Ferdinand Marcos Jr. was elected the 17th President of the Philippines, 36 years after his father, the well-known dictator and looter Ferdinand Sr., was ousted in a peaceful revolution.
Marcos Jr. won the presidency by 31 million votes, leaving his closest rival, Vice President Leonor “Leni” Robredo, who received 15 million votes.
Ferdinand Marcos Sr. instituted martial law in the Philippines from 1972 to 1981, a period of brutal repression with more than 11,000 documented human rights violations. Critics of Marcos were captured, tortured, raped and executed. His family and their accomplices allegedly looted about $ 10 billion, and they evaded legal claims for the Marcos family’s poorly acquired wealth in Philippine and foreign courts, even after Marcos sr. ‘s death in Hawaii in 1989.
Critics accuse the Marcos family of laundering their family’s crimes and martial law atrocities through social media platforms. In a narrative of denial, Marcos Jr. promises. to restore the “Golden Age” of peace and prosperity that his father had begun, raising questions as to whether it meant a future of martial law.
The revisionist “narrative of nostalgia” has three parts, according to Philippine academic Victor Felipe Bautista:
The supposedly glorious past under a benevolent President Marcos;
The fall that interrupted the Marcos regime, presumably orchestrated by Corazon Aquino, the widow of Marcos’ political arch-enemy, Benigno Aquino Jr., who was killed on the Manila airport tarmac on his return to the Philippines in 1983;
The dark present, when it is said that Marcos is a “victim of black propaganda”, meaning subtle propaganda that does not come from the source from which it claims to come.
The Marcos Jr. propaganda operations include collective memory experts using revisionist nostalgia as a tool to steer public opinion.
Critics suggest that massive and well-equipped efforts to change and control the story through historical revisionism hold the key to Marcos Jr. ‘s election victory was. I supplement this with the view that the Philippines’ colonial legacy has also influenced the outcome of the recent presidential election.
Colonial class divides
In many post-colonial societies, colonial powers and their elite, contemporary counterparts maintain class differences. That division enables them to control the masses as a steady source of extracted surplus and cheap labor and, for local politicians, a traditional source of votes.
Development in the Philippines has always been linked to colonial relations. Ties with the United States remained strong even after formal independence in 1946, as evidenced by bilateral agreements that allow American firms to own and operate public utilities and exploit natural resources.
Post-colonial relations with the US and development aid helped generate the fortunes of a Philippine land oligarchy, issued infrastructure and agricultural loans, and provided military assistance during the martial law years, which set the scene for the Marcos years as the Golden Age. in Philippine history.
When they returned from exile in the 2000s, members of the Marcos family were elected to various political positions. Efforts to change the anti-Marcos narrative and change the political culture in the Philippines via the new technology of social media have been booming.
Before long, photos of bridges, roads and buildings posted by Marcos sr. built, social media began to flood in to suggest that the Philippines was on an equal footing with emerging industrializing nations at the time of its administration.
“If my father were allowed to pursue his plans, I believe we would now be like Singapore,” Marcos jr. said in 2011.
For young voters born after the martial law era – the country’s largest voter demographic – Singapore evokes images of globalized progress: glamorous design centers, skilled digital technology and elegant Western-style lifestyles that promote capitalist consumption. Young Filipino voters apparently also delighted in the “cool” Marcos feeling of speaking with American accents and stories about the privileges associated with wealth.
The Marcos messages – also carefully compiled into more than 200 BuzzFeed-style posh, family-friendly and cheerful YouTube videos – sought to temporarily bridge the traditionally sharp social divides in the Philippines. It served to calm for a moment centuries-old internalized local racism, self-interest, and a deep-rooted sense of colonial, racial, and class inferiority among Filipinos compared to Westerners and their local wealthy counterparts, such as the Marcos family. .
For a deeply class-stratified and colonized society, the Marcos propaganda machine strengthened aspirations for Western markers of progress and modernity.
But these efforts were not merely an attempt to whiten the plunder of the Marcos family and the atrocities of martial law.
The propaganda also evokes a vision of a neocolonial, modernized and consumption-driven future. In a nutshell, Marcos escalated Western aspirations and strengthened the racialized and marginalized class identities on which capitalism – an economic system organized around a minority class and its pursuit of profit – depended.
Marcos Jr. ‘s references to a Golden Age in the Philippines invite a nostalgic look at the past. But it also warns of a darker future.