I don’t like the idea of finding “parallels” between United States politics and that of the Philippines’. They are miles apart. But it is hard to ignore the one thing about a recent development that Filipinos can relate with — the presidential candidacy of Jeb Bush and how he faces the formidable challenge of pitching his value to the American people despite his family name.
Jeb, brother of former President George W Bush and former governor of Florida has finally announced his bid for the United States presidency vowing to “take Washington out of the business of causing problems”. That statement alone would already sound familiar to Filipinos.
To be fair, unlike most Republicans, Jeb’s language skills are not limited to just American English. He speaks fluent Spanish, is a graduate of Latin American Affairs at the University of Texas and is married to a woman of Mexican descent, Columba Bush. If Bush becomes president, Columba would become the first Hispanic First Lady in US history. Obviously, all of these potentially endears Bush to the Hispanic vote.
Enter the Filipino politician similarly saddled with family legacy. Senator Bongbong Marcos, for his part, has demonstrated statesmanship even further beyond his own comfort zone. He is from the province of Ilocos, the far north of the Philippines. Yet he has built strong ties with the Philippines’ restive deep south where, in the past year (and more) he tirelessly consulted with his fellow Filipinos there to get an on-the-ground pulse check on how they really felt about President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino’s fundamentally-flawed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) project which aimed to carve out a vast chunk of Mindanao and hand it over to the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Unlike many Filipino politicians who spend their days delivering lip service on the subject of “social justice” from their offices in Manila, Marcos has, in a brilliant seizing of a rare opportunity over the last 18 months, imprinted his name in the minds of Filipinos across the Philippine archipelago from top to bottom on the basis of real results. He has averted the trainwreck that was the Aquino administration’s ill-conceived BBL adventure and broadened the discussion on regional autonomy to the more encompassing and universally-empowering idea of federalism at a truly national level.
So, like Marcos, Jeb Bush is also saddled by his family’s baggage — a big thorny bush (pardon the pun) to tiptoe around. He is running with a logo, just “Jeb”, that noticeably excludes his surname — perhaps to divert the public’s attention from this little detail.
“Our country is on a very bad course,” said Mr Bush. “The question is what are we going to do about it. I have to decide what I’m going to do about it and I’ve decided I’m a candidate for president of the United States of America.”
The US, indeed, is on a troublesome trajectory. Americans have, over the last couple of decades, watched helplessly as their industrial might eroded under their feet thanks to Corporate America’s wanton palming off of manufacturing capacity over to China taking along with it Western civilisation’s most prized technologies. Yet even as Western capital — led by Big American Corporate — funded China’s rise to economic and military dominance, America’s grip on the oriental shipping lanes through which commerce vital to its economy is shipped has softened.
Add to that Silicon Valley’s relentless churning out of technologies aimed at progressively rendering expensive First World labour increasingly obsolete and one can’t help but wonder too how Bush could make good on his promise of “creating 19 million new jobs for Americans”. He is up against two fronts in the jobs-creation challenge — goose-stepping cheap Chinese labour and the onslaught of cheap human-replacement technology.
While Bush still has to formulate his strategy for changing America’s fortunes, Marcos already has the kernel around which a truly transformational platform could blossom…
In a press briefing held at the Royal Mandaya Hotel, Marcos supported the idea of federalism being pushed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
“In political theory, it is almost axiomatic to say that a single center of power is much less stable than many centers of political power. For a more stable government, federalism is a good idea,” Marcos said.
However, the process of overhauling the current unitary government into a federal form must be studied very closely.
Granted, as a Third World country, the Philippines’ opportunities are mostly low-hanging fruit. Indeed, it only takes a Filipino politician who can rise out of the Philippines’ Juan Tamad archetype of lying on the ground mouth agape waiting for said fruit to fall off in order to reap those opportunities. Jeb Bush is, of course, faced with challenges at a different level and on a different scale. But both men are, ultimately, politicians plying their trade in similar types of democracies in uniquely interesting times where doing things differently will spell the difference between failure and success.
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