Opinion | The Philippines Braces for President Bongbong


When Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was sworn in as president of the Philippines on June 30, he took his oath in entrance of the previous legislative constructing the place his father entered politics and swore on the identical Bible utilized by the elder Mr. Marcos at his 1965 inauguration.

For victims of Mr. Marcos’s tyrannical reign, it was an insulting homage to the lifeless dictator. Nevertheless it got here as no shock.

The youthful Mr. Marcos rode to a landslide election win with a marketing campaign that leaned closely on the fiction of a triumphant golden age underneath his father, promoted by a well-oiled disinformation machine that openly ignored the hundreds of individuals jailed, tortured or killed by the regime and the estimated $5 billion to $10 billion siphoned off by the Marcos household.

No, fact and accountability is not going to be hallmarks of Marcos 2.0., and we Filipinos concern what comes subsequent. The world has already seen the results of autocrats and their false narratives.

Donald Trump’s “Make America Nice Once more” canine whistle appealed to delusions of misplaced white privilege, finally resulting in the lethal assault by a pro-Trump mob on the U.S. Capitol. Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India invokes a legendary golden age of Hindu glory that has worsened communal violence, and Vladimir Putin’s repression and navy adventures are pushed by rose-tinted recollections of the Soviet Union and czarist Russia.

Now it’s the Philippines’ flip, and it comes at a susceptible second for our nation.

Philippine democracy is already underneath risk after the six-year time period of Mr. Marcos’s predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, a bully who spews hatred and insults and belittles and threatens the press and whose brutal struggle on medication has seen hundreds of individuals killed.

Mr. Marcos, now 64 however nonetheless identified by his childhood nickname, Bongbong, is extra agreeable by comparability, even anodyne. He parries anger over his household’s crimes with a straightforward smile and empty appeals for unity, dismissing critics as dividers. However he’s his father’s son.

Mr. Marcos has repeatedly denied or trivialized his household’s crimes and refused to apologize. He stood by as his supporters unleashed a hearth hose of historic distortions portray the elder Mr. Marcos as an excellent chief who lifted the Philippines to heights of peace, prosperity and international management unmatched by democratic governments that adopted. In a single declare promoted by Marcos loyalists, the clan’s legendary wealth got here not from plunder however from hundreds of tons of gold that have been given to the elder Mr. Marcos by a nonexistent Filipino royal household. Based on this fairy story, U.S.-backed liberal elites unjustly seized energy and plunged the nation into penury and despair.

Lacking from this narrative is the massive 1986 Folks Energy rebellion by Filipinos fed up with the Marcos household’s conceitedness and extravagance. After propping up his corrupt regime for twenty years, america additionally turned on Mr. Marcos, fearing {that a} regime collapse might threaten U.S. navy bases within the Philippines. The household — a 28-year-old Bongbong amongst them — was whisked away aboard U.S. Military helicopters that that they had crammed with loot and ended up in exile in Hawaii, the place the elder Mr. Marcos died three years later.

Dictatorship gave approach to a liberal structure and multiparty elections. However democracy confronted an uphill battle. Entrenched political households lorded over their fiefs, blocked land redistribution and different reforms and used public workplace to develop their privileges. Corruption thrived, establishments remained weak, and little was accomplished to deal with crushing poverty. Many Filipinos started to really feel that democracy had allow them to down.

The remaining Marcoses, in the meantime, have been allowed to return house in 1991 to face varied expenses. The youthful Mr. Marcos was convicted within the Nineteen Nineties of failing to file tax returns through the household’s years in energy, and his mom, Imelda Marcos, was sentenced in 2018 to 42 years in jail for corruption. Neither served any jail time. They set about resurrecting the household’s picture from their northern stronghold of Ilocos Norte, successful workplace and leveraging their cash and networks to forge alliances with nationwide political leaders.

And now we’ve President Bongbong. Mr. Marcos has by no means proven himself to be presidential materials. He was referred to as an absentee governor of Ilocos Norte and as a senator was typically a no-show. He continues to lie about acquiring a level from Oxford.

The indicators of what kind of president he will probably be are already rising.

His cupboard appointments embrace a justice secretary who, as a congressman, accused the liberal opposition of being communists and was instrumental in blocking a brand new license for the nation’s largest broadcaster after it angered Mr. Duterte with stories crucial of him. Mr. Marcos additionally indicated final fall that he is not going to help an Worldwide Legal Courtroom investigation into Mr. Duterte’s struggle on medication.

Sadly for Filipinos, one of many few remaining establishments that may act as a verify on his energy — the nation’s historically rambunctious press — is on the defensive. Beneath Mr. Duterte, the Philippines has steadily slid in world press freedom rankings, and in the future earlier than Mr. Marco’s inauguration, the Duterte administration ordered the shutdown of Rappler, the feisty information web site co-founded by the Nobel laureate Maria Ressa, sending a chill by means of Philippine media. That ought to swimsuit Mr. Marcos, along with his distaste for accountability, simply effective. He shunned the media and its inconvenient questions through the marketing campaign and skipped most presidential debates.

He’s prone to face continued opposition from the remnants of the democracy constituency that introduced down his father’s regime — liberal components of the Catholic Church, the enterprise neighborhood and the center class — and can undoubtedly do his greatest to neutralize them. Since his inauguration, pro-Marcos trolls have begun coaching their sights on opponents, accusing opposition supporters and journalists of being communist allies and a revered historian of being an opposition lackey.

True to type, Mr. Marcos’s in any other case unremarkable inaugural tackle praised his father’s power within the face of unspecified international threats and boasted of the roads constructed by his father and bumper rice harvests throughout that legendary golden age.

The Philippines doesn’t want his model of selective amnesia. Greater than ever, it wants a robust dedication to democracy based on accountability, respect for opposition and the desire to confront painful truths.

These components have been sorely missing underneath the primary Marcos presidency. Don’t count on the second to be a lot totally different.

Sheila Coronel (@SheilaCoronel) is a co-founder of the Philippine Heart for Investigative Journalism and the director of the Toni Stabile Heart for Investigative Journalism at Columbia College.

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