Marcos Jr.’s future triangle
The election of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as president defines for the country a unique set of likely drivers of the Philippine future. Using the powers of the presidency, he draws from the smorgasbord of Philippine realities and possibilities the drivers of our future to put on his plate.
In making sense of the messy signals we have about how the future might plausibly turn out, Sohail Inayatullah, a Pakistani-Australian academic and futurist, presents us with the concept of the Futures Triangle. The futures triangle is a method of identifying plausible futures using three sources of “drivers” and “inhibitors”—the weight of the past, the push of the present, and the pull of the future. It offers a way of sorting out the various entangled vexations and aspirations of Filipinos that percolate in this period of political transition.
The pull of the future refers to what Mr. Marcos aims for his government and the country. This is the easiest to scope simply because, since the electoral campaign, Mr. Marcos has not fully operationalized or articulated in a coherent manner his vision of “unity” for the country. He has indicated in broad strokes in his inaugural address and State of the Nation Address but there remains a felt gap (targets without strategies) in mobilizing the government and the country forward.
The push of the present refers to the governance and policy inertia of the Duterte administration, which Mr. Marcos has yet to stop, deflect, or reverse. To what extent will Mr. Marcos also be a “Duterte Jr.”? Among the Duterte directions, he might reconsider include the repudiation of the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction over crimes against humanity stemming from the drug war, the continued incarceration of Leila de Lima under trumped-up charges, the overdrive against the remaining minuscule leftist insurgency, the continuing interdiction of the opposition and the mass media, the institutional semi-paralysis in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the continuing indecisiveness on various problems, such as returning the educational system to normal operations and improving transport and mobility in Metro Manila. It may seem natural to continue these Duterte policies but reversing these might just be the key to giving Mr. Marcos an opportunity to define a transformative “pull of the future” for the country.
The weight of the past and the push of the future are manifesting themselves in worrying ways. Elements of the administration, the legislature, and the bureaucracy seem to be probing and testing the integrity and soundness of presidential decision-making. The flurry of presidential vetoes of legislation that has reached his desk, starting with his veto of the bill creating the Bulacan airport ecozone, may indicate a rash of attempts to test the awareness and mettle of this president. One begins to wonder what political games are being played among powerful personalities in the legislature, the executive, and the bureaucracy in this period of transition from the old to the new administration.
Over the past two months, politicians and bureaucrats that surround Mr. Marcos have ingratiated themselves with him. Everyone wants to please this president, like the justice secretary now describing as “improbable” and “ridiculous” the President’s estate tax liabilities. How about the House of Representatives fawning over the President by electing his neophyte representative son as the senior deputy majority speaker? One wonders, did the President even attempt to dissuade such blandishments?
Testing the presidential decisional mettle continues. Note the seeming impunity with which the authority of the President has been misused in the Sugar Regulatory Administration’s approval of the importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar, which Mr. Marcos disowned. One undersecretary can make a mistake, but a whole sugar board making the same “mistake” looks more like a cabal.
Instead of treating this as a breach of the highest seriousness, the President has apparently backpedaled, deciding not to “interfere” in this grave example of usurpation of authority. It is eyebrow-raising that only a deputy executive secretary is in charge of investigating this serious breach.
In the end, the pull of the future may not be a grand vision that Mr. Marcos lays down for the nation as a roadmap but may consist of an accumulation of failures to negate those trends and directions he has inherited from Duterte and those anachronistic ones he is reviving from the martial law period.
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