Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos, Jr. Inaugurated as President of the Philippines
Maui’s Filipino community is generally supportive.
Alfredo G. Evangelista | Assistant Editor
[Editor’s note: The Fil-Am Voice reached out to a number of Leni Robredo supporters on Maui but most declined to comment for this article.]
Ako si Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr. ay taimtim na nanunumpa na tutuparin ko nang buong katapan at sigasig ang aking mga tungkulin bilang pangulo ng Pilipinas at ipagtatanggol ang kanyang Konstitution, ipatutupad ang batas nito, magiging makatarunagan sa bawat tao at itatalaga ang bawat sarili sa paglilingkod sa bansa. Kasiyahan nawa ako ng Diyos. (I, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., do solemnly swear that I will faithfully and conscientiously fulfill my duties as the president of the Philippines, defend its Constitution, execute its laws, do justice to every man, and consecrate myself to the service of the nation. So help me God.)
With those words, Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr., popularly known by his nickname “Bong Bong” became the seventeenth president of the Republic of the Philippines. (See box for list of Presidents below.) He is the third child of a past president to become Philippine president, joining Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (daughter of Diosdado Macapagal, who served from December 30, 1961 to December 30, 1965, right before Ferdinand E. Marcos) and Benigno Aquino III (son of Corazon Aquino, who served from February 25, 1986 to June 30, 1992, right after Marcos; she was the wife of Marcos’ political opponent Benigno Aquino, Jr.).
Thirty-six years ago, Bong Bong’s namesake and father Ferdinand E. Marcos was ousted in the People Power revolution. Encouraged and assisted by the U.S. government, the senior Marcos with an 80-member entourage landed in Hawai‘i on February 27, 1986. (Marcos reputedly said “I thought I was going to Paoay,” which happens to be the hometown of various Maui extended clans, including the Agcolicol’s and Evangelista’s and site of the “Malacanang of the North.”) Hawai‘i, with its large Ilokano population, generally welcomed the Marcos family. Marcos would die in exile in Hawai‘i in 1989.
Two years later, President Corazon Aquino allowed Marcos’ wife Imelda and their children Imee, Bong Bong, Irene and Aimee to return to the Philippines to face criminal charges. Marcos’ body was not allowed to return until 1993 when Fidel Ramos became President. President Ramos (Marcos’ cousin and former military aide who, along with Marcos Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile defected to the Aquino camp during People Power), however, denied burial at the Heroes’ Cemetery in Manila. Instead, Marcos’ body would remain on display in Batac, Ilocos Norte. Finally, in November 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte granted the family request to inter Marcos at the Heroes’ Cemetery.
Upon their return in 1991, the Marcos family re-entered politics even while defending various lawsuits and charges. (See adjoining graphic.) With Bong Bong sworn in as president, the Marcos return to the top of Philippine politics apparently has come full circle.
Bong Bong opened his inaugural address by recognizing, This is a historic moment for us all. I feel it deep within me. You, the people have spoken and it is resounding. Members of Maui’s Filipino community noted the decisive Marcos’ victory. “More than 31 million voters elected Ferdinand Bong Bong Marcos to become the 17th President of the Republic of the Philippines last May 9, 2022,” observed Mike Agcolicol who grew up in Pangasinan. “The majority of the Filipinos waited 36 years to vote for another Marcos to lead the country.”
The Presidential contest did not repeat the close election for Vice President that Bong Bong lost to the same Leni Robredo just six years prior. Marcos received 58.77 percent of ballots cast, with an 82 percent turnout while the sitting Vice President Robredo received slightly more than fifteen million votes (27.94 percent). (Manny Pacquiao received 3.6 million votes while Manila Mayor Isko Moreno only received 1.9 million votes.) Sara Duterte-Carpio, Bong Bong’s running mate and the daughter of President Duterte, also crushed her opponent, receiving 32.2 million votes (61.53 percent) to Robredo’s running mate, Francis Pangilinan, who received only 9.3 million votes (17.82 percent). (Senate President Vicente Sotto received 8.2 million votes–15.76 percent.) Duterte-Carpio took her oath of office on June 19 in Davao City so she could attend Bong Bong’s inauguration. Bong Bong attended Duterte-Carpio’s inauguration.
