On the heels of controversies over the tourism department’s P49-million “Love the Philippines” slogan and the P3-million logo of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has unveiled his administration’s governance slogan, “Bagong Pilipinas.”
Malacañang issued a press release on Saturday, July 15, about Memorandum Circular 24 dated July 3, “launching the Bagong Pilipinas campaign as the administration’s brand of governance and leadership.” A copy of the memo was uploaded on the Official Gazette on Sunday.
The slogan comes with a logo that would be on the letterheads, websites, official social media accounts, and other documents of all state agencies and entities.
The memo does not have a description of the logo. It features the Philippine flag in a round design where the blue and red parts are interwoven into stripes, apparently symbolizing unity and partly covering the sun. It looks like a rising sun, which reflects one of Marcos Jr.’s campaign jingles, “Bagong Umaga,” and his campaign slogan, “Sama-sama tayong babangon muli.”
Looking closely into the blue and red stripes, one could see buildings and windmills, presumably symbolizing the administration’s priority for infrastructure, including renewable sources of energy, under the “Build Better More” slogan.
How much this Bagong Pilipinas slogan with logo costs is still anybody’s guess. Was this budgeted in the 2023 General Appropriations Act, or was the amount drawn from the president’s P4.5 billion intelligence and confidential funds?
Did the project undergo public bidding or was it negotiated with a favored contractor? Since the rebranding involves persuasive communication, was it an output from film director Paul Soriano, the presidential adviser on creative communications who, according to the Office of the Press Secretary, receives an annual salary of only P1?
Nothing is wrong with adopting slogans or “rebranding” campaigns. Past presidents had their own slogans. Ferdinand Marcos Sr. had “Bagong Lipunan,” Corazon Aquino had “Tama na, Sobra na, Palitan na!,” Fidel Ramos is remembered for “Philippines 2000” with the battle cry “Kaya Natin ‘to!,” Joseph Estrada had “Erap Para sa Mahirap,” Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was known for her “Strong Republic” pitch, Benigno Aquino III had “Daang Matuwid” and “Kung Walang Korap, Walang Mahirap,” and Rodrigo Duterte had “Change is Coming” and “Build, Build’ Build” for his multitrillion-peso infrastructure program.
Rebranding is nothing new to the Marcoses. Marcos Jr. won by a landslide in last year’s presidential election largely owing to several years of rebranding the Marcos name through social media.
MC 24 says the Bagong Pilipinas campaign “calls for deep and fundamental transformations in all sectors of society and government, and fosters the state’s commitment towards the attainment of comprehensive policy reforms and full economic recovery.”
That this “Bagong Pilipinas” rebranding comes even before the Department of Tourism and Pagcor could satisfactorily explain the whopping amount budgeted for their new slogans and logos makes one more suspicious of its costs.
When Marcos Jr. visited New York in September 2022, he spoke about his efforts to “reintroduce the Philippines” to the international community. Critics saw it as a move to redeem the Marcos family’s notorious political dynasty in view of accusations of widespread human rights violations and corruption during his father’s 20-year rule from 1965 until his ouster in 1986.
Before Marcos Jr. assumed the presidency in 2022, there were reports that he had asked the now-defunct political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to “rebrand” the Marcos family’s public image on social media through disinformation tactics and the use of available personal data.
But Marcos’ spokesman then, Vic Rodriguez, denied that Marcos had approached Cambridge Analytica and described the reports as “patently fake, false and misleading.”
Despite the denials, there was an apparently well-funded campaign on social media to both rehabilitate the Marcos family’s image and dismantle the legacy of the “people power revolution.” Among the disinformation circulated mostly by pro-Marcos vloggers and anonymous accounts were claims that martial law and reports of human rights violations never happened and that the Marcos Sr. regime represented the “golden age” of economic prosperity.
At this time, however, what makes this penchant of the Marcos Jr. administration for sloganeering worrisome are the atrociously large amounts in the contracts for catchphrases and designs that are far from catchy and appealing.
Besides, this goes against Marcos Jr.’s promise on Dec. 7, 2022 for prudent spending of public funds. “Be assured that it is the policy of this administration to ensure that every peso and every centavo that the government spends in its programs and projects will be to the benefit of all Filipinos,” he said when presented with Philippine banknotes bearing his signature and a new coin series with the new Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) logo.
On the same day, Marcos Jr. reminded local government executives to be more prudent in the use of government funds and assets, citing the scarcity of resources and limited fiscal space.
“We have to be very careful [on] how we deploy what resources that we have. And again to maximize those resources we have to be in very close coordination, both the national government and local government such as the City of Manila,” he said in a speech when local officials of Manila paid him a courtesy call at Malacañan Palace.
In his inaugural State of the Nation Address in July 2022, Marcos Jr. also laid down his policy on prudent spending. He asked Congress to pass a budget modernization bill to institutionalize the cash-based budgeting system under Executive Order 91, series 2019, “to strengthen fiscal discipline in the allocation and use of budget resources by ensuring that every peso budgeted by the government would lead to the actual delivery of programs and projects.”
The Marcos Jr. administration’s obsession with sloganeering does not bode well for the current situation when a vast majority of people have identified inflation, wages and jobs as their most urgent concerns. Filipinos, particularly the poor, are struggling with high prices for basic food items while the government spends scandalous amounts on logos and rebranding.
While slogans give a sense of direction to policies or awareness-raising campaigns, this rebranding frenzy should not be so designed to revise history at taxpayers’ expense.