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The Philippines Has a Marcos in Charge Once More

Marcos has pledged a warmer relationship with the United States, but at home, his policies may not stray too far from his predecessor.

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. poses with Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. poses with Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., together with new Philippine Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, pose for pictures after taking his oath as the next president at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Manila, Philippines, on June 30. Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the inauguration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as president of the Philippines, Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s political future.

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Marcos Takes Office

Welcome to today’s Morning Brief, looking at the inauguration of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as president of the Philippines, Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s political future.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


Marcos Takes Office

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is now the president of the Philippines, 36 years after he fled the country along with his dictator father. Marcos took the oath of office today at a muted ceremony in the capital, Manila, urging citizens to look ahead to the future, as his mother, Imelda, looked on.

Marcos, known in the Philippines by his nickname Bongbong, has risen to the country’s highest office after a social media-driven campaign helped rehabilitate his family’s image, transforming memories of the bloody days of martial law, when thousands of people were tortured and killed, to a nostalgic golden era.

The chances of Marcos bringing in a real golden era today come up against the same realities facing other economies: rapid inflation and uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, Marcos benefits from inheriting an economy with some of the highest growth levels in Southeast Asia. The economy grew by 8.3 percent in the first quarter of 2022, and it is on track to beat previous estimates made by the Asian Development Bank.

Although Marcos is on the rise, that doesn’t spell the end for Rodrigo Duterte. The brash president may have handed over the office, but his family retains plenty of power. His daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio is Marcos’s vice president, his son Sebastian is now mayor of the family’s hometown of Davao City, and his other son, Paolo, holds a seat in the House of Representatives. (Philippines expert Daniel Bruno Davis, writing in Foreign Policy in April, explained why political dynasties hold such power over Philippine voters.)

The Dutertes are sticking around, as is Rodrigo’s infamous drug war. The government claims roughly 6,000 drug suspects were killed by security forces during Duterte’s term; human rights groups say the true figure is as much as five times higher. Marcos has pledged to continue the fight, albeit, he said, “within the framework of the law.”

The Philippine press, under constant assault under Duterte, expects little to change under Marcos, who largely circumvented traditional media during his campaign. Before Marcos took office, Rappler, the popular news site whose work won co-founder Maria Ressa the Nobel Peace Prize, has recently been ordered to shut down. Ressa has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Although the country’s domestic future may not be too different under Marcos compared to Duterte, the Philippines may find itself on different footing when it comes to foreign policy. As defense analyst Derek Grossman wrote in FP in May, “Marcos is likely to tweak Duterte’s foreign policy just enough” to avoid the pitfalls of his predecessor.

U.S. officials hope that Marcos means a much more friendly disposition to the United States—a country that Duterte refused to visit—and, despite his own family’s connections, a tougher line on China. Washington is even willing to forget a contempt order against Marcos after a Hawaii court ordered his family to pay $2 billion of the Philippines stolen wealth to victims of Marcos Sr.s martial law crackdown. “When someone is head of state, they have [diplomatic] immunity and would be welcome in the United States,” U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman told reporters in Manila in June.

As the diplomatic tug of war begins, Washington is still playing cautious. While China has sent Vice President Wang Qishan, a close confidant of Chinese President Xi Jinping, to lead the country’s delegation at today’s inauguration, the United States is led by Douglas Emhoff, the husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.


What We’re Following Today

Putin meets Jokowi. Indonesian President Joko Widodo visits Russian President Vladimir Putin today in Moscow, with the Southeast Asian leader expected to push Putin on peace plans as well as food exports from Ukraine. Widodo’s trip comes the day after he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he offered to bring a message to Putin on Zelensky’s behalf.

Israel’s election. Israeli lawmakers dissolved the Knesset and set up the countrys fifth election in less than four years. In a televised address on Wednesday, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced he would not be running in the new election. Bennett will retain the position of alternate prime minister as Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid takes the role of prime minister in a caretaker capacity.

Oil markets. OPEC+ ministers meet today to discuss production policy as oil prices approach their first dip since November 2021. The oil cartel and partner nations are expected to approve a slight increase in August production nonetheless.


Keep an Eye On

Turkey’s price. Turkish officials on Wednesday urged Sweden and Finland to extradite 33 people Ankara deems “terrorists.” The request comes a day after the three countries signed a joint memorandum where the Nordic nations agreed to “address Turkeys pending deportation or extradition requests.”

After the White House denied any quid pro quo with Turkey following the agreement, a senior U.S. defense official on Wednesday expressed full-throated support for Turkey’s plans to acquire U.S. F-16 fighter aircraft.

The Kaliningrad compromise. European officials are close to reaching a compromise deal to allow the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad a sanctions exemption, Reuters reports. Tensions flared this month when European Union sanctions began hindering the flow of goods to the area by rail as they passed through EU member Lithuania.


Odds and Ends

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, will no longer receive bags of cash on behalf of his charitable foundation, according to a member of his staff. Charles is under fire after reports emerged that he had received 3 million euros in cash (or $3.1 million) from former Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani between 2011 and 2015. The royal family has denied that one of those three installments came in shopping bags from the upscale grocery store Fortnum & Mason.

An anonymous aide told the Sunday Times that the unusual handovers, which show no signs of breaching British law, are now in the past: “For more than half a decade, with the situation as it has evolved, this has not happened—and it would not happen again. That was then, this is now, and they are not the same.”

Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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