It’s been exactly fifty years (half a century!) since a Ferdinand Marcos was elected to the Philippine Senate and, now, the son, Ferdinand II, is embarking to be the next. Bong-Bong Marcos, presently a Congressman from the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte, feels he is ready to move on to the Upper House of Congress. He brings with him a background of a total of twelve years as Governor of his province, Ilocos Norte, and by election time next year, would have served his second term as Congressman and House Deputy Minority Leader. Even those opposed to him cannot deny that he has been an exemplary Governor of his province as can be seen in the advancement of Ilocos Norte in the fields of agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, energy and the environment (the first wind-farm in Southeast Asia supplying half the energy needs of Ilocos Norte) and education.
To begin with, he transformed a third-class province into a first-class one (based on income) within his first term. With some 70% of Ilocanos dependent on agriculture (as in many other provinces), he raised agricultural productivity by focusing on rice production and cash crops and investing in hybrid seedlings production thereby succeeding in making his province self sufficient in rice instead of “importing” from other provinces. He set up one of the most if not the most successful program for “cooperatives” development in the entire country. He turned his province into a model for public health care by providing 100% of his province mates with health insurance. He “brought” Ilocos Norte to China by participating in International Tourism Conventions in Shanghai even when the Philippines as a country failed to participate in them. He lobbied the Chinese government to open a Consulate in Laoag City (the consulate opened two years ago) to make travel from China to Ilocos Norte easier and more convenient, capitalizing on Laoag City’s proximity to China and it’s being the northern international gateway into the country. In education, students from high schools of his province have become consistent “1st placers” in national student competitions in math and science. And in energy, he oversaw the creation of the first wind farm in Southeast Asia providing his province with half of its energy needs. The biggest proof of his sterling performance as governor is the fact that, in his last bid for Governor in 2004, he ran unopposed, and again, unopposed for Congressman in 2007.
His educational background? Enough to be hired for a top position in any multi-national company anywhere in the world. He has earned degrees from: Worth School (High School), England; Political Science/Economics, Oxford University, England; and MBA, University of Pennsylvania, USA. And then, there’s that other aspect to his “education” that does not award any diploma: the experience of having lived abroad during these many years of schooling (plus his years spent in exile with his family). These are invaluable years of “education” not awarded any certificate but, nevertheless, significant and important as it indicates possession of a broad-minded perspective lacking in not a few of our present parochial and narrow minded Senators and Congressmen.
Just as important as his educational attainment and his performance in governance is this: that while in office and to his eternal credit, not once has he been involved in any corruption anomaly or political scandal whatsoever. This past decade has seen a President (President Estrada) ousted from office (albeit, illegally) due to charges of corruption, betrayal of public trust, and plunder; followed by impeachment charges against his successor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, likewise for graft and corruption involving her husband as well as allegations of cheating in the 1994 Presidential elections, and a host of other scandals that has outraged a good number of Filipinos — Fertilizer Fund scam, China Broadband deal, Jose Pidal account, ‘Hello Garci’ tapes, profligate spending, etc.
The mood today is one of distrust of politicians and government officials and the outpouring of affection seen at the wake and funeral of the late President Cory Aquino was exactly that: a longing for non-corrupt and honest leadership after a decade of never ending government anomalies, corruption scandals and eroded credibility of politicians in general. So, Bongbong’s performance as public servant, his educational background, his vast experience, his name recall, and his record of clean and honest governance should make him a shoo-in for Senator. But with him or more accurately, with his name, there could be more to it than those we’ve just mentioned. Fairly or unfairly, there will be those that will continue to judge him not for what he’s done but for what his father has done and that can work both ways, for or against him, depending on the “sentiment of the moment” come election time. What he should hope for and strive to communicate to the voters to ensure his election is for them to vote or not vote for him based purely on his competence, capability and his track record the last 18 years spent in public service. If he is judged on those criteria, then we will surely see another Ferdinand Marcos (II) elected to the Senate next year as we first did fifty years ago.