Reality versus expectation: RTD looks at Year One of the Marcos Jr. administration
Last July 17, 2023, a roundtable discussion (RTD) entitled “Reality vs. Expectation: BBM’s 2023 SONA “was held in the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies (CIDS) by the UP CIDS Social and Political Change Program and the UP Department of Political Science. UP CIDS pursues the University’s role as a research university in various fields of expertise and specialization and serves the public with the timely dissemination of research-based knowledge through fora, symposia, and conferences.
The RTD touched on topics that assess and investigate the pronouncements of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in his first state of the nation address (SONA) and what we can expect from his upcoming second SONA.
Speakers from various areas of expertise and civil society organizations presented their understanding and recommendations on what issues might implicate the next five years of the current administration. Assistant Professor Jan Carlo B. Punongbayan talked about President Marcos Jr.’s role as the Department of Agriculture’s secretary and his economic policies. Professor Maria Ela L. Atienza examined the state of central-local relations and local governance in the first year of Marcos Jr.’s presidency.
Professor Emeritus Maria Fe Villamejor-Mendoza shared her insights on the current state of executive-legislative relations and Congress. Mr. Joseph Purugganan discussed the state of civil society participation. Lastly, Associate Professor Thaemar C. Tana expounded on the current Philippine foreign relations’ issues and related policies. The RTD was moderated by Assistant Professor Maria Elize H. Mendoza.
During the question-and-answer portion of the RTD, the subject of political alliances was raised. The speakers discuss the winning alliance between the North and South factions of the political elites and its current state. The speakers mentioned conflicts that may arise between the Marcoses and the Dutertes as the President and Vice President both try to create their own image and legacy.
The discussion also highlighted the administrations’ foreign policy. It mentions the initial efforts made by Vice President Sara Duterte to strengthen public relations with other countries through courtesy calls and gift-giving. Also, the recent approval of President Marcos Jr. of the new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) sites was mentioned as well as his various foreign travels with the aim of fostering economic and military partnerships. The administration’s position on China’s encroachment on the West Philippine Sea was also discussed. There is a concern that closer relations with certain countries, particularly the US, could drag the Philippines into global conflict.
The discussion also touches upon the issue of government financial institutions and government-owned and controlled corporations being co-opted for political purposes. The example of the Maharlika investment fund was given, where there are concerns about institutions investing in it despite opposition. It raises questions about the pattern of co-opting these institutions for political gains, similar to what happened during the Marcos dictatorship.
Moreover, the RTD also addressed questions regarding the economic trajectory under the BBM administration, and the risks of genuine devolution due to the prevalence of patronage politics in local governments.
The speakers reiterated the need for more vigilance in monitoring public servants in the current administration. Ordinary citizens must also listen to the SONA, check if their concerns are discussed by the president and if they agree or disagree with the president’s report, and measure the president’s performance based on his promises or preferred actions and policies mentioned in his SONA.