I fully understand the gravity of the responsibility that you’ve put on my shoulders. I do not take it lightly but I’m ready for the task. I will need your help. I want to rely on it but rest assured I do not predicate success on the wide cooperation that’s needed. I will get it done, promised Bong Bong.
Much to the chagrin of his critics, Bong Bong’s Inaugural address focused primarily on the future although he made repeated references to his father: I once knew a man who saw what little had been achieved since independence in a land filled with people with the greatest potential for achievement, and yet they were poor. But he got it done. Sometimes, with the needed support. Sometimes, without. So, will it be with his son. You will get no excuses from me. I am here not to talk about the past. I am here to tell you about our future. A future of sufficiency, even plenty of readily available ways and means to get done what needs doing—by you, by me. We do not look back, but ahead. Up the road that we must take to a place better than the one we lost in the pandemic. Gains made and lost. Opportunities missed. Well-laid plans superseded by the pandemic. Indeed, ours was the fastest growing economy in the ASEAN byways now outdated. We shall be again, by radical change in the way the world must now work to recover what we lost in that fire and move on from there.
Jeremy Dizon Zane whose roots are from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte noted “Thirty-one million Filipinos voted for him because they believe in him; they see his love for the people and for our country.” To Marcos’ critics, Zane said “People are always quick to point out about what happened in the past but the thing is, you cannot blame the fault of the father to his son. Those who doubt him, reserve your judgment, he is not his father, give him a chance to do his job.”
Elmer Tolentino whose roots are from Magsingal, believes Marcos will be his own man and pointed to Bong Bong’s refusal to sign the bill allowing another freeport in Bulacan because the government would lose money. Tolentino, who is on an extended vacation in the Philippines, observed the author of the bill was Bong Bong’s sister, Senator Imee Marcos.
The elder Marcos took office in his forties and remained in office for twenty-one years. At sixty-four, Bong Bong, begins his one Constitutionally authorized six-year term nearly twenty years older than his father. The new President likened both his Dad and President Duterte as “giants” and endorsed continuing Duterte’s Build! Build! Build! Infrastructure Program as an extension of his father’s policies: My father built more and better roads. Produced more rice than all administrations before his. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte built more and better than all the succeeding administrations succeeding my father’s. Much has been built and so well that the economic dogma of dispersing industry to develop the least likely places has been upturned. Development was brought to them. Investors are now setting up industries along the promising routes built. And yet, the potential of this country is not exhausted. Following these giants’ steps, we will continue to build, I will complete on schedule the projects that have been started. I am not interested in taking credit. I want to build on the success that’s already happening. We will be presenting the public with a comprehensive infrastructure plan; six years could be just about enough time. No part of our country will be neglected. Progress will be made wherever there are Filipinos so no investment is wasted.
Grace Sales, a Hawai‘i licensed Realtor waiting for her Philippine real estate license, was born in Caloocan City in Metro Manila but grew up in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. “I am happy Bong Bong Marcos was elected as President. Mentioning Bong Bong Marcos as President and talking of big real estate opportunities up north is a light bulb moment for most investors. It makes it easier for me to explain to savvy foreign investors and local buyers that a piece of land is located in Ilocos Norte which is synonymous with the Marcoses. Investors know that it’s just a matter of time when Bong Bong Marcos will build infrastructures up north that would support tourism projects, among others, and that would put Ilocos Norte on the map again. This is good news to Ilokanos as it will mean better opportunities and a stronger economy as it will create more jobs. It’s also good news for Filipino sellers who have idle properties up north and sell to investors.”
“Bong Bong promised to continue the ongoing projects of past president Rodrigo Duterte,” noted Agcolicol “as well to fight and eliminate drug problems in the country.”
Bong Bong, who was criticized during the campaign for not participating in debates with the other candidates, explained his approach. I did not talk much in this campaign. I did not bother to think of rebutting my rivals. Instead, I searched for promising approaches better than the usual solutions. I listened to you. 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.
