Marcos Jr. inaugural: Traditions old, new, and renewed

Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 29 2022 08:05 PM | Updated as of Jun 29 2022 08:44 PM

Photo of President Ferdinand Marcos Malacañang Museum 
Photo of President Ferdinand Marcos shows his inaugural address to son Bongbong in Malacañang before proceeding to Luneta for the 1969 inaugural. Second Marcos Inaugural by Ileana Maramag, Toppan Printing Company/Malacañang Museum 

MANILA — Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. was 12 when he joined his father and namesake in a traditional car ride from Malacañang to the Quirino Grandstand for the latter's second inauguration as president in December 1969.

If this traditional ride from the Palace to the inaugural site is followed when Marcos Jr. is sworn in as the 17th Philippine president on Thursday, “That, in effect, will be a second experience for him,” said Philippine ambassador to the Hague Jose Eduardo Malaya. 
 
This is one historical tidbit in "Stewards of the Nation", a book on presidential inaugurals and addresses that the diplomat co-authored with his brother Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya. 

The last time an incoming president fetched their predecessor in Malacañang was when Benigno Aquino III met Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the Palace in the morning of June 30, 2010 for a brief car ride to the Quirino Grandstand. 

Some had surmised it would be an awkward ride since Aquino opposed Arroyo’s policies during his presidential campaign and vowed to investigate allegations of corruption during her term. 

But the tradition was kept, just as it was followed in inaugurals past, as a strong democratic symbol of a peaceful transition of power.

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In 1953, for instance, outgoing president Elpidio Quirino insisted that then incoming leader Ramon Magsaysay fetch him from Malacañang for their ride together to project “amity and continuity,” hiding the tension caused by their face-off in the elections, according to Stewards of the Nation. 

“I think that is a very good tradition. It shows that our political leaders can rise above the rancor of politics kasi kahit magkatunggali, kahit mga naglaban ay, since part ito ng tradition, ginagawa pa rin kahit masama ang loob,” Undersecretary Malaya told ABS-CBN News. 

(Though they are rivals, since this is part of tradition, they still do it despite the resentment.) 

Malaya noted that even after losing his bid for a second term, then outgoing President Diosdado Macapagal rode with his successor, the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., to Rizal Park for his 1965 inaugural. 

“[This is] precisely to show the nation na at the end of the day, this presidency is an exclusive club of people. Kaunti lang ‘yan eh, and there’s much more to unite them than divide them. I take it na ito yung oportunidad ng outgoing president to share some tips to the incoming president,” Undersecretary Malaya said. 

(There are only few of them, and there’s much more to unite them than divide them. I take it as the opportunity for the outgoing president to share some tips to the incoming president.)

“So despite going through the very difficult campaign period, ‘yung ipinapakita ng dalawang pangulo na (what the two presidents showed), they can rise above the rancor of politics. I think, is a good symbolism for the entire country.”

Ambassador Malaya sees the morning meeting between the outgoing and incoming leaders on inaugural day as a symbol of continuity of the Philippine state.

“That signifies na nagkakaroon ng transition. Nandoon ‘yung outgoing, nandoon ang incoming at in a sense, united ‘yung 2 leaderships. Tapos later on, magiging isa na lang ‘yun. And the other symbolism there is continuity in the Philippine state,” he said. 

(That signifies there is transition. The outgoing is there, the incoming is there, and in a sense, the two leaderships are united. And later on, there will only be one again.) 

“'Ika nga, walang patid. Kahit na ‘yung oath-taking will take place minutes after, walang patid dahil 'ika nga, nagbibigay, nagha-hand over na ng baton.” 

(There is no disruption. Though the oath-taking will take place minutes after, there is no disruption, because as they say, the baton is being handed over.) 

handout photo PCOO/AFP/File
In this handout photo taken on June 30, 2016 and released by the Presidential Communication Operations Office (PCOO), then incoming President Rodrigo Duterte shakes hands with outgoing president Benigno Aquino III prior to a departure ceremony for the latter at the Malacanang Palace in Manila. PCOO/AFP/File

This joint ride did not happen in 2016 since President Rodrigo Duterte chose to hold his inaugural in Malacañang. He went to Malacañang for a briefing meeting with Aquino before the latter was given departure honors at the Palace grounds and left for his Times Street residence in Quezon City.

