The next elections in the Philippines, to be held in May 2022, are still over six months away, but speculation and underhanded machinations are piling up. The current president, right-wing politician Rodrigo Duterte, is constitutionally barred from running for president next year – he did consider running for vice president before announcing his retirement from politics on October 2 – but the list of nine official candidates includes several interesting personalities, not least of all retired boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao.
But the most recent attention was drawn to the candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. – the son of Ferdinand Marcos Sr. The simple fact that his candidacy is being taken seriously, despite the memory of his late father, is an indicator of how far the country has come since the outraged dictator was ousted in a popular revolution in 1986 and fled to the United States, ostensibly taking billions of dollars with you. from the national treasury.
Bongbong is no stranger to politics: he was appointed lieutenant governor of the northern province of Ilkos Norte in 1980 at the age of 23, during his father’s later and most troubling reign. After Marcos Sr. died in exile in 1989, incumbent President Corazon Aquino allowed other family members to return to the Philippines, and Imelda Marcos faced more than 60 criminal and civil charges, including corruption and tax evasion. Despite this shadow over the family, by 1992 Bongbong was elected representative of Ilcos Norte, and since 1998 has served as governor. In 2010, he was elected Senator from the Nationalist Party.
In 2016, he tried to become vice president, losing to incumbent President Leni Robredo by just 0.64% of the votes cast, a result he fiercely contested. Now, after five years of friendship with Duterte, he is trying to succeed in the race for the top position.
For a generation of Filipinos, the memories of martial law declared by Ferdinand Sr. in 1972 are still raw. This moment marked the beginning of an era of repression that ultimately led to his expulsion. But this instinctively intuitive reaction to the name Marcos is not shared by many young Filipinos. This is an important factor to consider when thinking about the 2022 elections – in a country with an average age of less than 26, these bad memories may not matter much at the polls.
This does not mean that the living victims of Ferdinand Snr’s torture will not be heard – at least one survivor described how he was treated by the military in 1982. Ultimately, he is unlikely to be able to completely escape his father’s long shadow. – and there are signs that he will adopt the family brand. This will undoubtedly spark more protests as the campaign grows.
If he plays on the electorate’s desire for a strong leader, Bongbong is unlikely to be able to reinvent the political wheel in the Philippines. Duterte himself carried a lot of dark baggage when he jumped off the mayor of Davao City in the deep south six years ago to win the presidency. This was a candidate both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented as leading death squads.
The UN General Assembly discussed the Davao Duterte death squads (now known as the DDS) back in 2009, but none of that stopped him from gaining 39% of the vote in 2016 – to secure his presidency. In fact, this notoriety was part of the image he built to conquer power.
Duterte’s victory offers something of a template for Bongbong in other ways as well. Duterte has successfully used Facebook, and the role of social media in retelling Marcos’ dictatorship on YouTube for a new generation is already being questioned.
Fillers and chasing horses
It is still too early to accurately assess his chances of winning – the list of candidates still seems far from final more than six months before the election. Many suspect that Duterte’s daughter Sarah may have entered the race late as a replacement for Anna Capela Velasco, who many believe has been appointed to replace the 43-year-old current mayor of Davao. Everything will be cleared up by November 15, the deadline for replacement candidates.
Another candidate, Senator Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, has also been identified as a possible alternate for Sarah. Dela Rosa was promoted by Duterte from the position of Police Chief of Davao Province to Chief of the National Police and his in charge of the war on drugs. He was nominated two hours before the October 8 deadline, and his own surprise at being nominated is indicative of the level of play taking place before the campaign itself even began.
There have been many discussions about the Duterte-Marcos or Marcos-Duterte alliance. Duterte sanctioned the hero’s burial of the former dictator’s remains, and the families have a long-standing political relationship dating back to the 1960s.
Bongbong has already indicated that Duterte’s drug war, which has killed at least 8,000 people since 2016, will continue under his supervision, and he said he would shield all suspects from being investigated by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed by Duterte. regime, which was officially approved in September.
In fact, Bongbong still openly positions himself as a candidate for succession, adhering to the same policies and methods as Duterte, and owns the surname Marcos. So, at least in this respect, voters will know a lot about who they intend to vote for or against.