By listening to the voters, Bong Bong claimed he understood what the people wanted: I listened to you and this is what I have heard. We all want peace in our land. You and your children want a good chance of a better life, in a safer, more prosperous country. All that is within reach of a hardworking, warm and giving race. Your dreams are mine. Your hopes are my hopes. How can we make them come true? How can we do it together? But I will take it as far as anyone with the same faith and commitment can as if it depended entirely on himself. In our hope to make our country peaceful, your hope is my hope. In your hope of making our country successful, your hope is my hope. And in our hope for our brighter future and the futures of our children, your hope is my hope.
Agcolicol says Bong Bong’s administration’s “main priority is to make the agriculture produce more harvest to solve the hunger of the country. A self-sustainable food producing country makes the nation peaceful and healthy.” But Tolentino warned “Critics said he has to fulfill his promises like rice to be sold at 20 pesos per kilo.”
Recognizing how important agriculture is, Bong Bong appointed himself as Secretary of Agriculture while appointing Duterte-Carpio as Secretary of Education. (Bong Bong also appointed the 98-year-old Enrile as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.)
Bong Bong campaigned on a theme of unity. 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 ending want in a land of plenty. I believe that if we focus on the work at hand, and the work that will come to hand, we will go very far under my watch. You believe that too. And I listened to your voices who are calling for unity, unity and unity. We will go further together than against each other, pushing forward not pulling each other back out of fear, out of a misplaced sense of weakness. But we are the furthest from weak. The Filipino diaspora flourishes even in the most inhospitable climes, where they are valued for their quality. The changes we shape will benefit all and will shortchange no one. I was not the instrument of change, you were that. You made it happen.
“The new president of the country wants the people to unite and work together for the betterment of the nation,” said Agcolicol. “Bong Bong Marcos believes when there is unity there is success.”
Historically, Maui’s Filipino community has also preached unity generally. In 1987, a Unity Rally was held at the War Memorial gymnasium when Imelda Marcos first traveled to Maui for the installation of Maui resident Antonio Ramil as president of the statewide United Filipino Council of Hawai‘i. In just her first trip ever to the Valley Island, Mrs. Marcos wowed the crowd, estimated at 1,500, by singing Ilokano songs with Dr. Jose Romero and posing for photos with those in attendance.
Bong Bong appeared to acknowledge the Philippines’ continuing political and social divisions: We are here to repair a house divided, to make it whole and to stand strong again in the Bayanihan way, expressive of our nature as Filipinos. We shall seek, not scorn dialogue, listen respectfully to contrary views, be open to suggestions coming from hard thinking and unsparing judgment but always from us, Filipinos. We can trust no one else when it comes to what is best for us. Past history has often proven that. Solutions from outside divided us, none deepened our understanding. They were always at our expense. Never forget, we are Filipinos, one nation, one republic indivisible. We resisted and never failed to defeat foreign attempts to break our country in my father’s watch. His strongest critics have conceded that. So let us all be part of the solution that we choose. In that lies the power to get it done, always be open to differing views but ever united in our chosen goal. Never hesitating to change it should it prove one thing. That is how agile and resilient republics are made. Our future we decide today, yesterday cannot make that decision anymore, nor can tomorrow delay it. The sooner we start, the surer and quicker the prospect of achieving our future.
During the campaign, the Marcos and Robredo forces were active on social media. On Maui, Agcolicol spent time responding to points espoused by the Robredo sympathizers. For example, on the issue of unpaid estate taxes that some opponents argued should disqualify Marcos as a candidate, Agcolicol argued explained that “an estate tax is a tax levied upon the transference of estate to his/her heirs or beneficiaries.” But in Ferdinand Marcos’ situation, Agcolicol noted, President Corazon Aquino issued an Executive Order to freeze all the Marcos’ assets and “the Executive Order doesn’t allow the transference of assets/properties. So how can the estate tax be imposed?” Agcolicol said President Aquino determined all of Ferdinand Marcos’ “assets are considered ill-gotten wealth” but Agcolicol questioned “How do you impose an estate tax in this case? The Presidential Commission on Good Government is tasked to sequester all Marcos ‘ill-gotten wealth,’ so if I am a Marcos heir, why would I pay for those assets then?” Agcolicol emphasized “The main point though is, the Bureau of Internal Revenue had the capacity for the longest time to sell the assets in question. Why didn’t they do it?”