Thus, each inaugural is unique and generally reflects the personality and preference of the incoming president.

Much of what happens during the inauguration are mere traditions and not cast in stone, Ambassador Malaya pointed out. He said only the presidential oath is prescribed by the constitution, and an inaugural address is not even required to be delivered.

Incoming presidents can also freely choose where to take their oath. Joseph Estrada took oath in Barasoain Church in Malolos, Bulacan in 1998. Arroyo had her first inaugural at EDSA Shrine after Estrada's ouster in 2001, and her second, in 2004, in Cebu.

An outgoing leader is not required to stay and watch the president-elect take the presidential oath. Arroyo in 2010 left for home after being given departure honors at the Quirino Grandstand — as did Quirino after saluting the flag in 1953, Garcia in 1961, and Macapagal in 1965.

“Ang required lamang talaga ay oath-taking. Ang pag-deliver ng inaugural address ay wala nga sa constitution. In contrast, pagdating sa opening ng session ng Congress, ang constitution says that the President shall address Congress. Pero pagdating dito sa inaugural, wala siyang sinasabi other than for that oath of office,” Ambassador Malaya said. 

(Only the oath-taking is required. The delivery of the inaugural address is not in the constitution. In contrast, when it comes to the opening of Congress session, the constitution says that the President shall address Congress. But when it comes to the inaugural, it does not say anything other than for that oath of office.) 

“So everything we have had and we’re gonna have practically are traditions. And traditions can be changed, traditions can be renewed, or new traditions can be made,” he added. 

INAUGURAL SITE 

Personnel deployed at the National Museum ABS-CBN News
Personnel deployed at the National Museum vicinity in Manila continue to work on June 28, 2022. Two days before his inauguration, the camp of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. says that the simple and solemn event is all set for June 30. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Circumstance forced the younger Marcos to hold his inauguration at the National Museum, with the Quirino Grandstand unavailable because of the presence of a COVID-19 quarantine facility across the supposed parade avenue. 

Yet the 2022 inaugural site is just as historic since the museum, which is the Old Legislative Building, served as the venue for the inauguration of Manuel Quezon in 1935, Jose P. Laurel in 1943, and Manuel Roxas in 1946.
 
“Maganda ‘yung choice because it goes back to our history. The Legislative Building, now National Museum, sa tingin ko, is a very good location for an inaugural kasi grand eh. It hearkens back to the past, during that time and considering na critical ito sa kasaysayan ng bansa as the site of many important events,” Undersecretary Malaya said.

(It is good choice because it goes back to our history. The Legislative Building, now National Museum, I think, is a very good location for an inaugural because it is grand. It hearkens back to the past, during that time and considering that it is critical to the history of the country, as the site of many important events.) 

Ambassador Malaya sees the choice of the venue as a nod as well to the history of the building that once housed the Philippine Legislature. 
 
“In a sense, it’s not just the building for what it represents now, the National Museum, but what it represents [in] the past, which is the Old Legislative Building,” he said. 

“It is as if a return to the concept of representative government na ‘yung mga taumbayan, naghahalal sila ng kanilang representative para bumuo ng batas, tapos ito ‘yung iiral sa buong bansa na ipapatupad naman ng presidente. So it is as if trying to recall the mandate the electorate had given not only to the president but also to their representative as congregated in Congress,” he added.

INAUGURAL ADDRESS

book covers
Cover of the book “Stewards of the Nation: Aguinaldo to Duterte and Their Inaugural Visions,” by J. Eduardo Malaya and Jonathan Malaya, published by Anvil Publishing in 2018. It is the updated volume to the earlier edition of the book titled “…So Help Us God: The Presidents of the Philippines and Their Inaugural Addresses” published in 2004.

