Marcos Family Rules Philippines Again


Photo source: BBC

By Naveed Qazi, Editor Globe Upfront

It was being said that the 2022 presidential election win of Marcos Jr., son of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. was the most eventful since the 1986 People Power Revolution. It brought back dynastical democracy after the twenty-one-year rule of Marcos Sr., an era that was regarded in Philippine history as one of the darkest periods.

Historical memories were relived as another Marcos came into power. In the past, the Marcos family, known for its human rights abuses and corruption bankrupted the country and made it the ‘sick man of Asia’. There was a systematic revisionist campaign orchestrated by Marcos’s team, using different social media platforms. These efforts, it was believed in the regional press, took more than a decade in making. After the election win, the political understandings of common Filipinos came to the fore.

According to an Oped by Michael Keel in Nikkei Asia: ‘The Marcos family's return to the presidential palace in Manila is a window into a more disturbing world. It has laid bare pathologies that are rotting democracies in Asia and elsewhere from within. Many of these have roots in long-standing failures by elected governments to reduce social inequality and lift the living standards and dignity of poorer citizens. All this should make liberals reflect on the sense of renewed confidence they have displayed lately as powerful authoritarian states have stumbled.’

The 2022 election was also a replay of contests of other political dynasties. Sara Dutere, daughter of the outgoing president, Rodrigo Duterte, tried to have her attempt at power alongside Robredo from the reformist group. It is since 1992 when the Marcos family had made no secret plans to reclaim political power, and influence to re-establish the so-called Marcos legacy.

When it came to Marcos Jr., he had the advantage over Robredo as he had made a strategic partnership with Sara Duterte. It helped him strengthen his support base. However, he barely took part in debates and did not care about promoting unity. He even shrugged off previous convictions of tax evasion, as well as ongoing official efforts to recover the billions allegedly stolen during his father's rule. That’s why the Philippines poll forms part of a contrasting narrative. In this story, more and more countries that conduct elections exhibit unplumbed regressive trends. It also shows a kind of generational failure in the modern democratic world.

Another characteristic feature of Marcos Jr.'s win was the outburst of misogyny his supporters directed at his liberal main opponent Robredo. Overt sexism has become increasingly prominent in mainstream political campaigning in democracies. It formed a strong current in Rodrigo Duterte's presidency, too.

When it came to Robredo, she relied more on grassroots support and volunteerism. While her campaign might have captured the hearts and minds of many of her supporters, who came in droves in her ‘pink rallies’, organised mainly by young people, it drew comparisons to the ‘yellow rallies’ back then in 1986. However, the immensity and the reach of Marcos-Duterte resources dwarfed them. That’s why Marcos’s victory was not unexpected. And, according to him, he wants to bring the good old days of the old Marcos regime, which according to his revisionist campaign was prosperous and stable.

Although, there is a concern in the certain quarter of the Philippines policy community, as they think there is a lack of clarity in his platform. They are concerned about how he will address the immense challenges the Philippines is facing, especially when his family history speaks of cronyism, repression, and kleptocracy. With Sara Duterte as vice president, Marcos Jr. will likely protect his predecessor from investigations and possible prosecution for human rights violations and extrajudicial killings carried out during his war on drugs policy.

In the Philippines, there are growing food crises, water and resource scarcity, growing energy demands, and the urgent need to marshal the impact of climate change. The December 2022 protests against his rule already speak of an abandoned situation.

In terms of foreign policy, the Philippines has to address the growing need for relations with the United States, China, and its ASEAN neighbours. But, foreign policy, surprisingly, has been absent from the campaign of Marcos Jr.

One of the most pressing issues for the Philippines is the future of the West Philippine Sea. The outgoing Duterte administration has taken a non-confrontational approach toward China and adopted almost a fatalistic attitude on the West Philippine Sea issue. Under Dutere, the Philippines leaned more towards trade and investment with Beijing.

Marcos Jr. is expected to continue Duterte’s friendly policy with China. But, he has to make sure that the Philippines doesn’t see itself getting in between the US-China competition. According to an article by Jonathan Stromseth in Brookings Institution, this will bring into question how Marcos Jr. would deal with the United States and the future of the US-Philippines alliance. During the old Marcos regime, the military partnership remained resilient, despite the US opposition to martial law, reflecting the double games and lip service of liberty by Americans. The outgoing president had a grudge towards the United States, but Marcos Jr. has no known personal baggage.

Given Marcos Jr.’s cosmopolitan background, he is perhaps less insular and more inclined to pursue relations with the United States than with China, and in his tenure, will likely adopt a neutral position when it comes to the US-China rivalry. More ever, Filipinos have a more favourable view of the United States than China. Given the kind of economic and transnational issues the Philippines is facing, it will be important to ponder whether Marcos will support multilateralism regionally and globally.










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