Political analysts believe Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr missed a golden opportunity to lay down his platform of government when he skipped the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas (KBP)-sponsored forum last week.

It was a missed opportunity for Marcos. His legion of supporters could have listened to his grandiose programs and how he intends to carry these out.

“Babangon muli” is a vague and empty campaign promise, until Marcos puts flesh and bones on it. He could have cemented his pole position in opinion polls by attending the forum.

Marcos supporters countered that he did not need a presidential forum because he could better explain his plans in one-on-one interviews. But the problem is Marcos is very choosy, avoiding journalists who ask hard questions and would rather talk to “soft” interviewers, like Toni Gonzaga, Boy Abunda, and Korina Sanchez.

Some political analysts believe Marcos’ no-show at the KBP forum could affect his numbers in opinion polls as the campaign period begins this week.

Five leading presidential aspirants showed up to present their programs of government to get the country back on its feet in a post-pandemic scenario.

Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Emmanuel Pacquiao, Manila Mayor Francisco Domagoso, and labor leader Leody de Guzman presented identical policies on governance, health, education, and the economy.

But they differed on how to carry out the policies. De Guzman has more radical ideas that would make political dynasties and big business worry. His 20 percent wealth tax for the country’s 500 richest families is too unrealistic.

Lacson, Pacquiao, and Robredo also have almost similar anti-corruption and transparency policies but the boxing icon struggled to explain how he would fund his ambitious housing and health programs by eradicating corruption and saving P300 billion.

Domagoso, aka Isko Moreno, was impressive with his populist ideas. He came well prepared for the forum but was unclear on how he would fund his ambitious programs and projects as the country’s economy shrank during the pandemic.

The Duterte administration has already exceeded the threshold of 60 percent debt-to-GDP ratio. Duterte’s successor may not have enough leg room to source funds to cover the huge deficit in the annual budget.

Under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the debt-to-GDP ratio reached a high of 82 percent, forcing him to declare bankruptcy and seek a 90-day moratorium on principal debt repayments. The World Bank provided bailout loans under painful conditions to avert a default.

Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may be politically unpopular after she was perceived to have stolen the elections in 2004 from the late actor Fernando Poe Jr., but she was successful in bringing down the debt-to-GDP ratio to 36.9 percent, allowing the economy to grow.

The late president Benigno Aquino improved it further to 26.5 percent.

The coronavirus pandemic forced Duterte to borrow from multilateral financial institutions, like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to fund vaccine procurement and dole-outs to people affected by lockdowns.

It will take years for the country’s economy to return to its pre-pandemic level and the next president will inherit Duterte’s debt burden, low tax collection and slow growth.

The KBP forum attempted to extract from the five leading presidential aspirants how they intended to source funds to help the country recover fast. Government has to spend more to stimulate the economy but it needs to raise funds without hiking taxes, which would burden the people.

The aspirants have not articulated their economic plans beyond motherhood statements. Lacson wanted to spend P260 billion on universal health care and Domagoso proposed to spend a certain percentage of GDP on education and health. But they failed to specify where they would get the money for these lofty programs.

Marcos, who is ahead in all opinion polls, chose to play safe, skipping the KBP forum. Except for the press releases from his campaign headquarters promising a better life under his administration, he did not clearly articulate his programs in some one-on-one media interviews he had given.

Marcos is running on a platform of unity. But he went in circles without explaining how unity could be achieved when he was asked about it during the DZRH-Manila Times interview two weeks ago. He stuttered and was gasping for air the whole time.

Marcos has not explained how he would unite a divided country where many family relations and friendships were broken over partisan politics. In a way, Marcos’ “click army” is partly to be blamed for society’s polarization.

His social media influencers have been spreading hate messages against his rivals, and micro-influencers have amplified false narratives about his accomplishments and even fabricated tales about the family’s wealth.

Marcos has been investing the dictator’s ill-gotten fortune to repair the family’s tarnished reputation through social media disinformation and, at the same time, seemingly promising the gullible public a share of the fabled gold once he is elected into office in May 2022.

Unlike Robredo, Lacson, and Domagoso who have good track records to show as public servants, Marcos could not show anything. He boasted of a fake college degree and an archipelagic baselines law that he did not author, grabbing credit from a late congressman.