Two years of exploitation and abuse

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This article is available in PilipinoBisayaHiligaynon

In his two years in power, Ferdinand Marcos Jr engaged in relentless maneuvers to seize public funds, extend the reign of his clique and oppress the people with neoliberal policies.

Despite widespread criticism, Marcos enacted the creation of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) in July 2023. This gave Marcos control over up to ₱500 billion in funds held by state banks. Contrary to initial promises, the Maharlika Investment Corporation, the entity that manages the MIF, is now peopled by Marcos’ handpicked technocrats and representatives of the big bourgeoisie and foreign institutions.

Marcos gave himself ₱4.56 billion in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) for 2024. Furthermore, he placed ₱449.5 billion in “unprogrammed funds” under his control purportedly for aid programs of his office. This is no different from the “pork barrel” that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.

In January 2024, Marcos attempted to railroad charter change for the declared intention of opening the economy to foreign investment and for the hidden objective of extending his clique’s tenure. This maneuver failed after it was revealed that his henchmen used public funds for the People’s Initiative, and how his minions defrauded and threatened people to sign. Efforts to pass the law for the establishment of a constituent assembly before the 2025 elections are stalled in the Senate.

Incompetent and burden to the people

On the other hand, Marcos did nothing to alleviate the Filipino people’s plight. He ignored the clamor of workers and employees for higher wages and salaries.

The ₱40/day wage increase ordered by the pro-capitalist wage board in NCR last year is an insult. More infuriating is the measly and trickling wage increases (₱30-₱35/day) given outside the NCR. The highest wage of ₱610 (NCR) is far from the living wage of about ₱1,200/day for a family of five.

Government employees received no salary increases during Marcos’ two years. Until this July, he impeded the legislated benefits and incentives of health workers who served during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a result of his neoliberal policies, prices of food and oil products have skyrocketed, as have electricity and water bills. The price of rice hit ₱56.90/kilo in June, far from his promise of ₱20/kilo during the election. In February, inflation of rice prices, which makes up the bulk of Filipino families’ food expenses, soared to a 15-year high. The August 2023 imposition of price controls utterly failed, and massive imports did not lower it. Serving as Department of Agriculture secretary until November 2023, Marcos is directly responsible for these failures.

Marcos disregarded the call of farmers to boost local rice production and for the state to buy their produce at reasonable prices to lower the price of rice. He also failed to respond to the drought during El Niño that damaged ₱9.5 billion worth of crops. Instead of helping peasants to recover, he stepped up import liberalization and slashed tariffs on imported food, including rice, by up to 15%. In 2024, the country’s rice imports is expected to more than double or reach up to 4.7 million metric tons (MT), compared to 2.6 MT in June 2022-June 2023. This includes rice that will be imported under the 5-year agreement with Vietnam, brokered by his cousin House Speaker Martin Romualdez.

Hypocritical programs and historical revisionism

As in his first year, Marcos in his second year was preoccupied mainly with pretentious programs and PR stunts.

In mid-2023, he signed the New Agrarian Emancipation Act (Republic Act 11953) which relieved farmers’ unpaid amortizations under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). This move was hypocritical because in many cases, farmers no longer control the land they supposedly acquired under CARP (either repossessed or under contract-growing schemes).

There are no associated services and subsidies to support high production costs. It only facilitates legal land grabbing (purchase and transfer of title) and mass conversion of agricultural land to commercial use and real estate. Peasants deem pointless Marcos’ spectacle of distributing Certificate of Land Ownership Award in various parts of the country, serving only as occasion for premature campaign rallies of his relatives and allies who will run in the 2025 elections.

Amid hunger and poverty, he touted the $3-billion food stamp program as his government’s “top program.” It is no different from the palliative and ineffective temporary-relief programs financed by loans from imperialist institutions. These include the ₱500-billion Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita Program (AKAP) of his cousin, the house speaker of Congress, ₱29/kilo rice in Kadiwa stores and other superficial programs. These programs are used for politicking and vote-buying for the upcoming elections.

In January, Marcos spent ₱29 million in a single day to promote “Bagong Pilipinas,” a campaign based on the “Bagong Lipunan” slogan of his dictator father. He even made it a hymn and oath, which like Hitler and his fascist father, are ordered to be sung and recited in all schools and state offices.

Two years of exploitation and abuse