Agcolicol also fiercely criticized the administrations after the first Marcos was deposed. “You tell me what’s the difference of what happened after Ferdinand Marcos left the Philippines; it’s worse than what you think of. The Presidential Commission on Good Government was formed and sequestered properties but we don’t even know where the proceeds went. The new leaders sold all the properties of the Philippine government to their next of kins and friends at a low price, just like the Fort, Philippine Airlines, Meralco, NAWASA, oil companies and other properties that the government owned. The anti-Marcos are blinded by the biased media and propaganda and can’t see and differentiate the progress from the past (Marcos regime) up to the last Aquino administration.”
Agcolicol recognized however “no leaders are perfect. They have their own flaws as well as with their officials.”
For his part, Bong Bong promised to deliver, just like his father. Government will get as much done alone without requiring more from you. That is what government and public officials are for. No excuses. Just deliver. It was like that, once upon a time.
“I’m hoping that Bong Bong Marcos is a different kind of leader from his father, the late Ferdinand Marcos who held onto power for 21 years (1965 to 1986),” said Alfred Cantorna, whose ancestral roots are from Narvacan, Ilocos Sur. “My late parents were from the Ilocos region but were not fans of Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial rule.”
Zane had a different take: “I’m delighted that another Marcos has been elected to the highest position in our country. I’ve seen the evolution of Bong Bong Marcos in politics and he’s done great things to improve and help the lives of our fellow Filipinos.”
“I believe he’s going to be a good president!” exclaimed Lilia Ross, whose ancestral roots are from Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte. “Why? Because he wants to redeem their name, his father’s legacy and for his children and for his beloved country. They don’t need more wealth. His wife belongs to a well-to-do family. He experienced how to be without a permanent home and country. He went to offer his help to the people in need in the Visayas when they really needed help during the typhoon.”
Dolly Butay from San Nicolas was also ecstatic. “I am so happy that Marcos is back in power. I believe he will do good as a president because he is a Marcos after all. He had exposures from his late father, President Marcos and he still can ask or seek guidance from his mother, Imelda. He also has experience in politics because he was elected to different positions.”
In his concluding remarks, Bong Bong spoke of his faith in the 110 million Filipinos: With every difficult decision that I must make, I will keep foremost in my heart and in my mind the debt of gratitude I owe you for the honor and responsibility that you have conferred on me. Whatever is in a person to make changes for the better of others, I lay before you now in my commitment, I will try to spare you. You have other responsibilities to carry but I will not spare myself from shedding the last bead of sweat or giving the last ounce of courage and sacrifice. And if you ask me why I am so confident of the future, I will answer you simply that I have 110 million reasons to start with. Such is my faith in the Filipino. Believe, have hope. The sun also rises like it did today and as it will tomorrow. And as surely as that, we will achieve the country, all Filipinos deserve.
“The whole world will be watching whether the young Marcos administration will do better than the old Marcos including the leaders for the past 36 years,” observed Agcolicol.
Sales added “I wish him the best and I join all Filipinos in praying for him because as Bong Bong said, he wants to do well.”
Butay also is praying for Bong Bong’s success: “I pray that he will do a better job than his father, who I think was the smartest Philippine president so far, so the Philippines will progress and be a top nation.” “At the end of the day, whether you voted for him or not, let’s support him and stand behind him because his success is our country’s success,” said Zane.
Alfredo G. Evangelista is a graduate of Maui High School (1976), the University of Southern California (Political Science 1980), and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law (1983). He has been practicing law for 38 years (since 1983) and is a sole practitioner at Law Offices of Alfredo Evangelista, A Limited Liability Law Company, concentrating in estate planning, business start-up and consultation, nonprofit corporations, and litigation. His Dad Elias Acang Evangelista is from Paoay, Ilocos Norte while his Mom Catalina Gonzales Evangelista was born in San Antonio, Zambales but raised in Paoay. He first visited the Philippines in January 1972 and did not return until he was part of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i’s Trade Missions in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999. During those Trade Missions, he visited Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Metro Manila, Subic and Zamboanga. He last visited the Philippines in 2001 when he accompanied his Mom to Paoay to have a one-year lualo after his Dad’s death.