Legitimation challenges

Dindo Manhit, President, Stratbase ADR Institute

With a contentious family history, presumptive President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. faces an uphill battle in establishing his credibility as a leader. He said we should judge him by his actions — not by his family’s past. Let’s take him up on this challenge.

How will we do this?

First, we will look at whether he is getting the basics right. Is he addressing the issues that matter? What is he doing to achieve his campaign promises and policy pronouncements?

Second, we will see how attuned he is to what the people say they need from society, from the government, and the new president.

The April 2022 survey by Pulse Asia on the “Primary Reason for Voting for Selected Candidate as President” showed what Filipinos are looking for in a leader.

Overall, four out of 10 Filipinos cited the following reasons: “his/her accomplishments” (47 percent), “he/she can address important issues” (44 percent), “he/she can change many things for the better” (42 percent), “he/she is authentic” (41 percent), and “his/her characteristics” (40 percent).

Interestingly, the reasons for voting Marcos Jr. as president showed a very similar response.

Further, what the next government should also prioritize is its performance in addressing our national problems. In the Pulse Asia survey on the “Comparative Ratings of the National Administration on Selected National Issues” in March 2022, the Duterte administration’s ratings declined in all seven national issues from December 2021.

The survey revealed that ratings for “Stopping the destruction and abuse of our environment,” currently at 54 percent, declined by three points; “Fighting graft and corruption in government” (51 percent) declined by six points; “Defending the integrity of Philippine territory against foreigners” (48 percent) declined by two points; “Increasing the pay of workers” (45 percent) declined by seven points; “Creating more jobs” (44 percent) declined by eight points; “Reducing the poverty of Filipinos” (36 percent) declined by six points, and “Controlling inflation” (28 percent) significantly declined by 15 points.

The Philippine Statistics Authority recently reported that the current inflation of 4.9 percent is the highest in three years. Not surprisingly, the same Pulse Asia survey in March on the “Most Urgent National Concerns” showed that “controlling inflation” is perceived by one out of two Filipinos as their top-of-mind concern (58 percent).

The other urgent concerns pertained to “increasing the pay of workers” (43 percent), “creating more jobs” (31 percent), “reducing the poverty of many Filipinos” (31 percent), and “fighting graft and corruption in government” (26 percent).

In essence, what the Filipinos are looking for is competence, integrity, and performance in the new presidency and government.

In Marcos Jr.’s case, he now has the opportunity to move away from the baggage of his past by excelling in the foreign policy, socioeconomic, and governance realms. He can make his own mark by adopting a multistakeholder approach to running the country.

In foreign and security policy, the new administration should consider the following: 1) a responsive and strategic foreign policy, 2) a comprehensive security strategy, 3) leveraging the country’s regional and international agreements and partnerships, 4) converting the archipelago to a maritime power, 5) a thorough risk assessment and management strategy, and 6) reshaping the country’s contribution to the Paris Agreement.

In terms of the economy, he must acknowledge that a strong recovery is possible through investments, sustainable growth, fiscal consolidation and a sound fiscal policy, a rebalancing of workers’ productivity, skills and unemployment insurance, a people-centered health care system, a digital transformation program for responsive public services, and the formation of self-contained food production areas.

Finally, he must see that government programs and projects should be based on the demands and needs of Filipinos. Platforms and programs should be the main ingredient of party affiliation, recognition of political and electoral reforms, inequality reduction, and transparency and accountability anchored on openness and freedom of information.

The incoming president faces great legitimation challenges, and rightly so. To overcome this, he must not only do his job — he must do so exceedingly well.

This article was originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer commentary.

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