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Opinion

President

FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno - The Philippine Star

The beauty of elections is that they provide a terminal point for what otherwise would be interminable debates. After the votes are cast, the numbers decide.

The beauty of electoral democracy is that it makes possible for the collective wisdom of the electorate to be expressed in the clearest terms. It leaves no room for demagogues who claim to speak for “the people.”

The beauty of the last elections is that the results are as clear as they could be. The mandate is overwhelming.

Filipino voters were presented with a list of admittedly imperfect candidates. They chose the one with the best possibility for organizing an effective government. Here lies the wisdom of our voters.

After all, more important than elevating an individual to power, elections are supposed to enable the people to have effective leadership. Elections are not designed to canonize saints but to allow the selection of statesmen.

Machiavelli’s essential wisdom is this: effective leadership makes possible virtuous men. A strong nation makes possible a strong people. Last May, our voters cast their votes for effective leadership.

From today, we have to get used to addressing our new leader as “President Marcos.” For some, the phrase may not roll easily off the tongue. But it is an utterly legitimate designation.

Bongbong Marcos’ road to the presidency was not an easy one. There was much baggage from the past and deeply ingrained narratives to overcome. There were many uncertainties on this road that he had to navigate masterfully.

He did not start out as the most popular choice – only the second. But when fate and historical accident established his candidacy, nearly all the major political parties rallied behind him. He laid out a most effective campaign strategy and abided by it with remarkable discipline. It was a strategy executed to perfection.

A clear majority of our voters agreed he would be the most effective leader of the lot. He was the one who provided the most effective rallying point for our fractious nation. He offered the best possibility for the synergy we need to confront the compounded challenges of this time. His call for national unity resonated best among our voters.

The May elections provided Bongbong Marcos a most impressive mandate, garnering an unprecedented 31 million votes. In addition, the political coalition he leads enjoys supermajorities in both houses of Congress. He has ample political capital, his mandate is clear and his leadership is unchallenged.

From all indications, he seems to understand that our voters invested in something larger than him – or his family. Our voters invested in the possibility of effective government, one that keeps us safe from crime, insurgency and calamities. We invested in the possibility that good government will enable our people to be the best they could possibly be.

Months ago, in a brief conversation, he said of his rivals: None of them are talking about nation building.

He knows.

Strong start

Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is about as ready to hit the ground running as any freshly inaugurated president could be.

He has formed a strong Cabinet team, anchored by veteran policymakers. It is a team guided by hard-nosed pragmatism rather than animated by fluffy ideas. This new administration rides the momentum of continuity – certainly more feasible than one inclined to produce discontinuities.

The Duterte administration certainly prepared the ground for a modern state. Our tax system has been thoroughly overhauled to support growth while ensuring adequate public revenues. A slew of pro-market reforms were enacted the last two years to widen the space for investments, support modernization of our agriculture, broaden our capital markets and upgrade our infrastructure.

Nevertheless, the nation faces complex challenges. Our agriculture needs urgent redesign. Global oil prices have forced elevated inflation rates on us. The slower growth of the global economy will certainly constrain our own ability to expand. The pandemic is not over and over the medium term we need to build a stronger public health system.

Some will expect the new administration to do impossible things, such as lowering the price of fuel products. Reducing poverty will be the task of generations but the public will want assurance we are moving in the right direction.

The brightest achievement of the Duterte years is a dramatic reduction in the volume of crimes. This is a consequence of the unrelenting campaign against drug syndicates. This campaign, however, has been the focus of international criticism. At the very least, Marcos must prevent narco-politics from reemerging.

Public expectation of the new administration, however, is not unreasonable. If the new administration manages to hold down the inflationary surge, we will be happy.

Our public understands the world is in turmoil and expects the state to shield our nation from chaos. Our public institutions must be strong and our policies should be forward-looking to achieve this.

While we do not expect fundamental departures in policy, we do expect the new administration to start strong in the areas that matter most to our people: food security, price stability and wider opportunities for employment. The gains here will not be dramatic in the first few months, although our people expect to be reassured our leaders have their hands on the most urgent problems.

We expect government to work the way it should. Marcos must assure us that it is doing so. This will be a test of his political and personal stamina.

Our people, by their vote, gave this administration a strong mandate. They will want that mandate to be used effectively.

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