When Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. addresses the nation for the first time as president on June 30, his words will set the tone for his six-year term and serve as a bookmark in history, for which he will be remembered, like the inaugural speeches of his predecessors.
The third child of a former Philippine president to inherit the same office will deliver his speech impromptu, without a teleprompter, according to his team.
“Ang mahalaga ay kasama ko ang buong pamilya ko, kasama ko kayo na manonood, live man o online,” Marcos Jr. said in his vlog released a few days before his inauguration.
Aside from the State of the Nation Address or SONA, the inaugural address is one of the most important and most awaited speeches of the president, as it gives the public an idea of what to expect from the president, University of the Philippines political science professor Ma. Ela Atienza told reportr.
“The inaugural speech is supposed to emphasize his administration's mission and vision about how and to what direction they want to take the country,” she said.
“The speech will also give a clue as to the priority areas of the president,” she added.
The anatomy of an inaugural speech
Aside from the usual pleasantries and expressions of gratitude to campaign hands, the presidential inaugural speech should give specifics on how the new chief executive plans to address the problems and issues confronting the country, Atienza said.
“It will also give us a clue about how he sees his role as president in relation with the other branches of government as well as the citizens, groups and sectors in the country and abroad,” she added.
Take Marcos Jr.’s predecessor, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, who emphasized the need to address corruption, illegal drugs, and criminality in the country.
“The fight will be relentless and it will be sustained,” the outgoing president said then as he sought to rid the country of the drug menace, which eventually became the centerpiece of his administration.
The late President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III said that while he was the elected leader of the country, he would remain committed to the Filipino people who installed him in office.
“Kayo ang boss ko, kaya’t hindi maaaring hindi ako makinig sa mga utos ninyo,” said Aquino then, whose administration is noted for transparency and good governance reforms.
Just like the presidents before him, Marcos Jr. will deliver his inaugural address only a few weeks before his first SONA. While there may be similarities in the two speeches, the SONA should provide his assessment of the current situation of the country, Atienza said.
“He has to provide what he thinks would be the first steps in the first year of his administration, particularly in the area of legislation,” she said.
“What does he want the two Houses of Congress to prioritize in terms of legislation, oversight, among others, to address what he sees as pressing issues the country is facing in the first year of his administration?” she added.
What’s important for the inauguration speech is that it allows the public to exact accountability from presidents if things go wrong later on in their administration, Atienza said.
“Citizens, groups, media and analysts can use elements in the inaugural speech to monitor the president's performance periodically,” she added.
What should Marcos’ inaugural speech tackle?
As Marcos Jr.’s administration takes office during a global health crisis which caused economic downturns not only in the Philippines but around the world, Atienza expects the incoming president’s inaugural speech to focus on his plans to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its negative implications.
“Ideally, he should focus on the still present pandemic, the urgent reforms in the public health care system, and the economic difficulties being faced by the country in multiple fronts,” she said.
Marcos Jr. must also define how he will transform his campaign message of unity into action, the political analyst said.
“How will he be a president for everyone, given the very strong polarization that has characterized the last few years as well as the last campaign season?” she said.
Atienza believes that Marcos Jr. will likely continue many of the policies that the Duterte administration began with a more diplomatic approach on foreign policy. But still, these have to be threshed out in his first speech as president.
“Based on the results of the elections, he may decide to keep talking in generalities using big words without specifics and hard data as this tactic seemed to have worked with majority of the voters. Unless of course, he will allow the more competent members of his Cabinet to help him with the specifics in the inaugural speech,” she said.
“After all, he owes it to the people to give details about how he proposes to solve the multiple problems the country is facing,” she added.
What’s in it for the people?
While the inauguration day will be just be an ordinary workday for most people, it’s important for Filipinos to listen and take note of what Marcos Jr. will say in his inaugural speech, as this will set the path of the government for years to come, Atienza said.
“People should really pay attention to the promises to be given and use these to make him and his administration accountable to the people,” she added.
As the inaugural speech is the first message that Marcos Jr. will give to Filipinos as president, it can be used to lobby specific measures and actions, and to assess whether or not he was able to fulfill the promises he made on his first day in office, Atienza said.
“Citizens should not only be active during elections. Their role is to participate actively in all phases of the political life of a country and the world it is part of,” she added.