By Gene Alcantara
In her address to the Filipino community in the United Kingdom, Senator Imee Marcos, older sister of Philippine President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr, thanked her supporters.
“Mayabang na uli after 36 years,”said the Senator to the sound of cheering.
“Ay huwag kayong ganyan, talaga naman it’s been a long long time ang tagal nating naghihintay at alam ko na sa kabila ng napakahirap na panahon, napakahabang panahon, andiyan pa rin kayo, tumatangkilik, sumusuporta, nagmamahal at Marcos pa rin. Maraming salamat. Mula noon hanggang ngayon Marcos pa rin,” she added.
Juan EU Konek, along with other media representatives and vloggers, was kindly invited by the Philippine Embassy to the meet and greet with the Filipino community by Senator Imee Marcos who passed by the United Kingdom after a series of meetings in Europe, in her role as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It was held at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel on Gloucester Road, Kensington.
Charge d’Affaires Consul General Rhen Rodriguez, with her Embassy team, including Labour Attache Amy Reyes, introduced and welcomed the visiting Senator, who had several decades of local governance under her belt. She served as Representative of Ilocos Norte’s 2nd District from 1998 to 2007 (“longer,” according to Imee), and Governor of Ilocos Norte from 2010 to 2019, and has served as Senator of the Republic of the Philippines since 2019.
Labatt Amy discussed the establishment of the new Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) dedicated to OFWs. She did not have the chance to explain the new projects of the DMW, but passed on the greetings from Secretary Toots Ople, who was presiding over the transition of the department from set up to fully operational in 2023.
Before the Senator spoke, BBM dancers did a dance number first, wearing red shirts, and the red and green sneakers of BBM and Sarah Duterte. Although the backing tune left much to be desired, the room still erupted with cheers for the dancers. She even joked with the dancers: “At first time ko nakapanood ng Bagong Lipunan na naging dancing siya, only in London. At yung mga naka-BBM panalo na po tayo, maglaba na tayo ng damit, at nakapula pa rin e. Nakakainis.”
Sen Imee explained that she practically lost her voice because they had been going the rounds of different capitals of Europe to explain that there is a new administration and for them not to heap blame on it.
“Huwag naman nilang pagbuntunan ng iba’t ibang akusasyon, nakakasawa na, hindi po ba? At tuwang- tuwa ako nanggaling kami sa European Parliament, pagkatapos sa Brussels, sa Paris, at ayun nga sa Amsterdam at kaya’t andito tayong lahat tuwang- tuwa akong makapiling kayo dahil hindi naman iba ang London sa akin,” said Marcos.
Sen Imee explained that they all studied here for a long time, she and her siblings, including President Bongbong.
“Nag-aral kami dito ng matagal, kaming magkakapatid, pati si Presidente Bongbong kaya’t tuwang tuwa ako tuwing nakakapunta rito kasi kahit papaano feeling bagets na uli. Pero ang totoo marami tayo dito bakets, alam ng mga Ilokano yan.” [She then switches to Ilokano and Waray].
Sen Imee spoke about issues and problems that concern Overseas Filipinos including the coronavirus pandemic, the storms and floods in the country, the pain of separation from families back home.
“Maraming hinaharap na problema, siguro alam rin ninyo sa ating mga kamag-anak at kaibigan sa Maynila na nag taasan ang presyo hindi lang ng langis pati pagkain. Ang langis na for the first time sa tanang buhay ko pareho ang presyo ng diesel at gasoline, parang nababaliw na ang mundo nagkukulang ng iba’t ibang gulay, kapos sa iba’t ibang karne e siguro nababalitaan ninyo,” she said.
She spoke about the difficulties in dealing with foreign affairs, which she Chairs in the Senate: “Ang gulo kasi ang Foreign Affairs ngayon nai-ipit ang Pilipinas, alam naman ninyo ang situation. Namimiligro tayo andiyan yung ang China but at the same time, mayroon tayong defense treaty sa US, kaya kailangan talagang timpi- timpi, tiis- tiis, talagang kailangan mga matiisin at matiyaga ang ating pagta-trato sa magkabila.
The Senator was also alerted to the complaint by OFWs about the Overseas Employment Certificate, and wants the issue resolved.
“Maraming nagre-reklamo sa OEC, di po ba? So iyan ang iuuwi ko rin para sa lalong madaling panahon idigitze natin yan. Luwagan natin kasi kawawa naman ang ibang Pilipino. Nawalan na nga ng trabaho papahirapan pa pag-uwi,’ she said.
Sen Imee also had comments on the disasters besetting the country:
“E, tatawag pa sa Presidente kaya ang sabi ko double dead na o triple dead yung mga pobre naghihintay sa tuktok ng bundok. Maige pa gumawa na tayo bagong ahensiya tulad ng FEMA sa Amerika na siyang incharge na isang tawag diyan e ma-activate. Hindi na kailangang bulabugin pa ang Presidente, yung chief of staff at kung sinu-sino pa. Yun ang rekomendasyon ko. Pero siyempre dakilang Ilokana, huwag muna nating gawing department agad. Kasi pag naging department mauubos ang budget sa sahod ng sangkatutak na USEC. May USEC ba dito? (laughter) Sorry.”
Marcos thanked the organisers of the film Maid in Malacanang, which was her favoured version of events before the Marcos family were ejected from the country in the February 1986 People Power Revolution.
I was waiting for the gaffes that Imee was supposed to be known for. But the gaffes never happened. Imee was in her element, cracking jokes, making fun of Ilokano or Waray behaviour. In fact most of the things she said made sense, and in any case she was speaking to her and her family’s supporters in London and her audience lapped her words up with laughter and cheers.
Local Opposition Protest
While the meet and greet was hailed a success by her supporters, outside the venue, a rally was held by Anakbayan opposition members who waved their placards and shouted slogans before and during the event. Some of the placards read:
“Justice for all the victims of Martial Law,”
“Stop the Killings in the Philippines,”
“Imee panget mo! Tulisan,”
“Marcos not welcome here,”
“Marcos Isoli ninyo ninakaw ninyo,”
“Marcos, pay your P203b tax,”
“Filipinos in the UK, Rise, Resist, Unit against Tyrant,”
“Reject & Resist the Marcos-Duterte regime.”
The event security people even called the police to put a stop to the rally, but the protestors were apparently told by the police to carry on with their protest, as is their right to do in this country.
The event was attended by the following organisations: The Voice of Domestic Workers, Bicol United, Aguman Kapampangan, Davaoeno UK, Camsur Filcom UK, United Filipino Global UK, Albayanon UK, E-learning Group, Malasakit UK, Filbrit Pensioners, Filbrit Community in Dorset, Filipino Nurses Association, Philippine Muslim Association, Batangas Association UK, Kingdom of Jesus Christ, Solid BBM Sarah UK, Knights of Rizal UK, Kababaihang Rizalista, Filipino Community in Stevenage, Radio Pilipinas UK, Jireh Entertainment, Loboans UK, Polilloans UK, and Samarenos UK.