What 'Bongbong' Marcos' victory means for the Philippines

·3 min read
Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has won the presidency in the Philippines, defeating incumbent Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo by a two-to-one margin. Marcos, known by his childhood nickname, Bongbong, successfully harnessed the power of social media to boost his campaign and rehabilitate the reputation of his father, Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted from power in the 1980s after being accused of stealing billions from the national government. Marcos Jr., 64, is no newcomer — he served for years in regional offices then built a national profile as a senator. But his election, The Associated Press noted, marked "an astonishing reversal of the 1986 'People Power' pro-democracy revolt that booted his father into global infamy."

Several hundred people, most of them students, protested the election results in front of the national election commission office in Manila, the capital. Robredo urged her supporters to keep fighting against "the structures of lies" Marcos' critics say he used to embellish his own record and whitewash his family's bloody and corrupt history. Marcos released a statement through his spokesperson, Vic Rodriguez, saying: "Judge me not by my ancestors, but by my actions." Rodriquez called Marcos' landslide "a victory for all Filipinos." Will such a resounding election win unite the country, or, by electing the son of a dictator, have Filipinos put their democracy at risk?

Marcos' win threatens the Philippines' democracy

Marcos' election does not bode well for democracy in the Philippines, says Jonathan Head at BBC News. The new leader has vowed to continue President Rodrigo Duterte's "controversial anti-drug campaign," in which thousands have been killed. He has hinted his version will be less violent, but any continuity with his predecessor's policies could further normalize authortarian policies. So there is reason to be concerned about "the fate of democracy and civil rights, both of which suffered under President Duterte." And the opposition won't be expecting corruption — "always a problem in the Philippines" — to get any better "under a family with the reputation of the Marcoses."

Marcos has himself to blame for the suspicion

The elder Marcos was a "notorious strongman" with a taste for "murder, torture, and looting," says Binoy Kampmark in Eurasia Review. His mother was the "avaricious, shoe-crazed Imelda." "Children should not pay for the sins of their parents," but Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has justified "a healthy suspicion" of his intentions. "Bongbong has already done his father proud at various levels, not least exhibiting a tendency to fabricate his past." He has lied about his own resume, and rewritten his parents' history "using a polished, digital campaign of re-invention that trucks in gold age nostalgia and delusion."

This decisive vote showed the will of the people

You don't become "the first majority president" in Philippines history by fooling voters with "fake news," says Rigoberto Tiglao in The Manila Times. The people wanted Marcos as their leader. The "elite-manipulated revolution" that started with the government of Corazon Aquino, widow of slain senator and Marcos Sr. critic Benigno Aquino, "has been a failure, and the masses gradually realized" that these forces "have served only their class." Ferdinand Marcos Jr. simply pointed out how the opposition-written history was unfair to his parents, without engaging in a debate about his father's "track record during his martial law days." He also tapped into Duterte's power base by vowing to continue key policies and welcoming Duterte's daughter, Sara, as his running mate. But he wouldn't have won by a "landslide if not for his political acumen." With everything Marcos had going for him, his election was "inevitable."

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