Recall back to the twilight years of the presidency of former President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. Back then, Aquino was so desperate to shore up the flagging political fortunes of his party that he would go as far as reminding Filipinos to stop referring to the regime of former President Ferdinand Marcos as the Philippines’ “Golden Age”. This followed a realisation that was slow to come to his camp of the immense popularity of then vice presidential candidate Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr and the grave threat if posed to his dynasty.
It didn’t help Aquino’s Liberal Party at the time that no less than a New York Times report asserted that Filipinos yearn for a return to a similar Golden Age marked by a Marcos back in Malacanang…
Michelle Pulumbarit, 31, a customer service operator who lives north of Manila, said Mr. Marcos was putting forward a proposal for the future that will bring back the best of the Marcos years. She is not concerned about martial law and human rights violations, she said.
“For me, those are things of the past,” she said. “That was a time when our economy was booming. Even Imelda did a lot of good things. She shared our culture with the world. I can forgive her for having so many shoes.”
A key concern amongst anti-Marcos campaigners lies in what they regard as an “alarming” position taken by young Filipinos who form a huge proportion of the Philippines’ pool of voters. Most Filipino “millenials” who were equipped primarily with anecdotal evidence of the Martial Law years had expressed a widespread disillusionment with the “democracy” pitched to them under the “EDSA People Power” flag. They only saw the absolute wretchedness of life in the Philippines and took the position that things need to change — and that the closest model of how things should be in the Philippines was a time when discipline and order ruled…
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Apple Buiza, 26, an employee of a Manila aluminum siding company, said the fate of Imelda Marcos’s jewels was not a priority for her in the next election. Ms. Buiza spends hours each day battling traffic to get to work and is frustrated by the current government. She said she has heard stories of how orderly the country was during the Marcos years.
“During the time of martial law, the Philippines was disciplined,” Ms. Buiza said as she gestured toward a group of jaywalkers dodging vehicles and blocking traffic. “People don’t even know how to cross the street now.”
It is now a widely-held theory that the renewed — and surging — interest in the virtues of the Martial Law Years of former President Marcos and its regard as a “Golden Age” by some Filipinos is a direct result of a lack of any progress realised over the 30-odd years that followed the 1986 “people power revolution” and, more specifically, over the six years of the Second Aquino Administration. It could be said that The Great Democratic Experiment of the Philippines was marked more by a wholesale missing of the real point of freedom of an entire society and a series of governments that ruled since 1986.
Instead of a stronger nation, what emerged after 30 years is a country characterised by a non-existent fighting capability, mainstream media networks that dumb down rather than enlighten their audiences, and a people that lack a clear picture of what their long-term future might look like.
The trouble with Aquino was that, as president, he focused most of his media time on vilifying his predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, blaming “corruption” supposedly perpetrated by previous administrations, and waxing poetic about his parents’ “heroic” legacies. Meanwhile, then Senator Bongbong Marcos sustained a message to the public consistently themed on the future and moving towards it. Back in early 2015 in the days immediately following the massacre of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops by elements of the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front, then Senator Marcos charted a crystal-clear three-point way forward out of the ensuing crisis that gripped the country in its aftermath.
While the Malacanang of then President Aquino suffered an astounding paralysis and repeatedly stammered out mixed messages to the public as the much-vaunted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) initiative was crushed under the public relations fallout from the massacre, Marcos was in the field cobbling together consensus on how to proceed and assuring a bewildered Filipino public that options were being explored.
Suffice to say, the manner with which Marcos stepped up to the challenge while Aquino and his entire Cabinet descended into an orgy of internal bickering and incompetent statesmanship did not help at all. As is evident in the NYT report, Filipinos long before then had already developed a healthy cynicism for the brand of “demo-crazy” sold to them by the Aquino-Cojuangco clan. Even the whole notion that the Aquinos and Cojuangcos are symbols of the “Spirit of EDSA” is now being challenged.
Indeed, Marcos worked hard to save the Philippines from the clutches of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. He had, in the process, demonstrated an ironic allegiance to the Philippine Constitution — a national charter that was crafted under the watch of no less than President BS Aquino’s mother, former President Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino.
As chief Senate reviewer of the proposed BBL in 2015, the junior Marcos exhibited the sort of statesmanship and diplomacy that the original Malacanang negotiating team led by Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer utterly lacked. Over the course of the review, Senator Marcos tirelessly travelled all over the country to consult with everyone potentially affected by the proposed law that would have seen a vast chunk of Mindanao ceded unto the hands of the terrorist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The outcome of the investigation was nothing short of conclusive. The BBL was unworkable and would have resulted in an outcome the opposite of what its authors promised the Filipino people.
Despite these achievements, however, many Filipinos continue to hate Senator Bongbong Marcos. Why? Because of his surname. Senator Marcos’s father was the late former President Ferdinand E Marcos. Filipinos cannot seem to see past that fact. That is strange, because many of these people are the same people who are advocates of “voter education”. A cornerstone of this initiative to develop an intelligent vote in the Philippines is to change the way Filipino voters evaluate candidates running for office. Voter education champions encourage Filipinos to ditch their traditional practice of voting on the basis of name- and face-recall in favour of qualifications and record of achievement.
Yet, to his detractors, he is still and only just “a Marcos”. That’s, quite simply, being small-minded. Then again, it makes sense of course. Filipinos are predominantly Roman Catholic. Catholics live by the baffling notion that babies are not born innocent. They believe babies are born guilty of Original Sin. To erase that “sin”, no less than the Son of God needed to be put up as human sacrifice to appease his own father.
That explains the primitivist way Filipinos continue to regard Bongbong Marcos. In Filipinos’ minds, Bongbong is guilty of his father’s alleged sins.
So for arguments’ sake, perhaps we should ask ourselves: What does Bongbong Marcos need to do to absolve himself of his father’s sins? Unlike the divine intervention needed to absolve Catholic babies of their guilt, no miracle is really needed to erase the stigma of being “a Marcos” that Bongbong bears. Senator Marcos simply needs to work harder and deliver more results. And so far as we’ve seen, he has demonstrated that stepping up to any challenge does not faze him at all.
It’s been almost four decades and the national narrative (as propagated by the powers-that-be) remains stuck in a bygone past — an age when ordinary people supposedly lacked today’s much-hyped technological capability to more effectively “spring” change from the grassroots. Indeed, a people who lacked mobile technology and social media supposedly instigated a “revolution” over a three-year period since Ninoy Aquino’s assassination in 1983. Today, 25 years since the Internet became available to ordinary users and roughly 15 years since the dawn of social media, Filipino “activists” have failed to step up to the promise of uplifting the quality of the way their compatriots participate in a democracy that aspires to join the modern world.
Perhaps it is time to regard our politicians using a different way of thinking.
You see, it is only when Filipinos become pro-achievement first before being merely and only pro-[insert politician’s name here] that we can hold hand to heart and claim to be a real democracy.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.