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Objectionable

Crony capitalism amply demonstrated that personal loyalty is not only highly valued but is richly rewarded in Philippine politics.

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Gravely objectionable is his outright refusal to confront the recent past, exposing in the process his poor shallow grasp of how recent political history informs the political present.

We, therefore, cannot give a free pass to Mr. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. when he irritably quipped: “We will no longer go back to 35-year-old issues.”

We won’t mince our words — he is wrong to say that.

Those same 35-year-old issues he doesn’t want questioned, in fact, not only backdrop his responses to present-day issues but also dog whatever are his future plans should he luckily get elected.

Take for instance his promises of appointing competent professionals for his future Cabinet, as well as his avowals to eschew appointing anyone to government tainted with corruption.

Nothing untoward about those promises since it does seem he is taking the never-ending issue of government corruption by the horns.

I’m even saying that without sporting an ironical smirk about his father’s generally bad historical reputation regarding corruption.

Nonetheless, we can’t leave him high and dry without stating specifics about his general statements regarding incorruptible professionals in government.

We are still acutely aware — up to now despite hard-balled attempts to make many of us forget — of what in fact did happen during his father’s regime regarding professionals in government.

So, 35 years ago, Mr. Marcos Sr., on the strong urgings of multilateral lenders to dress up his regime, roped a bevy of western trained professionals into government service — the technocrats.

Mr. Marcos Sr. needed technocrats by his side on the pain his regime couldn’t contract huge World Bank and International Monetary Fund loans, both then a-washed with huge dollar troves for development projects.

Mr. Marcos Sr. had to court those investment dollars for the country’s sake and, as one former Marcos Cabinet member confessed to a researcher, for largely personal reasons having to do with Swiss banks.

But things didn’t pan out as expected. Fair scrutiny of technocrats in effect showed their presence in the corridors of power was a confidence game.

Judging the Marcos-era technocrats, an independent scholarly article done after Mr. Marcos Sr.’s ouster harshly concluded: “Indeed, Marcos’ technocrats, for all their Western training, were not prepared to defend their institutions or their professional integrity against Marcos’ interference: Not only their positions but their cultural values dictated loyalty to the man who appointed them.”

“Thus, foreign businessmen concluded ruefully in the end, Cabinet members such as Prime Minister Cesar Virata and Budget Minister Jaime Laya had not been able to bring themselves to speak out against the president’s excesses.”

In short, the point then was professionals handling government affairs can end up helpless and ineffectual as long as other crucial things weren’t fixed.

And what wasn’t fixed was the Philippine political system and its patronage excesses.

Nothing demonstrated this abject failure than the one other fixture the Marcos regime threw up — crony capitalism.

Nowadays attention to the Marcos crony capitalists is subdued, but during their halcyon days not only were many awed by their wealth but they also made everybody aware of the political fact that personal loyalty to a political leader reaped huge dividends.

Yes, crony capitalism amply demonstrated that personal loyalty is not only highly valued but is richly rewarded in Philippine politics, with the late President placing more than the usual emphasis on it.

In fact, the older Marcos “was reared in, and typical of, a political system in which a leader cultivated and rewarded political supporters on the basis of their personal loyalty and not on a shared allegiance to a set of principles.”

Can we rightly claim we’re past such distortions between political patronage and vast wealth?

At any rate, the relationships between patronage and personal loyalty, which had long characterized Philippine society, “hypertrophied, under Marcos, into a grotesque exaggeration” and endured up to now.

So much so subsequent administrations inherited the same underlying political economy, the same social traditions and linkages between wealth and political power and didn’t much do anything.

All these excavations into the past now brings us back to Mr. Marcos Jr. Can he now say anything substantial when he is even apathetic to the fact the past always hounds the present?

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