of reconciliation proffered to opponents, the winning candidates and their spokespersons will need to go beyond lip service and send the message to their minions that they mean business.

By the time their minions tire of gloating and sneering at the losers, losers, loooosers… and the trolls actually take a break, the wounds inflicted would have cankered and unity will be a pipe dream.

This is presuming that the winners are sincerely interested in creating Team Philippines.

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Still, some reforms might be possible, even if change comes in miniscule increments in this country, and Marcos Junior might yet surprise the doubters.

The choice of the new set of officials will indicate if the new administration is truly bent on seeking some stability if not genuine reconciliation.

No one expects the Marcos camp to recruit any staunch supporter of his closest rival. But recruiting abrasive and divisive personalities will quickly dispel doubts that the proffered hand of reconciliation is nothing but more fake news. Nepotism in the choices, meanwhile, will reinforce accusations of “like parents, like son” – not that the victors give a whit.

So far, the few names that have been confirmed as likely appointees have been reassuring. UniTeam campaign manager Benhur Abalos is competent and non-controversial enough for a department that deals with local executives who behave like independent republics.

Longtime migrant workers’ welfare advocate Susan “Toots” Ople is a great choice for the department newly created for that sector. But she told us on One News’ “The Chiefs” Wednesday night that she is still discerning if her health will allow it. She’s recovering from cancer and she knows from her experience as labor undersecretary how grueling government work can be.

Bienvenido Laguesma, who served as labor secretary under Joseph Estrada and Social Security System commissioner under Noynoy Aquino, has been offered his former labor post.

Marcos’ running mate Sara Duterte Carpio is guaranteed a Cabinet position. There is some intrigue swirling around her change of portfolio from defense to education, but she isn’t the type who can be forced to accept a position she doesn’t want.

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BBM’s choices for his team will also be critical in allaying economic jitters. The morning after election day, the stock market plunged, and stayed red for the rest of the week.

Brokers said it wasn’t just because of the expected interest rate hike by the US Federal Reserve; they said it was more of uncertainty because of the lack of economic policy direction from the presumptive president, plus fears over the return of crony capitalism.

The new policy direction cannot be disseminated through message bursts on social media, the UniTeam’s preferred communication platform. Eventually, they will have to engage with traditional media.

Investors, policy makers in foreign governments, global organizations, and most of the 42 percent who didn’t vote for the UniTeam don’t rely on TikTok, trolls and paid influencers for reliable information on the Philippines; for this, they still rely on legacy media, where nuancing of complex ideas is possible, where malice is not protected by anonymity, and where journalistic ethics of accuracy, fairness and objectivity must be applied.

Fidel Ramos himself was initially a pain for journalists to interview, as he expressed disdain for the “AC/DCs” (attack and collect, defend and collect) in the industry. But he recognized the role of mass media in building his Team Philippines, and later even learned the value of humor when dealing with the press.

It was easy for FVR to rally the nation into a team because he wasn’t saddled with the kind of heavy baggage that Bongbong Marcos brings into the presidency.

In the case of the incoming administration, what would the 20 million who didn’t vote for BBM unite with and rally behind? The unholy marriage of fantabulous family wealth, entrenched dynasties and the religious mafia?

What the country sorely needs at this point is not so much unity, but a credible and energized opposition. The losers should not slink into caves, wallowing in self-pity and surrender.

What is needed is the restoration of the system of checks and balances, which has been short-circuited at all levels of government and among the three branches by the ruling elite political clans.

A nation can unite behind a good cause and open, inclusive leadership. Uniting behind opaque governance is acquiescence to wrongdoing.

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