The Uniteam ticket of the Marcos-Duterte tandem cruised to power when they successfully won their respective positions astoundingly. This unprecedented moment is historical in a sense that they’ve gained a supermajority that gives the incoming administration a powerful mandate not only to continue the gains of the outgoing Duterte presidency but also to materialize their campaign platforms. Unlike most liberal democracies of the West or Western-oriented countries, the Philippine president serves both as a head of government and as a head of state. These roles compel the president to wear many hats with finesse, as he has tough responsibilities to shoulder. As stated by the current constitution, these responsibilities are coupled with immense powers that are checked and balanced by the legislature and the judiciary.
As the country’s chief executive, the president is accorded the power to nominate for appointment various individuals to different positions in the government, with an expectation that they would perform to the best of their capabilities to promote and protect the nation’s interests. The power of appointment is checked by a bicameral body called as the Commission on Appointments, which can confirm or reject these presidential appointees. Even though the culture of “padrino” politics in the Philippines has derailed technocracy, reviewing Marcos Jr.’s platforms can provide us with ideas as to what government positions would be the most critical for the incoming administration.
During the campaign period, Marcos Jr. has named a number of problems that he wishes to address during his administration. Knowing how the country was battered by various challenges, he has explained in his interviews that he would seriously tackle economic hardships, foreign relations, and security issues. From there, we can predict which appointments would be the most impactful and influential for the Marcos Jr. administration to succeed.
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In his campaign sorties, the Uniteam presidential candidate was seen adamant in addressing the needs of the economy, specially that the outgoing administration resorted to deficit spending to soften the blows thrown by Covid-19. This pandemic-induced recession slumped economic activities causing unemployment and financial insecurity in various sectors of the economy. Even though the Philippines is seen to be rebounding due to the Duterte administration’s policies in addressing Covid-19, threats to economic growth are still looming large. Market volatility brought about by the Ukrainian crisis has caused an increase in the prices of basic commodities ranging from wheat products to petroleum. Furthermore, this is exacerbated by China’s draconian zero-Covid policy which continuously disrupts global supply chains. Inflation is just around the corner.
With his desire to jumpstart the Philippine economy, many analysts may point to the finance secretary as Marcos Jr.’s economic key person. However, I beg to disagree because it was the durable Philippine peso that basically kept the country afloat. With this reasoning, the incoming governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is of utter importance. As the Philippine peso’s issuing body, the BSP has the levers of monetary policy under its command. If the BSP wishes to address unemployment by promoting job growth, it can lower interest rates, which makes money lending easier. But if the BSP desires to temper inflation by toning down price increases, it can raise interest rates that makes borrowing money more difficult. This delicate balancing act is the primary responsibility of the BSP. With a stable and predictable currency as a basic tenet for economic growth, the government through its finance department must enact a fiscal policy that jibes reasonably well with BSP’s levers. Appointing a finance secretary possessing valuable experience in the BSP is a stroke driven to the correct direction, but economic success lies in a perfectly executed monetary policy.
After baring his economic plans during the campaign period, Marcos Jr. was also asked about his viewpoints regarding international relations. Aside from the heating US-China strategic competition, which definitely puts the Philippines in the middle of such confrontation, there were also queries about the Ukrainian crisis and the West Philippine Sea. He was quick to denounce the Cold War era mindset of these spheres of influence. He emphasized that the Philippines must take a pragmatic approach lest experience collateral damage that further disadvantages the country. To summarize, he advocates a policy of becoming friends with everyone, and an enemy to no one.
As the incoming chief architect of Philippine foreign policy, the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is another appointee that will mirror how the country will paddle its way in the troubled waters of global politics. The Philippines’ foreign secretary will have competent career diplomats under his or her office who protect, promote, and project the nation’s interests consistent with its three pillars of foreign policy. As the country attempts to improve bilateral ties with various countries through trade, cultural exchange, and cooperation, multilateral avenues for dialogue will also be explored. The top diplomat of the Philippines will certainly navigate geopolitical challenges of the Indo-Pacific region.
Aside from these external challenges imposed by geopolitics on the Philippines, queries regarding national security issues were also raised during the campaign period. Even though the West Philippine Sea is viewed as one of the possible flash points of significant international conflict for this century, finding solutions that confront the threats caused by extremist groups were also discussed. Currently, the Duterte administration has organized a national task force that responds to the dangers of communist insurgency. Out of all the major presidentiables, Marcos Jr. had vocally expressed his support in continuing the efforts of the NTF-ELCAC which has significantly weakened the clout of the Communist Party of the Philippines, its armed group the New People’s Army, and its front organisation the National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).
Listening to the incoming president’s pursuance to the continued funding of NTF-ELCAC, it can be inferred that the next secretary of the Department of National Defense (DND) will be another critical position for the Marcos Jr. administration. With the president serving as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, his defense secretary will play a critical role in ending communist armed conflict. With the army, navy, and air force undergoing modernization efforts, the secretary will also oversee these programs that would hopefully serve as a capable military deterrent. Finally, the aforementioned DND secretary would also be compelled to mobilize these armed forces when natural calamities occur, or on occasions of national exigencies.
With the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. officially beginning in a few weeks, his appointed officials will slowly surface and solidify before his inauguration. His appointed BSP governor, DFA secretary, and DND secretary will undoubtedly play important roles in his administration. Most, if not all Filipinos, are praying that the Marcos Jr. presidency will create a period of sustained peace and prosperity for the country.
A no one who enjoys the fun things of life in private.
A believer of freedom, capitalism, and conservative brand of politics.
A no one who cares less about popular public opinion.
A believer that life can be better, if every one is a tad more responsible.