What if I were President BBM?
June 25 every year is celebrated as “Seafarers’ Day” for the invaluable role of seafarers in moving the world’s economy through international trade, often at personal cost to themselves and their families. Five days after, June 30 is Inauguration Day when Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. son, and namesake of the deceased dictator, Ferdinand E Marcos, is installed as the 17th president of the Republic of the Philippines. I want to cherish this moment for wishful thoughts. So, may I stray a bit from the usual serious concerns of my column. What if I were a person as powerful as the President of our native land? What if I were President BBM?
In the life of ordinary seafarers, often, the term of contracts, on average, lasts between four and six months on ships with the benefit of a leave. For the President of the country, he should work his full term for six years without furlough.
After June 30, like it or not, it will be President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos for six long years. No extension.
I do not want to be in BBM’s shoes, that’s for sure. First, I am not a he. I work comfortably as a retiree, a school trustee and official, an entrepreneur, a volunteer in not-for-profit, non-government organizations, and a citizen. Second, I cannot afford to carry the tax burden that has hounded his family for decades.
If I were President BBM, I would first want to be the leader deserving of the votes of 31M Filipinos - a majority vote. I gained stature and power democratically. Therefore, I have to be highly professional in my field of work. Patronage, favoritism, and nepotism will have no place in my dealings in government. I want people to look up to me with trust, not fear.
I am known as the son of the dictator Marcos who ruled the country for more than 20 years, engraved in history as the most brutal and authoritarian. What do I do? Will I challenge that truth or revise history? I read historical accounts of military and police atrocities during the period when my father ruled as a strongman. However, I am not my father’s keeper. His mistakes cannot be mine. And if I were President BBM, I should be brave enough to accept that those mistakes happened and not fend off history’s judgment.
I want to live and rule honorably, not in the shadows of some cronies, bureaucrat capitalists or oligarchs. If I were President BBM, I would not flirt with the mighty. Instead, I will try to weigh the pros and cons of government decisions as objectively as I can. For example, I will listen to other voices concerning the revival of the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant for alternative energy use. I will listen to experts who are also advocates for safety, people-centered development, and progress, not to selected friends in business and family.
I decided to head the Department of Agriculture because I want to address food security and stop relentless smuggling and reliance on other foreign countries’ supply of rice and agricultural products. If I were President BBM, this country would be great. I will take the lead and become a people’s farmer, not a troll farmer. Land for the landless should be a reality. If I were President BBM, I would put a moratorium on land conversion, mining and dangerous extractive industries. Food production will be a top priority. I will be firm in asking Congress to remove unjust taxes. I will be a good crisis manager in the prudent use of budget, sound financial engineering, and fast and decisive problem-solving.
The Philippines continues to lag behind our Southeast Asian neighbors. If I were President BBM, industrialization based on science, technology, and agriculture for development would be the direction in six years. I will give preferential treatment to Filipinos in starting and developing their businesses and support SMEs and social enterprises to build a favorable climate for inclusive business. My support will be in education and training, shipbuilding, and seafarers’ rights in the maritime industry. Under my watch, the country will contribute more to ending global warming. I will tap alternative sources of energy –windmills in Ilocos, ocean and solar power, geothermal in Bicol, and make electricity cheaper and accessible to all.
I will be fair and forge an independent foreign policy by being friends to all countries, big or small concerning the West Philippine Sea, the Ukraine war, and all other foreign affairs entanglements. Make peace, not war. The war on drugs will not be a killing field but a fight against the roots of poverty and social injustice. If I were President BBM, I would be more tolerant of other views. I commit to end bullying, red-tagging, dangerous political labeling, and discrimination. I will ensure transparency and accountability, not treat these as motherhood slogans.
All past presidents promised and aimed to reduce, if not eliminate, poverty. If I were President BBM, I would build more hospitals for the poor but adopt a more preventive approach to the Universal Health Care law. I will make education responsive to the country’s development needs and ensure that teachers get paid more. I will have rights-based governance, especially for workers, farmers, women, indigenous people, and Muslims. There should be no reason to take up arms and fight the government if its leadership defends people’s rights and provides for their basic needs.
I must be a role model and uphold the core values and ideals of good and honest leadership. How can I exact the same from my constituents if I fail to set a good example? So, if I were President BBM, I would follow the rules and regulations, be on the job 24/7 unlike in my Congress days, pay taxes and settle the long unresolved P203B in our family estate taxes, which is a long-standing issue of my opponents. I don’t have to raise taxes. The unpaid taxes alone can help stimulate the economy and sustain cash aid.
As head of state, CEO, and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, I am the country’s single most dominant political office. Therefore, if I were President BBM, abuse of power would be a thing of the past.