Bongbong seeks to rename Marcos’ brutal legacy

Marcos Jr seen here addressing a rally in suburban Manila in April. The Marcos name has lost its menace to a new generation of Filipinos who grew up with no memory of the brutal martial law era of the last century.

Sta Rosa Jam | AFP | Getty Images

For a significant portion of Filipinos voting for the presidential election in the Philippines, memories of the brutal and corrupt rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos have not faded.

In fact, they don’t even exist – because a majority of the electorate was unborn or too young to remember that time.

Over 50% of Filipinos eligible to vote in Monday’s election are between the ages of 18 and 41, according to the Election Commission as quoted by local media.

Ferdinand Marcos Sr. ruled with an iron fist for almost two decades until 1986, a period marked by great poverty, unemployment and a debt crisis. Arbitrary arrests, disappearances and alleged torture during his reign sparked a mass uprising, known as the People Power Revolution. This eventually forced him to flee to Hawaii, where he died in 1989.

Today, his son Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr., 64, is the favorite to replace outgoing president Rodrigo Duterte and reclaim the presidency for the Marcos family. Bongbong, as he is popularly known, was 15 when his father imposed martial law in the Philippines in 1972.

Young Marcos spent many years in politics. He has served as vice governor, governor and congressman in the family stronghold of Ilocos Norte in the north of the country since the 1980s. His mother Imelda Marcos, 92, ran for president twice and lost in the 1990s.

His infamous shoe collection of 3,000 pairs – discovered when protesters stormed the presidential palace during the 1986 uprising – is now housed in a museum in Manila. But today, public disillusionment with successive democratic governments appears to have shifted the excesses of the Marcos regime into the public consciousness.

Social media star who rarely meets journalists

The name Marcos today is shrouded in a kind of romanticism, a vintage he acquired during the time when, according to the account, the Philippines mattered in world affairs. Bongbong, whose slogan is “Together we will rise again”, sticks with an evocative message of rekindling the idea of ​​past grandeur.

His father led a similar campaign, promising to make the Philippines “great again”. But unlike his father, young Marcos has kept a low profile in mainstream media, instead running a sophisticated social media campaign with millions of followers.

He is a popular presence on Chinese media app TikTok, where he posts reviews and features a storyline of his family who once enjoyed a Kennedy-like mystique.

He often invokes his family name during campaign meetings but is careful not to expose himself to the vagaries of political debate.

Of the 10 candidates running, Marcos Jr. was the only one to skip the two televised debates organized by the government’s Election Commission. At the end of April, he rejected a one-on-one debate with his closest rival Leni Robredo, the current vice-president. He also has refused to attend a debate organized by CNN in the Philippines.

He has rarely given media interviews and refuses to answer shouted questions from reporters at rallies. It’s a strategy he honed after a narrow loss to Robredo, who beat him in the 2016 vice-presidential race. center of the opposition campaign.

It helps that Duterte is an ally. He helped the country reinvent Marcos’ legacy.

In 2016, Marcos Sr.’s remains were interred at the National Cemetery, the Philippine equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery.

Walking a fine line between China and the United States

The Philippines was a traditional military ally of the United States, but after his presidential election in 2016, Duterte moved closer to China and declared his the “separation” of the country the United States

Speaking to a virtual forum in March, Marcos Jr. said the Philippines shared a “special relationship” with the United States

“Military agreements are beneficial to both countries,” he said, adding that the United States could do “a lot” to help the Philippines. But it remains to be seen whether young Marcos will risk upsetting Beijing by moving closer to the United States.

Notably, he didn’t say much about the economy. Instead, he used vague phrases such as “national unity” and hinted that his policies would continue to support Duterte’s infrastructure. “Build, Build, Build” public works project.

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