Marcos launches plan for ‘new PH’

MASTERPLAN President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. arrives at the ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ kick-off rally at the Quirino Grandstand on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2024. PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Sunday called on Filipinos to unite in the face of emerging global challenges and support the government’s efforts to bring about a “new Philippines.”

Marcos made the call as he led the kick-off rally for “Bagong Pilipinas” at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila, describing it as his administration’s commitment to improving government services and bringing them closer to the people en route to molding “new Filipinos.”

“‘Bagong Pilipinas’ is more than a slogan,” he said in Filipino during the event. “It is a masterplan that will benefit all Filipinos … Bagong Pilipinas transcends this administration.”

He stressed that Bagong Pilipinas is a call for deep and fundamental transformation in all sectors of society and government to unite the country in nation-building.

The initiative is backed by the Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028, Marcos said.

He reminded the people in government that they are the “servants” of the public, “not their lords.”

“While power emanates from the people, change must come from the government,” he said.

Under Bagong Pilipinas, government services “must be fast, deadlines must be met on time… Red tape must be replaced with red carpet. Laziness will not be tolerated,” he said.

As thousands gathered at Rizal Park for the kick-off rally, Sebastian Duterte, the youngest son of Marcos’ predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte, called on the President to step down.

“If you don’t show love and aspiration for the country, better resign,” Duterte, the mayor of Davao City, told supporters during a rally in the family’s bailiwick.

He blamed Marcos for the drug and communist insurgency problems in Mindanao.

Relations between the Marcos and Duterte families have deteriorated as they seek to shore up their respective support bases and secure key positions ahead of next year’s mid-term elections and the 2028 presidential race, which Sara Duterte is widely expected to contest.

In the latest rift, Marcos has backed a campaign for the Constitution, introduced after his father and namesake was ousted from power in 1986, to be changed to allow in more foreign investment — something the Dutertes have publicly opposed.

Critics warn the effort could pave the way for Marcos to get another six-year term, which is currently prohibited.

That would potentially put him on a collision course with Sara Duterte.

Marcos has said the Constitution’s political provisions, including term limits for public officials, should be tackled later.

Left-wing political party Akbayan branded the Rizal Park and Davao City rallies as a “dynastic war among ruling elites” that did not serve the interests of regular Filipinos.

“This would be the most public and deliberate way of letting the people know that the Unity Team is no more,” University of the Philippines political science professor Jean Franco told Agence France-Presse.

In Manila, some members of the crowd at Rizal Park said they believed in Marcos even though they admitted they knew next to nothing about the Constitution controversy.

“If he runs again, why not, for as long as he is doing a good job for the country,” said Manila resident Dennis Ardea, 53.

“The Dutertes belong to the past. We should go with another [leader],” Ardea added.

Remelyn Zuniga, 39, said: “We’re here to listen to any help he can offer us. I’m a single mother, and it would be good to get cash assistance.”

Police said around 4,000 people arrived early for the Rizal Park rally, listening to a free concert at the site.

The alliance between the two families began to unravel soon after the 2022 election, with Marcos giving Sara Duterte the problem-plagued education portfolio instead of her preferred post of Defense secretary.

It has gathered pace since then with House of Representatives Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who is Marcos’ cousin and also widely expected to seek the presidency in 2028, demoting influential congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a former president and close ally of Sara Duterte.

Romualdez also spearheaded efforts to strip the vice presidency and the Education department of millions of dollars in special confidential funds.

On the sidelines of the Bagong Pilipinas launch, several government agencies set up booths to provide their services to the participants.

Pre-identified beneficiaries of the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) received their payouts during the event.

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) assisted in eCard enrollment, verification of records and loan applications, while the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) provided registration and enrollment services.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the Philippine Identification System Registration helped issue ePhilIDs.

The Presidential Communications Office and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) issued clearances for first-time job seekers.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) provided drug and neuropsychiatric tests, notary and gun safety seminars.

The Pag-IBIG Fund provided membership registration services, multi-purpose loan applications, claims applications, a housing loan program, and a modified Pag-Ibig 2 (MP2) special savings program, among other services.

Assistance on online transactions and claims inquiry and record verification were extended by the Social Security System.

By Kristina Maralit, Claire Bernadette Mondares and Agence France-Presse

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