Being the third child of a president to take over the top job, Marcos Jr. is expected to refer to his father when he delivers his inaugural address, just as Aquino paid tribute to his mother, Corazon Aquino, for nurturing democracy. 

In her 2001 inaugural address, Arroyo also made a reference to her father’s metaphor of adding stones to the nation’s edifice as she spoke about nation-building.

Just as Marcos Sr. laid out his lofty visions for the country and call to greatness in his inaugural addresses in 1965 and 1969, Marcos Jr. is expected to do the same, while relating his message with the ongoing pandemic and mentioning plans on the economy and national problems.

“Ang inaugural address kasi depende 'yan sa period din eh. Since tayo ay nasa post-pandemic period—well, we’re still in a pandemic but we are in a better position—I would expect na he would focus on ‘yung sinabi niya sa kampanya, ‘yung ‘Sama-sama tayong babangon muli.’ So papano ‘yun mangyayari? Papano tayo babangon muli?” Undersecretary Malaya said. 

(The inaugural address depends on the period, too. Since we are in the post-pandemic period... I would expect that the focus would be on what he said in the campaign: 'We will rise together again.' So how will that happen? How will we recover?) 

He said Marcos Jr's recent meeting with his advisers could be an indication that he is laying down plans for economic growth. 

“Also, having seen what his father did in the 1970s, tingin ko he will also focus on infrastructure,” he added.

The Malayas’ book observes that past inaugural addresses have common themes which include a new president’s call to national unity especially after a divisive election, adherence to democracy, plans to eliminate poverty, address peace and order concerns, eradicate graft and corruption, and uplift the people’s welfare.

A new president also discusses the role of the private sector as engines of growth, and of the citizens and their responsibilities. A new leader may also devote some lines on foreign policy and good neighborliness.

“It is as if he (President-elect Marcos) is coming there to reaffirm the family’s legacy. Well, he mentioned it already, to clarify that particular legacy. But certainly, just like in most inaugurals, the purpose here would be to call for unity and of course to lay out a program of government and try to persuade our people to support that program of government,” Ambassador Malaya said. 

“Palagay ko, tulad ng tatay niya (I think that like his father), si Ferdinand Marcos, he will probably not go into the details of governance but probably will lay out more of a vision for the country because that is exactly what his father did in ’65 and in ’69.” 

OTHER TRADITIONS

President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Malacañang Museum
President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. is sworn in by Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion in the presence of his family. Second Marcos Inaugural by Ileana Maramag, Toppan Printing Company/Malacañang Museum

On inaugural day, Marcos Jr. will receive his first of many military honors, including the customary 21-gun salute. A civic-military parade will take place, with the military coming in to salute its new commander-in-chief.

Diplomats are usually hosted in a reception, with an inaugural reception and people’s concert also becoming part of the day’s festivities.

In between, the new president climbs Malacañang’s stairs to symbolize his “possession” of the seat of power, administers the oath of new officials, and convenes his first Cabinet meeting in the Palace.

Photo of the first family Malacañang Museum
Photo of the first family returning to Malacañang after the 1969 inaugural. Second Marcos Inaugural by Ileana Maramag, Toppan Printing Company/Malacañang Museum

Inaugural customs and traditions may vary but the day’s highlight is when the new President takes his oath of office and makes the solemn vow to “faithfully and conscientiously” serve the nation and with the people holding him to account.

“Kapag tumaas na ang kanang kamay ng ating presidente (when our President raises his right hand) and when he recites the oath of office, it is as if he is entering into a covenant with the Filipino people. But in a sense, it is also us entering a covenant with him,” Ambassador Malaya said. 

“It is like a mutual covenant because the people will be going through a new phase in its life under a new leadership. So napaka-importante talaga na magkaroon ng support for the incoming administration dahil iyong success niya, success ng taumbayan. ‘Yung failure niya, failure din ng taumbayan. Kaya nga dapat talaga nagkakaisa and there’s no better day for it than during the inaugural day.” 

(It is very important for the new administration to get support because its success is the success of the people, its failure is the failure of the people. This is why people must unite, and there's no better day for it than during the inaugural.)