I first started writing this post three days after the elections with the BBM-Sara UniTeam already in the lead. Since then, I started forming a narrative that would help me accept the turnout. My values align with the opposition – the Robredo-Pangilinan camp which represents a transparent and reliable government with a track record proving to be such. Accordingly, I am ill-disposed to another Marcos and Duterte becoming the heads of my country.
Alas, 2 out of 3 Filipinos chose the Marcos-Duterte camp and most of their senatorial slate.
A surprise that should not have been.
The return of the Marcoses did not happen overnight. And although I was not expecting the huge disparity in votes, taking a big step back allowed me to see the bigger picture, which goes way beyond the campaign period.
During Ferdinand Marcos’ 20 years as president, there had been countless human rights violations, especially against journalists, and members of the opposition including students and politicians (most notably Noynoy Aquino), and a prevalence of crony capitalism and plunder. Although there had been many infrastructures built during his time, they were financed by foreign debt, thus at one point making the Consumer Price Index (inflation) skyrocket to 50.4% in 1984. These crises together with the electoral fraud in the Feb 7, 1986 Snap Election led a disgruntled mass to gather in the streets of Manila in what is now called the People Power Revolution (EDSA Revolution) to oust Marcos from Malacañang. The family then fled to Hawaii, carrying with them millions of dollars in jewelry, gold, stocks, and cash. Bongbong was 28 at the time, well aware and a beneficiary of his parents’ crimes.
In 1989, Marcos Sr. died in Hawaii from kidney failure and other complications brought by lupus. In 1991 under then-President Corazon Aquino, the surviving members of the family were allowed to return from their exile to face various charges. Despite pending cases against them, in 1992, Bongbong Marcos was elected a Representative of Ilocos Norte’s 2nd Congressional District. The Marcos heirs, Bongbong and Imee, slowly climb the political ladder, moving from congressman to governor to senator. Neither of the two admitted let alone apologized for the crimes of their father.
The turnout of the recent election is a result of their decades-long insidious campaign of disinformation geared towards repairing their image and transforming the Martial Law era into the Golden Age of the Philippines. With Bongbong now president-elect, it is evident that they have succeeded.
We allowed this to happen.
A huge part of the responsibility was ours, more so of those whole lived during the Marcos era. When I ask my mom what happened during Marcos’ presidency, she would give a neutral recollection, “Our life was quiet, it didn’t affect us because we were focused on our studies.” In the late 70s, my mom was a college student at Far Eastern University. Growing up a poor probinsyana, her reality only allowed her to focus on herself and her studies, and not get involved in the turmoil happening between the government and military versus the rest of the people.
Of the 50 million living in the 1980s and those who joined the EDSA Revolution, there weren’t enough who kept the consciousness and flame alive to pass on to the next generation, to my generation born after the Martial Law.
It was not taught in history.
I cannot recall a lesson in Grade School or High School History class about Martial Law Era or the EDSA/People Power Revolution. History was more about the Spaniards and the Filipino heroes, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifaction, the El Filibusterismo, and Noli Me Tangere. History classes were all about remembering dates and names instead of understanding and learning from the lessons of the past. How then will children grow up to critically evaluate their leaders if it were not taught in our schools?
Filipinos, the internet, and truth.
Let’s face it, not everyone has the time and patience to read history despite a majority of people having access to the internet/Wikipedia and other reliable sources.
People like easy-to-consume information found on Facebook and TikTok, and we don’t bother fact-checking what we share or what we read. This is true even for those who are well-educated—my aunt, who is also a doctor, keeps sending me unverified and fake news, and she did not realize it until I pointed it out to her. I may have forwarded a number of fake news myself, thinking they were real.
There is a machinery that not only pedals fake information but triggers dispute by using hate speech, all these making it seem that the person behind the post is real instead of a paid troll. This is why it’s so easy to manipulate the minds of people who treat Social Media as a reliable news outlet or their main source of information.
Had the Filipino people known better, would they have chosen differently? Definitely, there will still remain diehard followers of the Marcoses and many who are to gain if they return to power. However, I think if we did a better job of educating our youth, teaching critical thinking, and protecting ourselves against fake news and trolls, the opposition, would have stood a better chance of winning.
On the other hand, the Robredo-Pangilinan camp awakened a new generation of “woke” individuals who are passionate about good governance and holding their leaders accountable. Perhaps our decades-long battle just begun.